robertogreco + stoicism   4

Living With the Land: Four Seasons in Tibet • Lu Nan • Magnum Photos
“As part of an ongoing series, Living With the Land, we speak to Magnum photographers whose work explores a way of life tied closely to nature.

The  inhabitants of rural Tibet—as seen through the lens of Magnum photographer Lu Nan—live a relentlessly tough existence. From morning until night – when photographed near the turn of the millenium – they had endless work to do; in the spring, they sow, in the autumn, they harvest, before the summer, they shear wool which they twist into yarns. When they weren’t farming, they were sewing and weaving clothes and quilts. They are materially poor and their survival is closely bound to the whims of the weather. But, as Lu Nan explains, “Tibetan peasants do not talk about nature [as a separate entity], they are part of nature.”

In Tibet, the vast majority of peasants are Buddhists, but their religious faith is rarely fixed upon ceremony. “It is integrated into their daily life. This embodies itself in their attitude towards Nature, divinities and other living beings, as well as towards birth, aging, sickness, death and so on,” says Lu Nan. “Peasants do not use pesticides. Even if they are given out for free by the government, they still refuse to use them. The reason is very simple: pesticides will kill bugs. Life is fully respected here.”

Lu Nan spent seven years documenting these communities, resulting in the project titled, Four Seasons, which made up the third and final chapter of his Trilogy series. From 1996 to 2004, he made nine trips to Tibet and stayed three to four months each time, living alongside his subjects. His approach was methodical; he generally lodged at a government township and would visit any villages within a 2.5 hour walking distance from where he was staying. “On my last two trips, between August 2002 and May 2004, I worked in Tibet for fifteen months—six months for the first time and nine months for the second. During the work for Four Seasons, I photographed the entire spring sowing twice and the entire autumn harvest four times.”

Eighty-five percent of Tibetans are rural workers, and live lives that are fundamentally little removed from that of their ancestors. They plow their fields with oxen and horses, reap with sickles, and winnow wheat with the wind. Lu Nan witnessed a poetry in this machineless life. “What we hear is the ‘yo-heave-ho’ of driving draught animals, the songs of the women in the harvest, loudly thanking God for bestowing a bountiful harvest and the sound of threshing,” he says.

As a nationality, Tibetans value relationships deeply, especially among family members, says Lu Nan. “When you visit one family, if only the children are in the home, you can’t ask them where their parents are. Because of the harsh environment, poverty and lack of medical care, one of their parents may well have died. The children may begin to weep [if] asked such a question,” he explains. “Therefore, when one visits a family, one should instead ask how many people there are in the family and who they are and then you know whether the children’s parents are still alive.” Friendship outside of the family unit is also fundamental to their survival. “For example, when one family builds a house, every family in the village will send one person to help,” he adds.

Four Seasons offers a powerful and intimate study of a group of people with a profound connection to the land they live upon. This in turn leads to a deep appreciation of the present, evident in Lu Nan’s portraits. Quiet pleasure—and often sheer joy—is taken in tea making, braiding hair, lifting wheat, roasting barley, sitting with family or taking rest in the sun. “In their peaceful inner state, Tibetan peasants live and work leisurely and at ease, without being trapped by the past or disturbed by the future,” explains Lu Nan. “This is the state of happiness according to Buddhism, which resonates with the blessedness sought by Epicureanism, Stoicism and Spinozism.”

The project was heavily influenced by the work of German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.“Goethe’s belief in the infinite value of living in the present and his overall vision of everything determines the level of Four Seasons,” says Lu Nan. “During the seven years of photographing Four Seasons, no matter how familiar I was with the peasants’ lifestyle and their customs, I was always prepared to leave empty-handed before I went to Tibet, because the fascination of life lies in its impermanence, which is also the inspiration and solace of life for me.””
tibet  lunan  photography  nature  morethanhuman  weather  seasons  time  multispecies  buddhism  religion  belief  faith  animals  agriculture  farming  happiness  epicureanism  stoicism  spinozism  goethe  spinoza  relationships  life  living  peasants  machines  land  landscape  geography  pleasure  pleasures  simplicity  leisure  work 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Diogenes - Wikipedia
"Diogenes (/daɪˈɒdʒəˌniːz/; Greek: Διογένης, Diogenēs [di.oɡénɛ͜ɛs]), also known as Diogenes the Cynic (Ancient Greek: Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogenēs ho Kunikos), was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea,[1] in 412 or 404 B.C. and died at Corinth in 323 B.C.[2]

Diogenes was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and Diogenes was banished from Sinope when he took to debasement of currency.[1] After being exiled, he moved to Athens and criticized many cultural conventions of the city. He modelled himself on the example of Heracles, and believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple life-style and behaviour to criticize the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt, confused society. He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non-traditional fashion, and took to toughening himself against nature. He declared himself a cosmopolitan and a citizen of the world rather than claiming allegiance to just one place. There are many tales about his dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his "faithful hound".[3]

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace.[4] He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting attenders by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having publicly mocked Alexander the Great.[5][6][7]

Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery, eventually settling in Corinth. There he passed his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates, who taught it to Zeno of Citium, who fashioned it into the school of Stoicism, one of the most enduring schools of Greek philosophy. None of Diogenes' writings have survived, but there are some details of his life from anecdotes (chreia), especially from Diogenes Laërtius' book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers and some other sources.[8]"


There are conflicting accounts of Diogenes' death. He is alleged variously to have held his breath; to have become ill from eating raw octopus;[36] or to have suffered an infected dog bite.[37] When asked how he wished to be buried, he left instructions to be thrown outside the city wall so wild animals could feast on his body. When asked if he minded this, he said, "Not at all, as long as you provide me with a stick to chase the creatures away!" When asked how he could use the stick since he would lack awareness, he replied "If I lack awareness, then why should I care what happens to me when I am dead?"[38] At the end, Diogenes made fun of people's excessive concern with the "proper" treatment of the dead. The Corinthians erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.[39]"


Along with Antisthenes and Crates of Thebes, Diogenes is considered one of the founders of Cynicism. The ideas of Diogenes, like those of most other Cynics, must be arrived at indirectly. No writings of Diogenes survive even though he is reported to have authored over ten books, a volume of letters and seven tragedies.[40] Cynic ideas are inseparable from Cynic practice; therefore what we know about Diogenes is contained in anecdotes concerning his life and sayings attributed to him in a number of scattered classical sources.

Diogenes maintained that all the artificial growths of society were incompatible with happiness and that morality implies a return to the simplicity of nature. So great was his austerity and simplicity that the Stoics would later claim him to be a wise man or "sophos". In his words, "Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods."[41] Although Socrates had previously identified himself as belonging to the world, rather than a city,[42] Diogenes is credited with the first known use of the word "cosmopolitan". When he was asked from where he came, he replied, "I am a citizen of the world (cosmopolites)".[43] This was a radical claim in a world where a man's identity was intimately tied to his citizenship of a particular city-state. An exile and an outcast, a man with no social identity, Diogenes made a mark on his contemporaries.

Diogenes had nothing but disdain for Plato and his abstract philosophy.[44] Diogenes viewed Antisthenes as the true heir to Socrates, and shared his love of virtue and indifference to wealth,[45] together with a disdain for general opinion.[46] Diogenes shared Socrates's belief that he could function as doctor to men's souls and improve them morally, while at the same time holding contempt for their obtuseness. Plato once described Diogenes as "a Socrates gone mad."[47]


Diogenes taught by living example. He tried to demonstrate that wisdom and happiness belong to the man who is independent of society and that civilization is regressive. He scorned not only family and political social organization, but also property rights and reputation. He even rejected normal ideas about human decency. Diogenes is said to have eaten in the marketplace,[48] urinated on some people who insulted him,[49] defecated in the theatre,[50] and masturbated in public. When asked about his eating in public he said, "If taking breakfast is nothing out of place, then it is nothing out of place in the marketplace. But taking breakfast is nothing out of place, therefore it is nothing out of place to take breakfast in the marketplace." [51] On the indecency of his masturbating in public he would say, "If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly."[52][53]

Diogenes as dogged or dog-like

Many anecdotes of Diogenes refer to his dog-like behavior, and his praise of a dog's virtues. It is not known whether Diogenes was insulted with the epithet "doggish" and made a virtue of it, or whether he first took up the dog theme himself. When asked why he was called a dog he replied, "I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals."[20] Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural body functions in public with ease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe.[54] Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth. Diogenes stated that "other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them."[55]

The term "cynic" itself derives from the Greek word κυνικός, kynikos, "dog-like" and that from κύων, kyôn, "dog" (genitive: kynos).[56] One explanation offered in ancient times for why the Cynics were called dogs was because Antisthenes taught in the Cynosarges gymnasium at Athens.[57] The word Cynosarges means the place of the white dog. Later Cynics also sought to turn the word to their advantage, as a later commentator explained:
There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them.[58]

As noted (see Death), Diogenes' association with dogs was memorialized by the Corinthians, who erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.[39]"
philosophy  stoicism  cynicism  diogenes  simplicity  simpleliving  voluntarypoverty  criticism  society  voluntarysimplicity  dogs  presence  present  everyday  plato  ancientgreece  socrates  practice  praxis  obscenity  cv 
march 2018 by robertogreco
The Snake in the Garden -
"it’s uncanny how often we let ourselves out of the Garden by worrying about something that, if it did happen, would quicken us into a response much more practical than worry. All the real challenges of my, or any, life…[examples]…came out of the blue; they’re just what I had never thought to worry about…And every time some kind of calamity has come into my life, I and everyone around me have responded with activity, unexpected strength, even an all but unnatural calm.

It’s only when we’re living in the future, the realm of “what if,” that we brilliantly incapacitate ourselves. And it’s mostly when someone abruptly cries, “Watch out!” that we lose control of the car we’re driving. Yet all the Stoic arguments are hard to absorb in that part of ourselves that matters…

We worry only about exactly those things we can never do anything about. And then that very fact becomes something else we worry about."
writing  mind  precarity  uncertainty  statusanxiety  cv  worry  anxiety  stoicism  stoics  2012  picoiyer  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
The most boring culture on Earth
"The Baining, an indiginous group of Papua New Guinea, shun play and basically don't do anything but work.
According to Fajans, the Baining eschew everything that they see as "natural" and value activities and products that come from "work," which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, "We are human because we work." The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings) through effortful work (cultivation, domestication, and disciplined childrearing).

The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children's play as "splashing in the mud," an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished -- sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child's hand into the fire -- for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.

But maybe Americans are becoming more boring as our children's freedom to explore is curtailed:…"

[Peter Gray's article is here: ]
culture  via:lukeneff  boredom  boringness  baining  papuanewguinea  psychology  anthropology  petergray  2012  parenting  children  stoicism  allworknoplay  play  adderall  jasonkottke 
july 2012 by robertogreco

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