Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Eternity, Spinoza and an airport

So on the way to Krakow I'm trying to lose some time at the airport, and I have a quick dip into Alain de Botton's book "Religion for Atheists," and I come across a bit about Spinoza and "sub specie aeternitatis." 

It seems Spinoza didn't buy the idea of an omnipresent deity, who notes the fall of the sparrow and so if I pray to Him about my bunion it'll get better..

If "God" means anything,it's the universe itself, it's structure, forces, etc.....I'm a bit vague here I know, but a) I'm shamefully ignorant of Spinoza, which I'll be putting right soon, and b) I was trying to read in the middle of a bloody airport, so cut me some slack, eh?

Furthermore, given that perspective, says Spinoza, we should be better able to put into perspective our sufferings and joys- we should better be able to face our own mortality. Sub specie aeternitatis, the transitory nature of one life may be easier to accept.

There's a mindfulness meditation practice that involves bringing to mind an issue causing angst, and then widening the perspective around it until it begins to lose its immediate potency, and comes to seem part of something much bigger, more objectively "there" and less obsessively "mine," to tune out some of the interference between me and the present moment.

These two things seem related to me, and both perspectives may help us to live with unpleasant things we can't avoid. Under the aspect of eternity, the huge cycles of galactic time, or even just against the rolling generations of centuries of human history, we may bring to bear a calmer view of our troubles. 

H'mm. One of those times when either I'm getting a real sense of 
unity between apparently different things, a sense of belonging and 
fitting in, or it's medication time. Ether way, Baruch (as Spinoza was known to his nanny) sounds like a geezer worth checking out. 

Cheers, Barry!

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