Tag Archives: Meaning of Life

Wisdom Books: A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

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This work marks the author’s movement from the pursuit of aesthetic ideals toward matters of religious and philosophical consequence. The poignant text describes Tolstoy’s heartfelt reexamination of Christian orthodoxy and subsequent spiritual awakening. Generations of readers have been inspired by this timeless account of one man’s struggle for faith and meaning in life.

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Thought-Provoking Movies: My Dinner with Andre (1981)

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The film depicts a conversation between Gregory and Shawn (not necessarily playing themselves) in a chic restaurant in New York City. Based mostly on conversation, the film’s dialogue covers such things as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of life, contrasting Shawn’s modest, down-to-earth humanism with Gregory’s extravagant spiritual experiences.

Gregory is the focus of the first hour of the film as he describes some of his experiences since he gave up his career as a theatre director in 1975. These include working with his friend Jerzy Grotowski and a group of Polish actors in a forest in Poland, his visit to Findhorn in Scotland and his trip to the Sahara to try to create a play based on The Little Prince. Perhaps Gregory’s most dramatic experience was working with a small group of people on a piece of performance art on Long Island which resulted in Gregory being (briefly) buried alive on Halloween night.

The rest of the film is a conversation as Shawn tries to argue that living life as Gregory has done for the past five years is simply not possible for the vast majority of people. In response, Gregory suggests that what passes for normal life in New York in the late 1970s is more akin to living in a dream than it is to real life. The movie ends without a clear resolution to the conflict in worldviews articulated by the two men. Shawn reminisces during a taxi ride back home about his childhood and mentions that when he arrives at home he tells his girlfriend Debbie about his dinner with Andre, as Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 plays in the background.

“Andre: “OK. Yes, we are bored. We’re all bored now. But has it ever occurred to you Wally that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brainwashing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks? and it’s not just a question of individual survival Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say no?”

~ My Dinner with Andre

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Wisdom Books: Wisdom and Destiny by Maurice Maeterlinck

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…This essay on Wisdom and Destiny was to have been a thing of some twenty pages, the work of a fortnight; but the idea took root, others flocked to it, and the volume has occupied M. Maeterlinck continuously for more than two years. It has much essential kinship with the “Treasure of the Humble,” though it differs therefrom in treatment; for whereas the earlier work might perhaps be described as the eager speculation of a poet athirst for beauty, we have here rather the endeavour of an earnest thinker to discover the abode of truth. And if the result of his thought be that truth and happiness are one, this was by no means the object wherewith he set forth. Here he is no longer content with exquisite visions, alluring or haunting images; he probes into the soul of man and lays bare all his joys and his sorrows. It is as though he had forsaken the canals he loves so well–the green, calm, motionless canals that faithfully mirror the silent trees and moss-covered roofs–and had adventured boldly, unhesitatingly, on the broad river of life…

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Wisdom Books: Human, All Too Human by Friedrich Nietzsche

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Written after Nietzsche had ended his friendship with Richard Wagner and had been forced to leave academic life through ill health, Human, All Too Human (1878) can be read as a monument to his personal crisis. It also marks the point when he matured as a philosopher, rejecting the German romanticism espoused by Wagner and Schopenhauer and instead returning to sources in the French Enlightenment. Here he sets out his unsettling views in a series of 638 stunning aphorisms – assessing subjects ranging from art to arrogance, boredom to passion, science to vanity and women to youth. This work also contains the seeds of concepts crucial to Nietzsche’s later philosophy, such as the will to power and the need to transcend conventional Christian morality. The result is one of the cornerstones of his life’s work.

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Educational Documentaries: Human, All Too Human – Sartre (Part 3)

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Human, All Too Human is a three-part 1999 documentary television series. It follows the lives of three prominent European philosophers: Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The theme of this documentary revolves heavily around the school of philosophical thought known as existentialism, although the term had not been coined at the time of Nietzsche’s writing, and Heidegger declaimed the label. The documentary is named after the 1878 book written by Nietzsche, titled Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits.

The final episode in this series, The Road to Freedom, describes the life of the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. This is when the term existentialism begins to enter the realm of philosophy. The documentary shows that Sartre believes it is up to each individual human being to give his or her own life a meaning and a purpose.

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