Our Urgent Need for Philosophy Today

More so than ever, we live in a frenzied, unstable world. Between a fluctuating economy, continued global political instability, and a (mostly) bleak future presented to us by our modern literature, we are becoming restless souls drifting through existence. The meaning behind the work that we do on a daily basis is lost, creating an intellectually confused species.

These issues have troubled me for some time, and I have thus immersed myself in a study of philosophy to better understand just what’s going on in our modern world. That complex, difficult to describe branch of knowledge that, whilst key to almost everything we do in our lives, has become relegated to the hallowed halls of universities and its proper application in the real world has become lost.

I think that a study of philosophy can help guide us in navigating the turbulent waters of modern civilisation.

Philosophy is a study of the nature of knowledge. It literally means the “love of wisdom,” and it is urgently needed today more so than ever. Because wisdom has so often been shunted to the side in favour of the bottom line, of feeding the capitalist machine and surging us ever forward to that elusive lifestyle we are presented with by the media. As a species, we are lacking wisdom, our thoughts becoming lost amidst the continuous chatter of social media.

Thus, a study of philosophy can help us to develop a mindset of calm, of rationality and the ability to think about the big issues, and understand our role, our place, in the grand architecture of the Cosmos. More so than any other tool, a study of philosophical ideas can enable us to think about, and positively affect, a sociocultural landscape that has become wrought with instability and convoluted systems that simply create unnecessary stress.

Even better, though, than simply studying a course in philosophy, is reading broadly from a range of philosophical ideas across a wide range of history, thinkers and systems, and then choosing the best ones to create your own basket of wisdom, a little intellectual arsenal with which you can combat the daily challenges.

Embarking on a journey of philosophical study can be rather daunting. I’ve found one place on the electric internets (to borrow this humorous phrase from Bill Nye the Science Guy) that can help initiate the journey to discovering wisdom: The School of Life.

Watch this video, and begin your journey today:

And remember… as the beloved Laozi once wrote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Tao Te Ching, verse 64)


Equipment Doesn’t Define Creativity

There’s this wonderful saying that perfectly captures my thoughts on this topic. Essentially, what I believe, after going through three years of intensive design instruction in my undergraduate architecture degree, and throughout my various design-oriented ventures for personal work and for SKKSA, is that equipment does not dictate creativity. Indeed, it’s not what you use, but how you use it. This is where the magic happens; this is the act of art, where the depth of the creative act becomes apparent at the hand of the craftsman.

So before I delve deeper into this topic, here’s the gist of this idea: you wouldn’t compliment a chef’s kitchen utensils if you enjoyed his meal; you would commend his skills at bringing forth a delightful gastronomic experience. Similarly, one shouldn’t say “wow, that’s a great photo. You must have an amazing camera.” Because, like the chef and his delicious meal, a beautiful photograph is the creative proof of the photographer’s skillset: of understanding light, composition, technical dexterity and that unique aspect of the creative process that transcends mere product and renders a piece “art” – judgement and intuition.

One could have the most expensive creative equipment at their disposal, but without the knowledge of how to drive these tools, without intuition and passion and a deeper, rooted understanding of the art form – whether it’s a literary work, a piece of art, a photograph or the design of a building – the resultant work would be mundane, lacking a sense of meaning and connectedness to humanity, to society, and thus considered a positive contribution to the world.

All too often, in our consumeristic mindset, driven by the fast-paced nature of technology, society and an ever-increasing pressure to constantly produce for insatiable, all-consuming minds, we forget the magic that can arise when we transcend focus on equipment and rather consider the actual act of creativity. The act of creation, of making something out of nothing, is a rather sacred thing. To render something from the mind into reality is a cornerstone of mankind’s evolution, of our ascent from mere hunter-gatherers purely concerned with survival, into creators and thinkers with the potential to build entire cities and venture forth into the stars.

So these platform debates and mock-wars over which brand or product, or tool is better, are rather meaningless in the grander scheme. Whether you’re Windows or Mac, analogue or digital, it’s the way you use what you have to create that determines your prowess. In the end, not many will care how you created it; it’s the end product that matters to the large portion of society. But it’s up to us, as the creators, to imbue in our work meaning, and a rootedness to culture, society, history – to the precedents that provide richness and add dimension – because these are the elements that will ensure longevity in the final product. These, and not what was used to create them, will immortalise our names and ensure our creations add value to our fellow humans.

A Tango with Evernote

I may be an old-school aficionado of Moleskine notebooks, a huge fan of the brand and a devout user of the classic and traditional way of capturing ideas. But lately, I’ve decided to branch out, if you like, trying out a little experiment: a tango of sorts, with a little piece of software called Evernote.

Evernote is a web-based note taking application, but the beauty in the software lies in its extensibility: the service can be accessed from virtually anywhere, and with a native app for most popular smartphones (Apple iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and even the iPad and iPod touch), one can live safe in the knowledge that one’s thoughts, ideas and plans are kept safe from physical destruction. Because, after all, even the legendary Moleskines are vulnerable to the nemesis that is spilt coffee.

Evernote works by organizing your notes into notebooks: think of them as mini files in a larger, digital filing cabinet that you can carry with you wherever you go. What I truly like about the service is the synergy it presents between the traditional and modern method of capturing thoughts: Evernote allows one to capture handwritten notes with a phone camera or by scanning the image, so that all ideas are stored safely in the cybersphere.

how i use evernote

I am the editor of my school’s recently-launched blog, and as such this position means that I constantly need to manage incoming posts, plan editorial meetings, draft my own editorial posts and keep everything in equilibrium between the ten writers, a cartoonist and co-editor. This can be a monstrous job to tame, and I am aided by Evernote in managing the entire system. I keep a separate notebook for the blog, in which I deposit notes on agendas for meetings, ideas for blog posts and content for the site, and random thoughts and images that could potentially become new services we could launch. I even run the editorial meetings directly off Evernote on my BlackBerry: the agenda is compiled in Evernote for Mac during the week, and through the sync feature, I can walk into the Friday meeting with the digital agenda ready on my phone’s screen.

Evernote is like a second extension to my brain – the first being my trusted companion, my classic black Moleskine pocket notebook – and I use it to deposit numerous ideas for blog posts for this blog. Although I’m unable, due to time constraints, to work on my book, whenever I find something useful it goes straight into my Evernote digital notebook, where I can later transfer it into Scrivener (where the entire novel is kept safely).

This is a great app to use for managing your life – both offline and online. Try it for yourself – and watch your productivity soar.