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Read | Seneca on friendship

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Friendship produces between us a partnership in all our interests. There is no such thing as good or bad fortune for the individual; we live in common. And no one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbour, if you would live for yourself. This fellowship, maintained with scrupulous care, which makes us mingle as men with our fellow-men and holds that the human race have certain rights in common, is also of great help in cherishing the more intimate fellowship which is based on friendship… For he that has much in common with a fellow-man will have all things in common with a friend.

Via Brainpickings

The Missing Apex of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, published in 1943  is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. I’ve encountered it in my work with numerous health and social care charities in the UK.

maslow-pyramid

Abraham Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.(1)

However, I recently found out from this Big Think article something which I think is highly significant. Maslow later modified the hierarchy and added 3 more tiers with self-transcendence added at the top.

 

8-tier

 

“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos” (Farther Reaches of Human Nature, New York 1971, p. 269)

I’m not surprised that the modified version does not get referred but I am disappointed and frustrated that it isn’t because it makes perfect sense to me.

From the Big Think article:

This is what the final stage of Maslow’s pyramid is about: Having met our basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid, having worked on our emotional needs in its middle and worked at achieving our potential, Maslow felt we needed to transcend thoughts of ourselves as islands. We had to see ourselves as part of the broader universe to develop the common priorities that can allow humankind to survive as a species.

Maslow saw techniques many of us are familiar with today — mindfulness, flow — as the means by which individuals can achieve the broader perspective that comes with self-transcendence. Given the importance of coming together as a global community, his work suggests that these methods and others like them aren’t just tweaks available for optimizing our minds, but vitally important tools if we hope to continue as a living species.

 

Read | ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown’

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small red leave nestled on a bigger leaf

It is important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and destruction. The hope I am interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It is also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse one. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. “Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naivety,” the Bulgarian writer Maria Popova recently remarked. And Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, early on described the movement’s mission as to “Provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams”. It is a statement that acknowledges that grief and hope can coexist.

I’ve only just realised that the essay ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown’: Rebecca Solnit on living in dark times was published in the Guardian newspaper on my birthday this year. What a wonderful birthday present it was and it’s a very timely read.

I know of Rebecca Solnit’s work through Brainpickings which discusses her book Hope in the Dark, and through the wonderful podcasts by On Being. In her own words she says:

I want better metaphors. I want better stories. I want more openness. I want better questions. All these things feel like they give us tools that are a little more commensurate with the amazing possibilities and the terrible realities that we face.

The essay is about hope as different from optimism, the importance of collective memory, embracing complexity and collective action. It’s an enriching read and a great reminder at the moment. Read Rebecca Solnit’s essay ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown’

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists adopt the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterwards either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

 

Read | Stop Saying ‘I Feel Like’

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Stop Saying ‘I feel Like’ from the New York Times

This is what is most disturbing about “I feel like”: The phrase cripples our range of expression and flattens the complex role that emotions do play in our reasoning. It turns emotion into a cudgel that smashes the distinction — and even in our relativistic age, there remains a distinction — between evidence out in the world and internal sentiments known only to each of us.

“This is speculative, but ‘I feel like’ fits with this general relativism run rampant,” Sally McConnell-Ginet, a linguist at Cornell, suggested. “There are different perspectives, but that doesn’t mean there are not some facts on the ground and things anchoring us.”

A good piece from the New York Times on the confusion of emotion with facts and how ‘I feel like’ closes down argument and conversation. It links to something I’ve blogged about before about opinions.

Read | On Friendship

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I’ve read a few things recently on the subject of friendship which also link in with social media and communication, subjects I’m interested in so I thought I’d collate them.

The first few are about aspects of friendship which aren’t much explored; friendship breakups and when friendships change. The second link is a podcast from This American Life and features Ta-Nehisi Coates talking to a friend of his about how things have changed now that he’s well-known.

There’s another article about how friendships change in adulthood. It makes a good point about social media;

If you never see your friends in person, you’re not really sharing experiences so much as just keeping each other updated on your separate lives. It becomes a relationship based on storytelling rather than shared living—not bad, just not the same.

This reminds me of another article about why Facebook is the junk food of socialising.

We need to remind ourselves of our evolutionary history, where we evolved without exposure to realistic representations of people. Back then, if you saw something that looked like a person, by golly it was a person. When you look at a video of a person, most of your brain thinks it’s real—the fusiform face area of your brain area reacts identically whether you’re looking at a real face or a picture of one (in fact, most experiments investigating this part of the brain do not use real faces at all, but photos or videos of them).

The errors we make when we view non-human things as human satisfies our desire to interact with other people without giving us many of the benefits. In the moment, watching TV feels good; it satisfies your desire to be with other people. But it’s the visual equivalent of empty calories—delicious but not nutritious.

There’s also this essay from The Guardian newspaper in the UK on how friendship and the social are being used for good in public health and  social policy. It also describes how friendship and the social is being used for money making purposes, labeled ‘neoliberal socialism’ in the essay.

What we encounter in the current business, media and policy euphoria for being social is what might be called “neoliberal socialism”. Sharing is preferable to selling, so long as it does not interfere with the financial interests of dominant corporations. Appealing to people’s moral and altruistic sense becomes the best way of nudging them into line with agendas that they had no say over. Brands and behaviours can be unleashed as social contagions, without money ever changing hands. Empathy and relationships are celebrated, but only as particular habits that happy individuals have learned to practise. Everything that was once external to economic logic, such as friendship, is quietly brought within it.

The essay also succinctly describes the problem I have with Facebook’s commodification of friendship:

What we witness, in the case of a social media addict, is only the more pathological element of a society that cannot conceive of relationships except in terms of the psychological pleasures that they produce. The person whose fingers twitch to check their Facebook page when they are supposed to be listening to their friend over a meal is a victim of a philosophy in which other people are only there to please, satisfy and affirm an individual ego from one moment to the next. This inevitably leads to vicious circles: once a social bond is stripped down to this impoverished psychological level, it becomes harder and harder to find the satisfaction that one wants. Viewing other people as instruments for one’s own pleasure represents a denial of the core ethical and emotional truths of friendship, love and generosity.

 

Read | Fitted

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Fitted – Activity trackers train users to love lives that are all work

by Moira Weigel

 

This is thought-provoking article asks us to consider activity trackers, specifically the Fitbit and what they mean for how we relate to ourselves, other people and our environment. It covers many of the areas you would expect.

Individualism and Productivity – Activity trackers take our focus on the project of the self and individualism and manages to turn a healthy attention on fitness and health into one focused narrowly on industrial capitalist style productivity and potentially unhealthy self consciousness.

Reductionist – Like Facebook and online dating have done for interpersonal relationships, Fitbit reduces fitness to data points without any context whatsoever. The point isn’t improving your quality of life, its increasing your productivity and winning.

Competition – Of course where there’s productivity there is often competition, in this case with ourselves and with others. If you haven’t moved in a while it will even remind you of that fact and encourage you to do so. It also embraces what I think of as misguided attempt at gamification which is widely used, where you can compare yourself to your friends of others with online connectivity and with your past self. It gives you badges when you have achieved certain milestones. This adversarial way of relating to others and yourself has even been extended to meditation. The Headspace mindfulness app has run streak targets and badges for when you achieve 3, 10, 15. 30 etc days meditating in a row.

I think it is interesting that at the same time as we are slowly beginning to realise that it is by co-operation, collaboration and openness that we will overcome a variety of challenges we face on a number of levels from individual communities to the global, that a hyper-individualism, adversarial culture is being advanced. All framed within a positive health and fitness focused, self-improvement guise.

What this means for how we see ourselves is where this piece is most interesting. It brings in the concept of confession and whether it will affect men more than women.

Incidently, the site I found this article on is called thenewinquiry.com. I have yet to fully explore it but it seems ridiculously readable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read | The Wisdom of Nature

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Cuckmere Haven 2

This article eloquently describes, via the philosophy of Lao Tzu, one of the reasons I like to spend as much time as possible in and around nature.

http://www.philosophersmail.com/perspective/the-consolations-of-rocks-water-stone-and-trees-lao-tzu-2/

Complement with a Bjork song on a similar theme

Bjork – Wanderlust from One Little Indian Records on Vimeo.

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