Walking this week among the many who marched in Chicago, it was beautiful to see the solidarity of the protestors, but I had to ask myself if this was going to instill justice in our society. Can a one-time action make society more just?
Seeing also a few looters skimping away with boxes of stolen shoes, I also had to ask myself if justice for one person can come at the expense of another’s; can two wrongs make a right?
These are questions that we all may be pondering in these times.
We know we want justice, but where does justice come from? Who decides what is just and what is not just?
Ancient philosophers like Plato and Confucius offered a vision of a just society based on the understanding of justice as a reflection of universal, natural, laws.
Plato taught that justice separates a Society, which is simply a group of people living together, from a State, which has a higher, shared ideal of co-living. He also taught that those whose task is to impart justice must go through a philosophical process of education to bring out certain qualities, headed by wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage.
Confucius believed that social justice cannot be separated from individual justice. That Justice, like salt in a stew, must sip into every part of society, and if people are unjust with themselves and with those around them, there will be no social justice.
There is much we can learn from these visions of Plato and Confucius. It is not enough to want change, we need to have clear ideas and plans about what this change entails, and what does it ask of each of us. Justice is not partial, either we are just towards everybody or we are unjust to all.
You don't learn this at school...
We all spend a significant time of our lives getting a formal education. There is certainly value in the practical skills gained in school and college, but as a teacher and a father, I'm worried that our education misses the most essential aspects of living as human beings.
In what class do we learn how to manage our emotions? How to discern between positive and negative thoughts? How to know which of the voices within us is trustworthy?
In what class do we learn how to discern truth from falsehood? How to collaborate with others and accept them, even if they think differently than we do?
In what class do we learn to reflect on the meaning of existence, and about the purpose of the human being, if there is one?
Each of us is somehow supposed to figure out all these things by ourselves.
But why should we? We have the experience of hundreds of generations of human beings, and the wonderful wisdom teachings left to us by the great sages of humanity.
The practice of philosophy aims to help us live a fuller life as human beings - to know how to feel, to think, to act and to be.
We invite you to join us on this journey.
Learning to Live
Dear friends of New Acropolis,
From the moment we are born, society teaches us certain standards of success, ones that may or may not resonate with who we truly are.
When we are kids we are told we need to be good and honest people, but we open the TV, we surf the net and we see the people society considers important, the people society puts on a pedestal, and we tell ourselves we need to be like them.
We are told we need to be kind and compassionate, but we see who gets the most attention and screen time. And we want to be like them.
Thus, we develop certain ideas about success that are not necessarily based on sustainable and real values.
Then, one day we reach what we thought were our dreams, and realize it's not what we were looking for.
Or perhaps we keep chasing those dreams, constantly comparing ourselves to others, in some imaginary competition that is pulling us downward.
Don't we want to fullfil our true-authentic dreams?
Shouldn't we search for who we truly are?
We invite you to join us in this pursuit of authentic living through the practice of philosophy.
What you seek is seeking you
Dear friends of New Acropolis,
What does it mean to be successful in life?
We are told that being successful means money, status, fame... yet there are so many who have these things yet are unhappy, lonely, depressed, stressed-out, addicted to vice and so on. There are many also who employ unethical means to reach these aims.
Can we accept a measure of success that is not linked to ethics, happiness and health?
An interesting experiment is taking place in the small country of Bhutan, in South Asia, where they measure Gross National Happiness instead of GDP. According to Dr. Saamdu Chetri, who formed this measure, GNH is composed of three elements: serving others, living in harmony with nature and realizing your own inner potential.
Just imagine what kind of society we can form just by aiming collectively at these three goals.
It is very important to be clear about where are we heading to as individuals and as a society, and not to take for granted the external standards imposed by others. This begins by getting to know ourselves, so we can be certain about what is good for us.