Happy 388th, Bento!

Today is Spinoza’s 388th Birthday, and in his honor, I’m sharing one of my favorite anecdotes of his life – that time when he almost got torn to bits defending those two other guys who got torn to bits.

What would you say if…

Spinoza says that ALL things MUST happen exactly as they do because of everything that came before. We humans are a part of nature and not apart from it, and beholden to the same laws. That includes things like how you react to people who look different from you. Or what you will have for lunch tomorrow. Or who we vote for.

Be not afraid

I can’t allow myself to slip into despair. It’s just not a place I want to be. So I began looking for a branch to grasp on the slide down that hill. And I turned to, of course, Spinoza. Because what use is philosophy if you can’t use it when you really need it?

A remembrance for Benedict

February 21, 1677, fell on a Sunday, so it happened when the landlord and his wife were away at church. Just as it is this year, it was the weekend before the start of the Lent season. If they knew their tenant was on death’s door, they may have stayed home instead. They just didn’t know.

Happy Valentine’s, Bento: It Gets Better – Part 4

As I think of Spinoza’s lonesome life, night after night in his room, musing over his thoughts or worrying over his lenses, I can’t help but feel sad for him. He had lots of friends, yes. But who could make him laugh when he got lost in his thoughts and anxious? Who was there to remind him to eat when he spent too much time working out some question? Who was there at the end of a good day when he wanted to share some happy news? Whose comforting breath did he hear when he woke in the middle of the night, and who did he get to shower his attention on?

Happy Valentines, Bento: It Gets Better – Part 2

Spinoza respected emotion in the way someone who spends a lot of time outdoors respects thunderstorms or black bears — a powerful, awe-inspiring force that can wreak great damage before you know what hit you. And like storms and bears, he believed they couldn’t be controlled. They could, however, be understood. In fact, to do so was the only way to obtain any sort of freedom in a world he viewed as devoid of free will.

Hope/Against Hope

Pish posh, my old friend says. If you’re uncertain about a thing, be uncertain. Sit with it. Don’t flatter yourself into thinking that feeling hopeful about it will make it any better. Or that by worrying yourself into a heart attack, you can stop it. Those are different flavors of ignorance.