Monday, March 21, 2016

Love is wise, hatred is foolish

During my formative years, back in the old country, I doubt there was any concept of counselors. For all the trials and tribulations that everyday life dishes out--sometimes more than one can handle--there were no professional counselors.

Obviously, not all of us have the Teflon coating of inner strength and wisdom to fend off those challenges.  Thus, it was not unusual for the elders of the family to be pressed into service.

But, that was mostly for troubleshooting.

During crises, people, in the Hindu faith within which I was raised, went to temples and to their favorite religious leaders.  Of course, no idol in the temple listens and responds, but people submitted their petitions anyway.  Personal meetings with religious leaders were next to impossible, unless one was wealthy or well-connected.  Rarely did such visits relieve the stresses, but perhaps people got used to their miseries as the old joke goes.

When religious leaders did address a gathering, they often spoke in broad philosophical terms.  And they often employed the puranas (mythology) in order to make those philosophical observations relatable to daily life.  To the audience with their varied and unique problems, well, these were like group therapy sessions.

In this Aeon interview, Jules Evans says this about ancient Greeks and Romans and many Indian philosophers--they approached it as a therapeutic way of life:
They developed various practical techniques which they said would help transform suffering, that were part of a comprehensive ‘philosophy of life’. These techniques weren’t simply positive thinking, rather they argued that we need to see the world as it is, in all its instability and adversity, and accept it.
I was curious about this Jules Evans, who is "policy director at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London."  I looked up for additional information on his website:
My practical wisdom approach combines the teaching of evidence-based well-being techniques from ancient philosophies, with open group discussions about ethics and values. I embrace a pluralist and eclectic approach – participants are encouraged to bring in their own opinions and experiences and to explore different ways of thinking about flourishing.
I agree with Evans that the Hindu philosophers (I think he means Hindu when he says "Indian"--I am not sure if he includes there the Sufis, for instance) provided frameworks that comforted us into accepting the world as it is and life as it unfolds.

I like the way he summarizes the following as well:
I approach philosophy as a sort of pragmatism – I have a set of values and an idea of how the world is, and I try it out and see if I can live by it, if it fits reality, if it leads to an expanded sense of flourishing. And reality (including other people) feeds back to me, lets me know if I’m living wisely or foolishly. That two-way process is always changing, you’re always adapting and revisiting assumptions. But no one can be entirely anti-dogmatic – one needs a set of values and opinions to live by. I think you must have one too, no? I’m sure it has changed over time but if you were a complete skeptic, like Pyrrho, you wouldn’t know whether to get out of bed or not.
Even though I am a skeptic, it is not as it I don't have well-defined values.  My philosophy of life, too, is one based on constant iteration with the real world.

The interviewer, who is a "a writer, philosopher and podcaster", quotes Bertand Russell's philosophical values to live by:
He boiled down his philosophical values to two principles. First, try to look solely at the facts on any issue, rather than at what you would like to be true. No easy task, of course. Second, and this is another hard one to live up to: ‘Love is wise, hatred is foolish.’ We have to learn to put up with the fact that people will say things that we don’t like, detest even. To live together, we need to be able to speak freely, and tolerate others who do that too. 
Of course, this is not the first time that I am awed by Russel's words.  I am even more impressed with that simple formulation by the atheist Russell; a formulation that is no different from what the old religions also attempt to teach us: Love is wise, hatred is foolish.

4 comments:

Mike Hoth said...

Ah, but if only more than a scant few of my fellows who would call themselves religious could follow such advice. There are shining examples, of course, but they are far outnumbered. One of these days I'm going to preach a sermon about loving thy neighbor, and I'm planning to have a friend dress poorly and act crassly before I step up to the podium just so I can see how the congregation reacts. Like all wisdom, it is easy to consider and difficult to espouse. The global political climate doesn't help much.

Sriram Khé said...

" The global political climate doesn't help much"
I agree, and I disagree as well.
I agree that there is this background noise about the global political climate.
But, the disagreement is on the grounds that we people are the ones who create the political climate. Which means, the very fact that you refer to such a context is all the more evidence that we humans do not practice "Love is wise, hatred is foolish"

Ramesh said...

Its a powerful philosophy - Love is wise; hatred is foolish, but one that eludes many of us. I wish there was a way we could wave a magic wand and make this become a reality. I am commenting after the news of the Brussels horror came through - I simply cannot fathom the minds of those who act in this way.

Sriram Khé said...

"I wish there was a way we could wave a magic wand and make this become a reality"
The oddest thing is that almost all of us grow up with religion and, yet, as adults we--of any faith--can apparently act contrary to love. Very strange. And very depressing.

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