Reading Hadot four years later

1 02 2010

The genesis of my blogging had little to do with religion. Even now, I intentionally try to avoid all fluffy religious discourse, all affected turns of phrase that seems like “devout-speak” that will get me brownie points in Heaven or at least spring me from Purgatory a few years early. What has really obsessed me is the liberation of thought and action from the modern prison of ideology. From Neoplatonism to folk Catholicism, from art to politics, why I write at this point is really due to an (irreligious?) “spiritual exercise”, an attempt to see the world from another radical perspective. It is, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty said of philosophy, an attempt to see the world again for the first time, as if from the eyes of a child.

The person who passed on to me this perception is none other that the often cited Pierre Hadot. You see, I was once like the normal “devout” Catholic, thinking that the Church “has all of the answers”, and if only we could be “docile” to it, somehow everything would fall into place. But unlike most, I took it all quite seriously, to the point of becoming a monk. Well, you know that didn’t work out. At some level I still have admiration for successful monastics, and I have faith that somewhere there are those who choose to live that life who are the “real deal”. I know that this life, however, isn’t for me, not because I have concluded that it is “not my vocation” (as if God sent me a telegram saying to get out of my monastery post-haste), but rather I am skeptical that anyone can live that life in the context in which we find ourselves. But that is a discussion for another time. My own coming to terms with the fact that I would have to “live normally” brought me to the question of whether or not just living your life could be a profound exercise in wisdom. To this question, the French philosopher Pierre Hadot replies in the affirmative.
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