Photo by Diego Gennaro on Unsplash

“A straight oar looks bent in the water. What matters is not merely that we see things but how we see them.” ~ Montaigne

When the corona pandemic began to unfold I was hopeful that perhaps this was the vehicle by which we all might come together, both globally and of course here at home. Maybe this universal threat to our collective well being would be the thing we need to wake us up and prompt us out of the divisive morass we’ve been suffering. Sadly, that is not what we’re experiencing. Indeed, it seems that daily the political mess…

“…tread the path with care.”

…of the Buddha. The last words of the Buddha were recorded to be:

“Things fall apart; tread the path with care.”

Siddhartha Gautama was born around 480 BCE. He wasn’t called the Buddha until a couple centuries later. It means The Awakened One. He lived in ancient India and taught for about 45 years, dying around age 80.

Of course right now these words — Things fall apart; tread the path with care — seem especially potent. General life, schedules, commitments, normalcy, all seem to be falling apart. We are indeed treading with care, washing our hands, keeping a social…

Stonehenge, Winter Solstice

“We must be less than death, to be lessened by it, for nothing is irrevocable but ourselves.” ~ Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson

I want to ask you a question and you have to promise that you will not do any mental calculations before answering. Here goes, How many weeks do you think there are in an average lifespan? I recently stumbled across this little fact and was surprised at the answer. Before I tell you, I confess that I grossly over estimated. Here’s something to consider first: The approximate duration of all human civilization since…

Lucy, the Sage

When Lucy died I mourned. The end snuck up on me and although, as I mentioned previously, I had been preparing for our separation, I was nonetheless grief-stricken. At night, when I was most challenged, there was only one method I found to bring relief: direct and immediate attention turned to something besides my loss. In some cases, I could only focus on my breathing. This, after years of a meditation practice, came naturally. Sometimes I would turn my attention to the weight of my head on my pillow, or the breathing of Carole beside me, calm and assuring. There…

I heard recently, during the current impeachment hearings, someone accuse so-and-so of “lacking authenticity.” It caught my ear. Several years ago I was deeply hung-up in the pursuit of authenticity, or at least a workable explanation of what truly it is. Eventually I walked away, vowing never to use the word again. It seemed too much a rabbit hole. The accusation I’d heard on the news suggested that authenticity was a default setting, that human beings were naturally authentic in our dealings and projections and designs, that the individual in question lacked this natural human state. That is not how…

A year or so ago while celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary one of our adult children asked if we could articulate the keys to a successful marriage. Carole went first. She spoke with intelligence and experience about the vital role communication must play when two human beings are committed to living together in support of one another. It was workable advice. Carole is nothing if not practical. When my turn came I quipped, “Lower your expectations.” I recall elaborating a little, saying something about resisting the urge for more, that success is more easily realized when we lower the bar…

Sunrise or Sunset? Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

I study lives. My text book is the biography. The first grown-up book I read was a biography of Mark Twain. I was, I think, in 6th grade. The most recent book read, finished a couple days ago, is Robert D. Richardson Jr.’s biography of I read Bakewell as a set up to my summer reading of Montaigne’s long essay, Emerson, subtitled The Mind on Fire. Before that, earlier this summer, I re-read Sarah Bakewell’s biography of An Apology of Raymond Sebond. Th Montaigne, How to Live. at essay consumed much of my summer Colorado reading. Though I’ve been reading…

What having depression at sixty-three has taught me about human potential.

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

‘Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.’ — William James

I’ve been wrestling with mild depression recently. This is unusual for me and I’m struggling to understand what is going on. I’m sixty-three.

That middle-age crisis thing was some time ago. I can’t blame it on that. Indeed, much of the stuff one wishes for — love, tranquillity, health, and so on — that stuff is fully present in my life. In general, life is quite good.

This black-dog depression is a puzzle. It snuck up on me. Consequently, like many of us, I carry on quietly. It…

My “Philosophy Journal”

A little over a year ago I started keeping what I call a philosophy journal. It’s an idea that I encountered in my study of the Stoics. The ancient Stoic teachers suggested that their students keep a journal as a way to enhance the philosophical teachings. The best surviving example of this is what has come to be known as The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The Meditations remains in print and I suggest you read the new translation by Gregory Hays, if you’re interested. I will touch on these writings in a future post. The point here, however, is that…

The notion interests me that the ancient Greeks judged their philosophers by their lives, as well as their intellectual contribution. Kierkegaard noted that Socrates’ “whole life was [a] personal preoccupation with himself…” Likewise, Rembrandt made more than ninety self-portraits, far more than any

Early Rembrandt

other artist. One art historian, Manuel Gasser, wrote that “Over the years, Rembrandt’s self-portraits increasingly became a means for gaining self-knowledge, and in the end took the form of an interior dialogue: a lonely old man communicating with himself while he painted.” Rembrandt, employing the tools he knew best, made of himself a study.

The Greeks admonished…

doug bruns

Practical thinker in pursuit of practical wisdom.

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