Tag: philosophy

The Brutal Mirror

When I finally puked on the fourth night, I felt an odd sense of pride.

Inside the loud, stuffy ceremony room, people were laughing, crying, chanting, gyrating, and, yes, vomiting, around me. When my time finally comes, I think: Just aim for the bucket and keep your ass above your head like the shaman told you.

I try to wipe my face but can’t grab the tissue paper because it melts every time I reach for it. Nearby, a man starts to scream. I can’t make out what he’s saying on account of the shaman singing beautiful Colombian songs in the other room.

I finish vomiting and start crying and laughing and smiling all at once. Something has been lifted in this “purge, something dark and deep I was carrying around for years. Relief washes over me, and I slowly make my way back to my mattress on the floor.

For four consecutive nights, a group of 78 of us here at a retreat center in Costa Rica have been drinking a foul-tasting, molasses-like tea containing ayahuasca, a plant concoction that contains the natural hallucinogen known as DMT.
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Why Buddhism is true: Robert Wright on the wisdom of mindfulness meditation

Robert Wright, the best-selling author of The Moral Animal and The Evolution of God, has written a new book titled Why Buddhism is True. Don’t be put off by the audacious title, though.

Wright isn’t proselytizing or implying that other religions are false. This is, instead, a light, accessible guide for anyone interested in the practical benefits of meditation. There are no analyses of Buddhist beliefs about reincarnation or supernatural deities; the focus is on what Wright calls Western Buddhism or secular Buddhism, which is less about belief and more about meditation as a therapeutic practice.

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Richard Rorty’s prescient warnings for the American left

A prescient passage from a forgotten book made the rounds after Donald Trump’s election. It was plucked from a 1998 book titled Achieving our Country. The author is Richard Rorty, a liberal philosopher who died in 2007. The book consists of a series of lectures Rorty gave in 1997 about the history of leftist thought in 20th-century America.

To read the viral passage is to recognize immediately why it caught fire after Trump’s election:

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The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were too.

“You could say I was red-pilled by Nietzsche.”

That’s how white nationalist leader Richard Spencer described his intellectual awakening to the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood last June. “Red-pilled” is a common alt-right term for that eureka moment one experiences upon confrontation with some dark and previously buried truth.

For Spencer and other alt-right enthusiasts of the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, that dark truth goes something like this: All the modern pieties about race, peace, equality, justice, civility, universal suffrage — that’s all bullshit. These are constructs cooked up by human beings and later enshrined as eternal truths.

Nietzsche says the world is in constant flux, that there is no capital-T truth. He hated moral and social conventions because he thought they stifled the individual. In one of his most famous essays, The Genealogy of Morality, which Spencer credits with inspiring his awakening, Nietzsche tears down the intellectual justifications for Christian morality. He calls it a “slave morality” developed by peasants to subdue the strong. The experience of reading this wasshattering,” Spencer told Wood. It upended his “moral universe.”

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