Seeds for Meditation ~ “A Newly Rich Life With Yourself,” by Martha Nussbaum

O WildeDo not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer. Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.

As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. […] People don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life. We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.

What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world.

So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.

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Discussion about enjoying A Newly Rich Life With Yourself:

1 – What do you understand by a self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self?

2 – Can you share a personal experience of a time when you discovered a newly rich life with yourself?

3 – What works for you in relating to yourself at a deeper level?

 

Just For Today …

Anti-social
Let your definition of play expand this week, as you find the fun side of everything you do.

Did you know that the rough-and-tumble play of children actually prevents violent behavior? Play is actually a science unto itself, because it can grow human talents and character across a lifetime. To any other parent that’s listening with a young child, you know, say a child over 3 but under 12, I ask you to think about this: if you just observe the children and don’t try and direct them, and watch what it is they like to do in play, you often will see a key to their innate talents. And if those talents are given fairly free reign, then you see that there is a union between self and talent … that this is nature’s way of sort of saying this is who you are and what you are. I’m sure if you go back and think about both of your children or yourself and go back to your earliest emotion-laden, visual, and visceral memories of what really gave you joy, you’ll have some sense of what was natural for you and where your talents lie. When crucial experiences are missed, the ability to regulate emotions and to establish empathy and to live with trust with one’s companions is definitely attenuated, or definitely constricted.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~ Fred Rogers