The screen shot included below is an example of philosophical portraiture by Aleksandra Marcella Lauro. Philosophical portraiture is concerned with the project of self-cultivation–specifically, with how one comes into contact with what is higher. Here, the figure on the viewer’s left is wholesome, earnest, yet naive in the ways of the world. The figure on the viewer’s right is more world-weary, more worldly, less unwise. The common ear shows the way that one can become the other. Listen. The figure who is looking at us is gently holding us to account for our lives. Aleksandra suggests that I am on the humble path which leads from the first figure, who I am no longer, to the second, the man I would like to be.
The portrait can be viewed in full-scale here.
Our lives dangle on a branch. While the fool wishes to be held firm or let go, the wise man dangles freely.
Luckiness is not getting what you want but realizing that it wasn’t worth wanting after all. This is called adulthood. Unluckiness is getting what you want, only to grow thoughtlessly into old age. This is called childhood. Also: prose.
Porphyry relates this anecdote about his spiritual guide Plotinus:
One day, when Origen came into his class, Plotinus blushed from head to toe, and made as if to stand up and put an end to the class. When Origen urged him to continue, Plotinus said, “One’s desire to talk is reduced when one knows that one is about to speak to people who already know what he is going to say.”
It is best to keep silence when one understands you, for what is there to say? If one then speaks, is he not already repeating himself?
This morning, during sitting meditation, we watched the sun draw near. The sun had nothing to say. We listened to it.
The man claimed to be a Yogi. We were in Central Park when he said this, and we were on our way to meditate beneath a crooked tree. The Yogi asked us questions, all of the “do you know…” form and told anecdotes largely of the folk wisdom variety. Are we yoga practitioners? Do we know what namaste really means? Not knowing is good, very important. I don’t know anything. We learn by experience, not by holding opinions or by holding forth. There are nine kinds of yoga. You do not like Bikram: thank God. Do you know what yoga means? There is the eastern answer and the western answer. Practice being non-judgmental. Do you know about Buddhism? Most people don’t listen; they are only concerned with satisfying their material needs. Everyone is a teacher and a student. You are a philosopher? Were we interested in attending the School of Practical Philosophy? Happiness, nine classes.
We thanked him for his time and continued walking along the dirt path. After we said goodbye, he returned to tell us that there was also laughing yoga. Then he left again.