About the importance of personal philosophy

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been assembling the jigsaw puzzle of my personal philosophy for years. And even though a big part of the wisdom that humanity accumulated is clustered and systematized, I hesitate to call myself an adherent of a particular school of thought. Labels are limitations, definitions create confinement.

Aspiring to break free from preconceptions, I want to stay open to new knowledge and preserve what in Zen-Buddhism is called “shoshin”, a beginner’s mind. Although most probably I failed, my sole intention throughout the entire book was to avoid being dogmatic or judgmental.

When it comes to personal philosophy, I am convinced that major guidance on how a person should think, act, and live is already elaborated. Many wise men of both present and past have left their legacy of thought. Since the brainwork was done by the best, I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A more rational approach would be to resurface their ideas and use the most practical of them to engineer my own life philosophy. My goal is to take what history proved to be universally true principles and reapply them occasionally introducing minor adjustments for the reality of our times.

Now it is important to understand the difference between religion and personal philosophy. Practicality-wise some aspects of theological teachings could be perceived as unusable and even obsolete. The world witnesses how loose interpretations of the religious scriptures result in fanaticism that breeds disturbing and often tragic consequences: bigotry, discrimination, terrorism, and holy wars.

Contrarily, the whole purpose of the personal philosophy is the real-life application and improving one’s life as well as the lives of others. The word “personal” puts an emphasis on the fact that the change occurs first at the individual level. That means that an impulse to deliver collective good, in case such impulse exists, can only be fulfilled through inner spiritual work and not by an adherence to an external doctrine. Acting from within can never be a path of violence as it would imply being first violent to yourself.

I believe in the superiority of the personal philosophy over religiosity. I think that the quality of a man can be measured by the quality of his life principles. A life philosophy is a creed. It is a rock-solid system of values and rules that must be meticulously handpicked as their job is to ensure the achievement of the personal goals set ahead. A life philosophy is a weapon that blazes a trail through the entropy of everyday life. It is a strong spine that holds you straight when the vicissitudes of fate try to knock you down.

Personal philosophy is the core of the self-image. It defines the way you perceive and are perceived by others; it determines what kind of associations come to people’s minds when they think about you. And that brings us to an important question to meditate on:

What are you standing for?

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

There are many things that I would like to include in this chapter, but I am constrained by the scope of this book so I will only touch four philosophies that in my opinion offer immediate practical value to a man of the modern age. These four are:

  • Buddhism
  • Stoicism
  • Existentialism
  • Reality Transurfing
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