Sunday, March 2, 2008

NPR - Interesting Aphorisms

I've been reading James Geary's book, "The World's Great Aphorists." If you have to buy someone one book as a gift, this book is it. You can read it anywhere and reread it again because you'll forgot who the aphorists were and what they said.

And you'll be surprised who expressed an aphorism. I discovered that most ideas said in an aphorism was said a really long time ago. Not a few decades but centuries and millenia. Remember Carl Sagan's, "We're all made of stardust."? How about, "All are of the dust and all turn to dust again." - Ecclesiates, 450-330 CE? You'll find every new thought has been expressed before, slightly differently and relatively to their time, but still the same.

So far the two that interests me the most are Viktor Frankl and William James.

Viktor Frankl survived the concentration camps during WW II after which developed a new school of psychological therapy and the idea of existentialism. He wrote the book, "Man's Search for Meaning", which I highly recommend. His insights from his experience in the camps is worth some time thinking about your own life.

The one I like the most, "Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.", flies in the face of almost any religion and faith, but I find it to the point. We're not the ones who have the right or the privilege of asking some god the meaning of our own life. We have to make our life meaningful within the situations and circumstances of our experience and answer when we're asked its meaning.

He had a number of aphorisms from his camp experience and from his later years as a psychologist developing the school of Logotherapy.

William James was a pioneering psychologist who started the "stream of consciousness" (or thought in his words) view of thinking along with the idea one's physical state creates emotions than the reverse, kinda' the idea about endorphins from work, exercise or being productive creating euphoria and other emotions and feelings.

Some of his aphorisms predate the modern version of them, such as,

"Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.",
"Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.",
"When you have to make a choice, and don't make it, that is in itself a choice."
"This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it."
"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook."

And you thought ideas were new?

And these and many other thoughts and ideas, expressed so eqoquently and succinctly, are as old as man. It's just these people decided to write them down.

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