The importance of having a personal philosophy

June 20, 2016

If one is serious about living a purpose driven life. I cannot emphasized the importance of crafting a personal philosophy towards every aspect of life from work, managing yourself and others to perhaps even striving to be the man who you believe you were always meant to be….ants cannot do this, but humans can….and you really…really must!

Man can look at a thing…it doesn’t even have to be awe inspiring, neither does it need to even take your breathe away like a magic carpet…it may just be a thing…any thing…a thought…a passing fragment of an image or a series of words once spoken crushed by time….but man can reflect and above all he has the capacity to stir deeply on how those experiences and things, people and events that once came his way shapes him and continues to either add or subtract from character.

We all like to believe or maybe we r all conditioned only too…that the greatest and rare life changing moments of epiphany can only come from spell binding experiences….but there are times when I am just sitting all by myself on a park bench and there before me is the entire majesty of life as it unfurls.

That is really all I want….that is really where I want to be…to be nowhere and yet everywhere to hold not a single thought in my mind and yet to be able to see a thing for what it is in marvelous completion to call my very own…a beautiful thing.

Recently I dressed a shoe….it’s an old shoe, but what intrigued me most about this pair of brogues was the sheer amount of scuffing and rasping at the back heel….these are everyday working shoes – at first I planned to give the heals the standard textbook cosmetic treatment, but the more I looked at them under the wan of the melancholic evening light….very slowly a sort of story oozed out from those random lines and scrawls…here was a story of a man who walks purposefully…his gait plumbs to the left which means, he’s always in a rush…it’s not fabricated…it’s authentic…a real story and it’s his history that’s written in the language of shoes…that’s when I encountered a rare moment of epiphany and I put down my brush and said to myself there and then…I have a right to paint shoes…but I don’t have a right to erase the history of a man and his relationship with his footwear – besides this is so beautiful…only because real beauty is filled with flaws…it’s natural…one part serendipity and the rest that just involves the act of walking – beauty has got nothing whatsoever to do with perfection, balanced symmetry or even the idea of permanence or eye candying…if that idea just happens to be mainstream, it’s only because it’s an acquired taste that most of us have been force fed without us even realizing it like foire gras ducks by the mind dumbing machine of the marketing manifesto – suddenly those lines acquired an almost a supernatural quality – it is a life once lived… and it would be a travesty for me a witness to this incredible insight to just wipe it all out along with revising it’s history…so instead I immortalized it in dye using a time consuming technique known as ‘water tracing’ that took the whole night…by the dawn, the collage of scuffs…scratches…mottling that may not even look endearing to the untrained eye was preserved with hardly any alterations….to me…this is the philosophy of how I see elegance…not as something contrived or for that matter anything resembling the close quarters of manufactured perfection or structural harmony like the vapidness of eye candy. Rather it’s a wispy and ephemeral notion that only reveals itself to one who is perceptive and always strives hard to understand, appreciate and even give it the respect it rightly deserves….and when we do just this alone…it could be said, we have a philosophy in life.

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‘Philosophy is a big word, but don’t allow it to intimidate you…that’s to say….stand your ground and just look at it for it….it’s just a word…nothing more or less. Even if it seems to be a big intimidating word that you feel you may not have the means to wrap your head around it…the funny thing in life is if you look at something long enough and bear it out patiently – even if it’s something so everyday and forgettable as grass growing – you will eventually notice something about it that no one else can ever see.

That to me is encapsulates the ethos of the word philosophy – it means to know a thing for what it is and not what others day it is….that’s all it is. The rest you could just throw right out of the window and it wouldn’t make a molecule of difference to your understanding of that word.

It’s like the periphery world of fire extinguishers, exit signs and stuff that stick out of ceilings blinking lights and maybe elevator music – they’re there, but we hardly notice them as most of us aren’t really invested in the present..even if we claim we are. As most of the time, we have one foot in the distant past and the other in the future and whatever little is left is really the sum total of our consciousness.

That’s not an indictment of humanity…that’s just how most of us go thru life.

That I imagine is why so many people miss out so much of life – it’s not that life isn’t there…rather we are all somewhere else and that’s a function of how we all conditioned and scripted to go thru to life….being there, yet somewhere else…but never where we should really needfully be to live well – in the present!

There is a quaint story about that tragic painter Van Gogh who once chanced across a pair of worn-out shoes in the flea market somewhere in Paris. The painter who was at that time, a Mr nobody took them back to his bed sit. Rumor has it for reasons known to him, he spent days, weeks and even months looking at them – in the morning to catch the light. In the afternoon to sense the melancholy of the leather and even in candle light to seek it out it’s morose essence and one day in the moment it takes to swath a fly, the painter who was a no body, nailed a parchment, mix some paint and painted those pair of shoes. Today, they have become the most celebrated footware in the history of modern art.

It’s been debated, spliced and even put under the equivalent of the philosophers electron microscope as to what this depiction represents – there are many critiques, but the one that endears to me most and is perhaps resonates most with me is perhaps Martin Heidegger’s account when he first saw the painting in an exhibition in Amsterdam.

“From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrate the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.”

Although they were many other critiques which included the Shapiro and Derrida, to me…at least, none of them matched the sympatico, profundis and breadth of Heidegger’s interpretations of Van Gogh’s painting.

As ONLY he could see and understand the tragic metaphorical struggle of a failed painter’s weariness and threadbare life.

Others have simply extrapolated and superimposed themselves causally….by imaging themselves in these shoes and conjuring images of walking through diverse landscapes, working under bright skies, or trudging home with sweaty feet after hard labors in the fields. Others are willing to let the painting simply speak for itself as a study of shoes with dull brown color and a background of gold….but not Heidegger…ONLY he and he alone was able to expre the philosophy of the painter who was trying to express the inexpressible…a man marooned in his own mind swirling in collages of colors and tones that people in his own age didn’t even understand.

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh said, “It is good to love as many things as one can…..I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven toward these things with an irresistible momentum…..Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.”

To be spiritual is to have an abiding respect for the great mysteries of life and to see the fingerprints of the Divine in the most ordinary objects and things….when a man is imbued with such a profound philosophy in regards to how he sees himself and his craft and those who choose to misunderstand him time and again and to even ridicule his works.

Momentarily. The artist touches the heavens and conveys the sanctity of the pair of dirty worn shoes and as a result, even we the ordinary are compelled to reframe our view of how we see the world around us….that to me is the power of having a wholesome philosophy…it can make life so very beautiful!…even the dirty, mundane and forgettable is transformed into the miraculous.’

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