philosophy (tag)

The Road Less Traveled (M. Scott Peck, M.D.) Review

Verdict: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

The Road Less TraveledI can’t remember who recommended The Road Less Traveled to me, but I’m truly grateful to have gotten to read it.  It’s subtitled A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, its author was an American psychiatrist, and it made history – it is now a classic title.

M. Scott Peck resolves to redefine classic concepts, and to connect the psyche with the spiritual side of the human being, using the means of psychotherapy. His own experience with psychotherapy (at the giving end), lends his book great authenticity, and his final goal is releasing his readers from chains they may not even know they are tied with. The book is written in an accessible style, but permeated by the manner and reservation specific to academics, alternating lecture with friendly discussion and clinical case presentations.

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Do We Still Need to Socialize?

In “real” life, that is. And the “real” here might not be the best choice of word. Shall it be replaced with “physical” (or “physically existent”), as the proper antonym to “virtual” when we speak of our digital existence? “Virtual” does not mean not existent or not real.

We’re being told that online socializing is eroding our social skills and destroying physical relationships. That is mostly rue.

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What is the purpose of life?

To love. To care and cater to others. To give out the effort required to do this until it becomes effortless. To give yourself out until there’s no more “I” left.

But why? This seems so unnatural. “I” is the only thing “I” knows.

Because everything else (please note: everything) is, or will shortly become dull and boring and unfulfilling. Everything you do for yourself is great and should be done. Just don’t expect any of it to keep on making you happy on the long run.

Identity

Inner balance requires at least this: you must know who you are and where (in the largest sense) you are. The rest, all the way to happiness, is simply a matter of maintaining this awareness at all times. Knowing who you are, and where you are is the sine qua non basis for becoming someone else, somewhere else, should you want it — and you usually do.

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Pleasure delaying vs instant gratification

I’m tempted to say this can be reduced to the “old vs new” issue, but I know this is, in fact, only a quantitative thing. It’s not at all like the old generation was all for pleasure delaying and vehemently against instant gratification. As a matter of fact, it is the older generation that willingly devolved its taste towards instant gratification. This shift in taste is not an overnight invention of the very young, it’s just their heritage, what’s being left to them. It is our fault.

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Love and hate

There are only two ways of looking at things, two lenses: love and hatred. Craving and aversion, in Buddhist teachings. Indifference is not the middle ground, it is merely a way of not looking at things, and it’s mostly worse than either love, or hatred.

You must try and see everything through the lens of love, first. Sadly, if things still appear distorted, they sometimes look much better when seen through the bloody lens of hatred. But there are, really, very few things that require this. Most everyday mundane affairs (and these are what fills our lives, not big, heroic decisions or events) can be approached with love.

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Age of doubt

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.” Groucho Marx

“Thou shalt not entertain any firm beliefs.” Good or bad, that’s not important. Intuitive, or based on the best science, it doesn’t matter either. What seems to matter now is that you should never be certain of anything.

This age demands that you remain ignorant, despite the unprecedented amount of knowledge this age amassed. No matter how much you know (or feel) is right, you should not base your confidence on your certainty. “You must never be certain”, is what is asked of you. And it prepares the ground for “every opinion is valid.” Coupled with “anyone is entitled to their opinion on anything”, this heralds the end of civilization.

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