Thursday, January 8, 2015

Philosophy, art and happiness

Philosophy helps us understand our existence and our fate, which cannot be understood in terms of answers but much better in terms of questions. What’s life about? Fill in your answer and you’ll realize that it is in fact a question, for example “being a good mother”. When do you call a mother a good mother? A mother who spends a lot of time with her children and is “sweet” with them most of the time? And how about being “a good friend” or “as happy as possible”: what does this mean? What do you need to do for this and how much? Philosophy is a tool that helps you understand what kind of balance happiness, good friendship and good motherhood presuppose.

Art helps us in a similar way. Like philosophy it doesn’t tell us upfront what life is about but it provides us with context that helps us better understand and “taste” it. Fear, anger, the need for love, frustrated ambitions and feelings of uselessness and meaninglessness, we all meet these challenges in a certain way during our lives. In literature, opera and other art forms these challenges come to us in very concentrated “samples” that broaden our reflection and trigger our sensitivity. 

Stories for example influence our experience of what is important in life. Photographs can change our experience of beauty by introducing us to new forms of beauty. What touches us is not necessarily what the picture shows but the way it shows it, or even what it doesn't show us. Like an interesting view that puts your curiosity to the test because you can’t see it:

"Window of opportunities" symbolizes the opportunities you can sense but that you won't see if you don't train your eye to open it further.
Philosophy and art aren't views or windows on reality but new realities created by the philosopher and the artist. These new realities function like mirrors that reflect our personality and our personal ways of making sense of the world. They subtly resonate and interfere with our spontaneous and intimate tendencies, beliefs and tastes. That’s why a good philosophy, a good picture or a good song triggers an emotional reaction: they tell us who we are by playing with what we think we hide. 

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