Hold It All

Tag: Pierre Hadot

A Call to Life and Deeds: Goethe’s Maxims

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections  
Translated by Elisabeth Stopp; edited with an introduction and notes by Peter Hutchinson; Penguin Books, 1998

I’ve been reading Pierre Hadot’s 2008 book, N’oublie pas de vivre: Goethe et la tradition des exercises spirituels, which sent me back to Goethe’s works.   The following are some of the maxims I noted in my reading of this book back in 2006…

‘Nothing should be treasured more highly than the value of the day.’ [789]

Anyone who doesn’t know foreign languages knows nothing of his own. [91]

If our teaching in schools always continues to point to Antiquity and promotes the teaching of the Greek and Latin languages, we can congratulate ourselves that these studies, so essential for any higher culture, will never suffer decline. [659]

May the study of Greek and Roman literature ever remain the basis of higher education!  [762]

A German should learn all languages so that no foreigner could discomfort him at home and he himself could be at home everywhere when abroad. [978] Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/8

51.  Neal looks older, Jewish, very serious and on powerful integrity drive.
–Allen Ginsberg, letter to Jack Kerouac

151.  In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.
–Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

251.  No one is new to me. All are always familial.
–Sri Anandamayi Ma, quoted in Swami Mangalananda, A Goddess among Us Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/6

117.  Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away. –Simone Weil

234.  … and even his intelligence, which was exclusively occupied in devising each day a fresh scheme which would make his presence, if not agreeable, at any rate, necessary to Odette… –Marcel Proust

351. [The entirety of I. L. Peretz’s]  work was characterized by a dialectical tension between the romantic and rational impulses of his character, between cosmopolitan, worldly yearnings and practical Jewish concerns, between personal erotic desire and public accountability. These struggles are not always resolved in the stories, even in those that appear to be most pointed and straightforward. –Ruth Wisse

468.  Thus, from the beginning to the end of ancient philosophy, we have almost the same situation: philosophical writings respond to questions. –Pierre Hadot

The Mystical, The Existential

Dear Bella Levenshteyn

I was reading Pierre Hadot’s Plotinus, or The Simplicity of Vision, and the following passage reminded me of our recent discussion at Café Disponibilidade. Suggestion: read a few pages of Hadot on weekends when you are in D.C.:

To ignore our material, psychological, or sociological conditioning would indeed be to mystify ourselves. But there is another kind of mystification, just as tragic, although more subtle: it consists in imagining that human life can be reduced to its analyzable, mathematizable, quantifiable, or expressible aspects. One of the great lessons of Merleau-Ponty was to teach us that it is perception—that is, lived experience in the full sense of the term—which gives meaning to scientific representations. Since, however, there is already an inexpressible element within perception itself, this is implicitly to admit that human existence derives its meaning from something inexpressible. Wittgenstein was profoundly conscious of the part played by the inexpressible in the midst of scientific or everyday language:

“That which mirrors itself in language, language cannot represent.”
“There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself (but cannot be expressed); it is the mystical. Read the rest of this entry »

Spiritual Exercises (for Social Workers, Nurses, Parents, Teachers, Students…)

“To take flight” every day! At least for a moment, which may be brief, so long as it is intense. A “spiritual exercise” every day—alone or in the company of a person who also wants to better herself.

Spiritual exercise. Leave duration behind. Try to strip yourself of your own passions, of the vanities and the rash of noise surrounding your name (which, from time to time, itches like a chronic affliction). Flee backbiting. Strip yourself of pity and of hatred. Love all free human beings. Become eternal by transcending yourself.

This effort upon yourself is necessary; this ambition is just. Many are those who become completely absorbed in militant politics and the preparation of the social revolution. Few, very few, are those who, to prepare for the revolution, are willing to make themselves worthy of it.

—George Friedmann

 

Crowds, noise, speed; long hours, growing demands, frustrating conflicts; juggling multiple commitments:, relationships, projects: Do you ever hear yourself saying, “I want my life to stop!”

This course will introduce a number of spiritual exercises from various traditions to address these challenges in our day to day lives. French philosopher Pierre Hadot defines spiritual exercises “as voluntary, personal practices meant to bring about a transformation of the self.”

Class time will afford one-on-one exchange, group input, practice on the spot, and time for journaling (participants will keep a notebook to examine issues in light of practicing one exercise during a particular week).

if you are interested in joining us, message me.  If you know someone who might be interested in this class, please pass on this info.

The Specifics:
Frequency: Weekly for six weeks
When: Tuesdays September 22, 29, October 6, 13, 20, 27
Where: The home of Patrick and Cristina Cousins — 3856 Utah Place, Saint Louis 63116
Time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Tuition $100 (cash or check, payable to Mark Chmiel).

Nawal El Saadawi: Uncalled-for-boldness

This year I have invited people to participate in an Arab Writers in Translation Reading Circle. Last month, several friends and I met to discuss Egyptian writer Nawal El-Saadawi’s 1983 Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, an account of her two months in confinement on orders of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

When reading Nawal, I was reminded of Pierre Hadot’s description of the philosophical school of the Cynics:  “They did not fear the powerful, and always expressed themselves with provocative freedom of speech [parrhesia].”  Among the eight of us who met to discuss Nawal’s book, we were each impressed by her strong, brave, defiant spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

Spiritual Exercises

Last year I read several books by French philosopher Pierre Hadot, who has focused on the role of spiritual exercises in philosophy. Through Hadot, I became acquainted with this short passage from a diary kept by Frenchman Georges Friedmann in the 1940s:

“To take flight” every day! At least for a moment, which may be brief, so long as it is intense. A “spiritual exercise” every day—alone or in the company of a person who also wants to better herself.

Spiritual exercise. Leave duration behind. Try to strip yourself of your own passions, of the vanities and the rash of noise surrounding your name (which, from time to time, itches like a chronic affliction). Flee backbiting. Strip yourself of pity and of hatred. Love all free human beings. Become eternal by transcending yourself. Read the rest of this entry »