We are all in the same boat – Philosophers all!
I am a Philosopher, a person who lives philosophy. And although it is a noun – a label! Flexarians hate nouns – for me being a Philosopher is all about Philosophizing & living by higher valued actions the best way I can at this point in time and the next…… No thought without subsequent action. The aim is not to sit around and think all day but rather to think of ways to live better and to utilize all available knowledge at any given point in order to find life’s sweet spots for one and all.
Whether we are conscious of it or not we all have a set of values, standards and behaviours that we attempt to embody. The aim of this book is to introduce conscious awareness to our personal life philosophies. Once we become aware of what we can affect we are free to choose how we think and our attitude to life. Until we become aware and choose the values and standards that we act on and live by we are the prisoners of other life philosophies that we live without ever really thinking we can choose. This is not freedom but rather mimicking values that others have told us are the truth and unquestionable. It rarely occurs to us that we can question the values that we live by and transcend the mundane if we just refuse to accept those truths as given and become curious about what else is on offer and innovative in how we chose to live our unique lives. Our existing programming and lessons that have instilled in us our current values have done an okay job but there comes a time to rise above the basic indoctrination and to realize that the one size fits all is not for us. This includes such noble schools of thought as Stoicism and Existentialism as they too tell one how to act when there are times when it is wise and prudent to find our own solution to a given situation. We are unique and as such must live by a unique set of values and standards tailored to us. This book is about becoming freer than we are now and that can be achieved largely by acknowledging our limitations such as our egoing and explaining. Only those prepared to rise above herd mentality are ready to transform according to their unique human potential. Transcending the comfort of the herd and for the herd to follow is a human being’s ultimate grand purpose in life. A purpose that eclipses all other goals which may still be realized but fall under our personal transformation as signposts of our progress.
Over the year’s institutions of many types and academics wanting to stretch their theories have taken philosophy away from the people. This book is my humble attempt to raise awareness and bring philosophy back to where it belongs as a project of self-care and mastery for each of us.
The philosophical act is not just theoretical. It is a process which causes us to be more fully engaged with the world and makes us better – it is a transformation which turns one’s whole life upside down altering the life of the person who engages with it. It raises the individual from an inauthentic conditioned automaton (very much the default way of 21st-century being) to an authentic state of life in which self-consciousness, a more exact world vision, peace of mind and the optimum possible freedom become realistic goals. Satisfaction or happiness are really only side effects of living a life in a way that transforms who we are and how we live our lives.
The whys of where we are now is not really somewhere to get bogged down. How we chose to live now is where the focus needs to be. So much time is wasted trying to find reasons and excuses why we lost our way. This is more likely to result in our getting stuck in the moment and feeling that we are helpless. We are never helpless unless we decide we are. That is one of the first choices. No regrets.
We are all less than perfect and we share this imperfection with all humanity. We have weaknesses, bad habits and traits that negatively affect our well-being and peace of mind. Acceptance is key.
Something else we share is a desire to get better or at least to minimize the effects these imperfections have on our lives. But the majority of us struggle with this desire for transformation and instead we settle for a comfortable automaton, unconscious existence. Which actually proves to be anything but comfortable. It is however the lazy choice and we humans do tend to like the path of least work.
Eventually for most of us our imperfections get the upper hand and we tend to feel guilty, anxious, depressed and helpless to change what we feel is our lot in life. We never actually fulfil our tremendous potential or play an active part in shaping our destiny. We accept mediocrity and become convinced we are not born to success of any sort. As a shining example not all who descend into this mundane existence settle there or remain stuck. For many this is the motivation they need to act differently and to transform themselves in remarkable ways to better fit their environment. Another thing we share with all other humans is the ability to change. By accepting that we are who we are and where we are, we can then become something that fits better. Life may be likened to surfing we can get crashed about in the waves or learn to roll with the currents and spend as much time as possible flowing. Some people even seem to be swimming totally against the flow. I am guessing we all know what that can feel like from at least some of our life experiences. Flexarian sweet spots are the spots best suited for us at any specific situation at that time in our lives. They may not always be perfect or how we are expected to act by others, but they are the best we can find according to our unique circumstances in any given moment according to our constantly developing personal values.
People are prevented from truly living because worry and anxiety dominate life in one way or another. Philosophy is the antidote for the unregulated desires and exaggerated fears which are the cause of depression and anxiety. Therapy leading to a profound transformation of one’s perspective, seeing and being in the world. The aim of all worthy philosophizing is to bring about this transformation. We must take total responsibility for our life satisfaction. That is all we can control – our own thoughts and actions and choose a correct response for whatever situation is present in our lives. Not a fixed response as most philosophy preaches but rather a flexible response for our unique position and interpretation of events. Our personal sweet spot.
As a youngster I remember as a defence against my parents’ disapproval of any suspect behaviours I may have indulged in – I would use “but they did it” – mimicking somebody else’s behaviour as my justification. If others have acted in the same way, then it must make my punishment less severe and me seem less stupid. The standard parental reaction was always “if they stuck their head in the oven, would you do the same?” At the time this seemed a pretty convincing argument. I knew very little about mirror neurons at the time, but I did know I didn’t want to stick my head in an oven. It never really occurred to me that very few people would be sticking their heads in ovens and as such the argument was very flawed. Why did my parents not use the question! “If they ate 2 ice creams would I do it?” I suppose that is why they were in charge at that time. They could bamboozle me with words. Now, decades later I realize that my parents and most of humanity live their whole lives based on others (normal) behaviours and expectations. In reality the whole of mankind is “sticking their heads in the oven” in many and varied ways. The religious oven, the political oven, the conspicuous consumption oven (brands) and the list goes on. We limit ourselves by attaching to groups, institutions and existing ideologies at the expense of keeping our minds and options flexible and open. We mimic other worldviews rather than form our own. We are slaves to our herd and to our desires. We love nothing more than to join existing categories or invent new ones rather than remain unique and impossible or difficult to categorise although critics will always continue to attempt to categorise our way of living and thinking. We are constantly trying to hard-fix ourselves and others permanently into a category. It just seems to make better sense not to adopt others philosophies completely but rather to choose from the many options what suits you and your aims for life at that moment in time. And allow yourself to change your mind as you evolve and develop through what I like to call the process of creeping transformation. A process we all undergo throughout life no matter how fixed and dogmatic in our ideas and actions we choose to be.
As an example I see people regularly doing the same workouts at the gym for years give or take a few occasional alterations. Apart from the obvious – progress stagnating and becoming bored and disillusioned with exercising. Why would anyone not change workouts as and when they felt like a change. We (Julie and I) rarely do the same workouts, in fact, we use variety as a way to progress and keep our enthusiasm high. No waiting for equipment we just alter our sessions on the hoof and keep on going. We have a few flexible rules that we follow to keep our workouts balanced and to ensure we work on our considered weaknesses and don’t favour our strengths as human beings like to do if they can justify it to themselves but otherwise we could not be more flexible in our approach. This is flexarian fitness – We are flexarian in our approach to the whole of our lives and with health and fitness it is quite simple to put this philosophy into action. Flexarian fitness is finding your sweet spots rather than following the herd. The same with nutrition. You will never find us saying we are vegan, carnivore, keto, or any other trendy nutritional practice but again we use variety and moderation to meet our goals with relative ease and very little boredom. Even when we were physique competitors (bodybuilders to most) we were always unconventional and flexible in our habits and would never adopt the label of bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is something we used as a tool to achieve our physique aims. It still is but we are not bodybuilders. Once again we adopt the flexarian approach to our physical lifestyle. If we only go through life once we may as well go through it with the best health, fitness and physique possible. It is easy to say that it doesn’t matter what we look like but that is naïve. We all live our lives for others either a little or a lot. Sartre called this being for others. Nothing is ruled out until we have decided personally that it doesn’t result in satisfaction with the results. The reason we didn’t compete often is because the sport is too codified and intent on making everyone the same. Just another institution. We can all be our unique best without the approval of any institution. This is not only true of physique governing bodies but all institutions that refuse to accept uniqueness and try to judge us all by the same standards and then slap a label on us. Religion, politics, philosophical schools, education, the norms of public opinion – the list is extensive. Observe the look of a confused puppy on peoples faces when you refuse a label that they seem to need to slap on your identity. Be elusive and live life somewhere in between. That is where the sweet spots are for most of us but it does cause confusion amongst those that love to label and be labelled themselves. That’s the way it has always been and change is resisted by institutions and individuals because it can be uncomfortable. The Human “us and them” mentality may be the single biggest problem we have to solve at all levels. It seems to go – categorise – opposites – conflict.
For too long we have been choosing our philosophies from what is generally on offer. Maybe it is time to believe we can formulate and live our own personal philosophy by cherry picking what works for us according to our values and what doesn’t. And what we need for that is – courage – one of the values we may adopt and we all have much more of that than we are aware. Through failure and adversity we become stronger, by avoiding them and adopting the comfortable herd mentality we stagnate and fail to ever get anywhere near our personal potential. How sad to look back on life and feel we didn’t really participate. How sad to look back and see we lived our lives according to mimicked, inappropriate grand life aims. Or even worse, we spent life distracted by gadgets, addictions and attempting to amass the biggest pile of stuff rather than transform ourselves to the highest level of humanity we can attain at this time. Don’t get me wrong I am not against gadgets, addictions and stuff but it is not where the sweet spots are and a flexarian knows that somewhere in between exists for us all in every moment. All we have to do is open our minds to the possibility that we have lots of options and need not accept (refusal) the norms as given “just because”- Curiosity and innovation are two of our greatest traits and we can develop them with work.