“This work on yourself is necessary; this ambition justified. Lots of people let themselves be wholly absorbed by militant politics … much more rare are they who, in order to prepare for the revolution, are willing to make themselves worthy of it.” – Pierre Hadot
I was seduced by philosophy when I was 18. I was a punk, and an anarchist. I lived by a tacit imperative to rebel, to question all the worldly ideas I had inherited, to transform my own desires, and trust that the world would crumble in their wake. The first time I read Plato, Spinoza, Nietzsche or Foucault their words answered to some inner call, to something I already felt deeply but could not adequately express. And then, somewhere along the way, as I was squeezed through the institutionalized drudgery of college and graduate school, I fell out of love. I believe it is academic philosophy, the professionalization of the passionate quest and its transformation into a discipline, that is responsible for the negative stereotypes most people have when they hear the word philosophy: something disconnected, hyper-intellectualized, obscure, pedantic, boring, and completely irrelevant to everyday life.
Recently I stumbled upon my first love again, after abandoning it for many years. Decades, actually. And I beheld it with different, more mature eyes, after the trials and tribulations of quitting academia, spending a decade as an activist, going through a life crisis and emerging through to the other side as a Buddhist and a closet mystic. And it was precipitated by a chance coincidence, or a synchronicity as Jung would call it, of coming upon two books. The first was Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life. The second was Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life, the catechism that had first molded me into a radical, and which I had forgotten for so long. But I won’t talk about the second one just yet. (more…)