Facing Reality

Action preserves a sense of self-identity that reflection dispels. When we are at work in the world we have a seeming solidity.

It is not the idle dreamer who escapes from reality. It is practical men and women, who turn to a life of action as a refuge from insignificance.

In thinking so highly of work we are aberrant. Few other cultures have ever done so. For nearly all of history and all prehistory, work was an indignity.

... the work and prayer of medieval Christendom were interspersed with festivals. The ancient Greeks sought salvation in philosophy, the Indians in meditation, the Chinese in poetry and the love of nature.

[John Gray]
Straw Dogs, p.194, 195

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... with the new tools of observation that psychoanalysis offers, we can recognize that so-called rational behaviour is largely determined by the character structure. In our discussion of the meaning of work for modern man we have dealt with an illustration of this point.

We saw that the intense desire for unceasing activity was rooted in aloneness and anxiety. This compulsion to work differed from the attitude towards work in other cultures, where people worked as much as it was necessary but where they were not driven by additional forces within their own character structure.

Since all normal persons to-day have about the same impulse to work and, furthermore, since this intensity of work is necessary if they want to live at all, one easily overlooks the irrational component in this trait.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.242

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As this is written, a sow bug crawls across a desk. If he is turned over on his back, one can observe the tremendous struggle that he goes through to get on his feet again. During this interval he has a “purpose” in his life. When he succeeds, one can almost see the look of victory on his face. Off he goes, and one can imagine him telling his tale at the next meeting of sow bugs, looked up to by the younger generation as an insect who has made it. And yet mixed with his smugness is a little disappointment. Now that he has come out on top, life seems aimless.

[Eric Berne]
Games People Play, p.71

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Our modern industrial system requires that most of our energy be channelled in the direction of work. Were it only that people worked because of external necessities, much friction between what they ought to do and what they would like to do would arise and lessen their efficiency.

However, by the dynamic adaptation of character to social requirements, human energy instead of causing friction is shaped into such forms as to become an incentive to act according to the particular economic necessities.

Thus modern man, instead of having to be forced to work as hard as he does, is driven by the inner compulsion to work ... Or, instead of obeying overt authorities, he has built up an inner authority - conscience and duty - which operates more effectively in controlling him than any external authority could ever do.

[Erich Fromm]
The Fear of Freedom, p.244

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The East is grateful to the West for progress in medecine and increased life expectancy. These are things everyone appreciates. But on the other side, a civilization oriented almost exclusively toward that form of action on the world clearly lacks something essential that material progress can never bring - indeed, it's not what it's designed to do.

That lack appears clearly in the confusion so many minds are plunged into, in the violence that reigns in the inner cities, in the selfishness that governs so many human relationships, in the sad resignation of all those spending their last years in old people's homes, and in the despair of suicide.

If spiritual values stop being an inspiration for a society, material progress becomes a sort of facade that masks the pointlessness of life.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.158

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Related posts:-
The importance of inactivity
Progress
Assumptions
Feed Your Imagination!
Creative Living
Imitation of Christ
Ideas with Weight
Planting a Seed
Leaving the Vessel
The Real Thing
Live in the Now

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