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Preparing material for another ten week on-line Philosophy As a Way of Life course, starting this Wednesday, inevitably all this takes a degree of time and effort. When embarking on anything like this a question sometimes arises: What’s my motivation? Why am I doing this? Am I attempting to serve the greater good or am I merely bound by a personal desire?
Well the fact of the matter it’s both. There is no doubt that I gain a considerable amount of personal satisfaction from thinking through the ideas of the great philosophers and devising a way of effectively communicating them, but without the thought that others are, hopefully, gaining benefit, the whole project would be pointless.
The motive that is there at the outset of an action, as the reflection below considers, is of upmost importance. If that motive has about it a measure of compassion, concern, love of others then what arises must have something of those qualities carried with it. That is certainly the hope when devising these courses and indeed when writing the weekly emails. Even if that’s not readily recognisable when considering ones own actions you can certainly see it in the action of others, for they have about them a certain beauty and grace.
With my best regards, William
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Whatever there is at the beginning of an action is bound to have a decided effect on everything that follows thereafter. It colours it all. When events meet you, you alone are the vehicle for action, whatever that action might be. Out of the realm of infinite possibility arises a response. How perfectly measured that response is to the purpose intended is for you alone to discover at that time. What is evident in the meeting of any need is that the attention can rest on nothing other than what there is when that need becomes known. If self consideration becomes the predominant factor the focus must be lost and with it the energy.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.
These are the words of Martha Graham the renowned choreographer. Blocking what is yours alone to do may very well arise out of the simple desire to ignore what the situation is demanding of you, not do it, or to do it with all kinds of personal considerations affecting the result. Here she is talking about the creative act. Our creative acts may not be something placed under a spotlight in a public theatre, but we do create. We cannot help it. We are creating all the time, for good or ill.
If your motive for acting is nothing whatsoever to do with meeting a genuine need, but is rather to do with the expression of some entirely self motivated desire, then the whole thing is going to be influenced by a narrow determination and imported into it will be all kinds of excitement and frustration. What is produced out of this can never be clear cut and simple, quite the opposite. It's bound to be complicated, full of an emotional pressure that is bound to have its effect on outcomes. Again it is one of those paradoxes that in order to produce something that is utterly our own - in the sense that Martha Graham speaks of it - we have to learn to remove from our actions things that complicate and confuse. Personal desire often does just that. Dedicating our actions to the greater good is a practice of long pedigree designed to create something that goes beyond any self imposed limit.
Practice: When you find your contribution to life being hemmed in by a narrow consideration open you mind to wider possibilities.
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