Openness: The 5th virtue of philosophical life

There’s a certain sense of being open to what may come to pass that seems indispensable for living today. In The Guidebook to Philosophical Life, I had written only of four virtues–namely, of courage, patience, humility, and compassion. I had neglected the virtue of openness. Openness–the scourge of routine, an antidote to stubbornness, a lighthearted laughter opposed to needless fixation–notes that each day is no more like the last than each sparrow, when seen up close and with a reverent eye, is like his brother.

Musings on a mountain home

Are you alone, dear philosopher, there on that northern rock, bordered by ocean on one side and by sea on the other? Long ago, Philoctetes was–was alone, that is, was homeless, atopos, unmoored and unmanned…

Feel free to look around at the blank walls, at the one-woman fashion show, at the small piles of Yes’s and No’s and Maybe’s. See anything you want? You see that I am giving away more of my books to acquaintances and friends, to the public library–to you? That I am taking more clothes, tweedy threads, to Goodwill. What did Thoreau say? What will we need to take with us? What can we pick up along the way?

I am told the house is located at the top of a mountain in an unincorporated area. I am told we will need a car to get up and down the mountain, that a car share may be possible, but I am also sanguine about, dream often of mountain bikes with good shocks and of mountain runs with overstuffed backpacks…

We are doubtless being insensible, like those raised to be professionals and dwell within cities, conjuring up fantasies of cider making and canning and afghans while neglecting the harsh realities of backbreaking upkeep and cold appendages. Of course I will be writing by candlelight and of course she will be crafting and spinning thoughts by the eyes of the moon. Of course we won’t grow stir crazy because we will have each other, our confabulations, the internet: I will have my philosophical conversations and she her projects and prospects.

‘A radiant life, being good, expresses beauty…’

I am reading The Guidebook to Philosophical Life for the first time. I had written it without reading it through. Even now, I only read and mumble lines and phrases and stray poetic turns. I had written it but hadn’t realized the beauty of lines such as these. I have been reading them aloud this morning.

From Chapter 11.6. The harmony of ethics and aesthetics

The virtuous man is beautiful. What do I mean by this? I mean that the man who exhibits the virtues does so in a manner that is beautiful. I say that “the mother exhibited kindness with grace,” that “the man exercised compassion with composure,” that “the runner thrummed along the trail exquisitely.” I am saying that the beautiful is the manner or way of virtue’s presentation. To me there is something wanting in crude kindness, in disjointed compassion, in clumsy running. A scythe sings, a dancer breathing expressed as wonder.

On this understanding, virtue is not straining or grasping, not effortful or painful or conflicting. If virtue is learned rightly, then it flows like water. This ‘flowing like water’ is where beauty comes in.

For the radiant being, beauty is not an epiphenomenon like a cosmetic applied to skin. Nor is ethics strenuousness, the sternness of fulfilling obligations one would rather not. Radiance harmonizes the ethical and the aesthetic just in the way a bird harmonizes excellent flight with beautiful display.

A radiant life, being good, expresses beauty in its full appearing.

From A Transition to Philosophical Life

15. A radiant life is like a mantra: we repeat good words to ourselves. We mumble, we chant, we sing the hymns together. Radiance is our home.

On leaving New York City

The time I spent in Scandinavia last month has led me to reflect upon the nature and course of my life. In an attempt to lead a simpler life (see Guidebook to Philosophical Life, Chapter 7: Living Simply), one that is more in tune with nature, I’m considering the possibility of moving away from New York City. The move may occur, if it does, as early as the end of September. My hope is that it will give me the leisure and contemplative silence I need in order to think seriously and finish my book on radiance.

In the short term, I’m looking for someone living around the New York City area who may be in need of a house sitter for a spell. In the longer term, I imagine I’ll be living closer to the countryside. If you have any house sitting leads, you can contact me via the Contact form or by email.

Thanks,

A.