I am currently writing a book entitled Ordinary Magic: Mastering the Art of Living. From time to time I will post excerpts. This is the first, from the final section of the book.
We live our lives in the context of our circumstances. Mastering the art of living involves recognizing, acknowledging and coming into harmony with your circumstances – and changing them where possible to suit you better. We have already explored in depth the ordinary magic of doing that.
But circumstances are only part – indeed, the smaller part – of life. How you live your life in the circumstances you are in essentially determines what your experience of life is. The key is mastering, not life, but living.
Consider: Continue reading Mastering Living
This is the tenth and final post in a series on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.
Pathologies of ultimate satisfaction suggest a somewhat different orientation to therapy. This final post in the Worlds series will touch briefly on some aspects of this orientation.
First, some disclaimers:
- Not all pathology is connected to ultimate satisfaction. Many persons who seek and benefit from therapy experience living in a world that makes sense to them, and they find themselves significantly restricted in their ability to participate in that world.
- I am not proposing a new school or approach to therapy. To the extent these thoughts have any utility at all, they very likely will be useful to seasoned therapists from a broad variety of approaches.
- You do not need to be a therapist to find these thoughts useful and applicable.
- Each thought is stated and briefly expanded; they are meant to be evocative, not complete. A thorough exploration would require at least a very long paper or a short book.
Continue reading Ultimate Satisfaction and Therapy
This is the seventh in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.
“The world makes sense.”
This has been stated several times in this series to good effect in helping articulate ultimate satisfaction and its place in a person’s life. Now we need to look a little further. Let’s begin by clarifying what this statement is and what it is not.
“The world makes sense” is not a statement about what is universally true. It does not mean that the world actually makes sense to everyone all the time; the world obviously does not. “The world makes sense” is a slogan, which Ossorio reminds us “are apt for saying what you live by, and that is quite different from saying what you happen to believe or what happens to be true.” Continue reading What Ultimate Satisfaction is Not
This is the fifth in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.
We have seen examples of ultimate satisfaction involving appraisals of “fittingness” from conceptual-aesthetic, natural-aesthetic, artistic-aesthetic and moral perspectives. Notice something interesting here: in each case, the individual whose world is held together by this ultimate satisfaction had a breakthrough or initiation experience in which the world suddenly made sense in this new and fundamental way:
- Russell’s experience of Euclid’s proof and my own experience of elegance in Cantor’s proof are clear examples of the world suddenly making sense in a new, conceptual-aesthetic way.
- Recognizing deep unity with nature is frequently the result of a nature-based rite of passage, or a spiritual practice of an ecstatic tradition.
- Virtually every artist, musician or performer has a story of their first encounter with their art, when they experienced its creativity directly and knew “this is what I’m here to do.”
- Most spiritual paths have practices of initiation in which the new member of the community experiences what it’s like to be “one of us.”
Note that each of these involves direct encounter with community members who already see the world as this community does, and experience directly how this world makes sense. Ultimate Satisfaction is connected to a specific world, of a particular community – no exceptions.
But many people have no memory of experiencing breakthrough into a new world – and it’s not the sort of thing one is inclined to forget. Continue reading More Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction
This is the fourth in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.
So far we have encountered two varieties of ultimate satisfaction:
- Bertrand Russell’s “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly”;
- The mathematician’s experience of the “elegance” of a great proof.
These two seem very similar, both in their content and in the kind of person who experiences them; if they were wines, they would be French syrah and Australian shiraz – same grape, with subtle differences.
But just as there are many varieties of wine, which vary greatly one from the other, ultimate satisfaction comes in many varieties. Let’s take a deeper dive into this; you may well recognize what ultimate satisfaction is for you as we do. Continue reading Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction
This is the third in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most other posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.
In the second post of this series I observed that, prior to the discovery of his eponymous Paradox, Bertrand Russell’s world was held together by the “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly”. I used the term “ultimate satisfaction” to characterize that experience. As one of the readers of that post commented, the idea that “ultimate satisfaction” holds one’s world together is not intuitively obvious. Indeed it is not – until it is. I believe that in fact this conception is genuinely original; it’s not just a restatement of a well-known way of thinking, and thus requires some work to see. Once seen, however, it seems obvious, intuitively and otherwise. This post is meant to make the concept of ultimate satisfaction clear. Continue reading What is “Ultimate Satisfaction”?
Neil de Grasse Tyson is the new public face of science. He is smart, charming, has a great back-story of achievement in the face of societal obstacles along with, let’s be honest here, one of the coolest names of all time. His popular television series Cosmos has introduced millions of viewers to the wonders of the scientific world, from the smallest to the unfathomably large and spanning billions of years. When he speaks about science, people listen.
So people are listening to a recent Facebook post that quotes him saying: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
There’s something very comforting about that statement, isn’t there? It feels a bit like someone telling you: “I promise you everything will turn out fine.” In fact it is exactly like that. Tyson’s quote is not a statement of scientific fact (nor could it be – what experiment could you do to determine whether or not it is true?). It is a promise, a statement of belief about science and truth that he shares with the community of scientists.
Public discourse about truth and belief has been largely centered on the dispute between science and religion – science knows, religion believes – which has led us to a muddled view that does justice to neither concept. Science has no room for belief, only evidence – or so they say. Descriptive Psychology has the conceptual power to sort this out, and has. Here’s how: Continue reading Belief in Science