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Jason Merchey, author, philosophical thinker, and Master’s-level psychologist shares his perspectives on classical and modern applications of values, wisdom, ethics, and personal growth. The goal is to provide insight into what “a life of value” is and how one can live it. Quotations, proverbs, idioms, and historical facts often provide grist for the mill! Occasional guest blogs are featured as well.

Modern American Problems Reflected in Poetry

modern American problems May 13th, 2018

There is a multitude of complex modern American problems, I think we can all agree. I was listening to a song the other day (which is essentially poetry set to music, is it not?), and I was overwhelmed by the idea that a song written in probably 1980 was alarmingly prophetic. Then I reflected that Neil Peart, lyricist of the rock group Rush, is uncanny in his ability to communicate meaningful and pithy messages in just a few short words (that can be successfully put to incredible music, no less!). So in this blog, I share a few opinions about modern American problems and reflect them off of the clear mirror of poetry and lyrics. The poet’s words are set off in dark blue.

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Existentialism: Authenticity vs. ‘Bad Faith’

authenticity May 3rd, 2018

In a prior post entitled “Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility, and Freedom,” I examined meaning in life, Jean-Paul Sartre, existence, etc. In this blog, I would like to go a little further toward examining authenticity vs. the idea of “bad faith.” It will hopefully generate more light than it does heat as far as living one’s life with success, passion, deliberateness, and insight. As always, wisdom is about the highest goal, and happiness is not far behind. 

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Death Can Lead to Authenticity and Passion

death April 30th, 2018

Morrie Schwartz was an interesting fellow who was dying, and was visited many times by a former student. Their relationship and the advice and insight Morrie provided Mitch Albom, the student-turned-writer, made for a very popular book, Tuesdays with Morrie. This was just one in a long line of books and movies that deal with death. Though death can be perceived as frightening, an appalling deprivation of one’s life, and the ultimate loss of control, it can also have a positive side. This blog explores the positive side of death, showing that it can lead to living more authentically and passionately. This is the heart of existentialism.

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Quotes About Values and Wisdom in Full Color

quotes about values and wisdom April 27th, 2018

“Memes” are graphic images with a very small amount of text. You see them commonly on FB, and can be funny, trenchant, pithy, catchy, and evocative. I tend to make my memes with a bit more wording, and really consider them to represent values and wisdom. In the following blog, I show some of the memes I have made over the last year or two, and point out how the quotes about values and wisdom depicted can really be made scintillating and compelling when coupled with graphic imagery. Enjoy!

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Twenty-Five Little-Known Wisdom Quotes

wisdom April 27th, 2018

What is wisdom? It’s one of the deepest, widest, most elusive, most complex, simplest, most intriguing concepts around. When you think you know what wisdom is, you’re not quite there; it cannot be pursued and grasped or taught and learned easily. It has long been the province of philosophers and theologians, but recently psychologists have begun to try to define, describe, and delineate this nebulous and fascinating idea. Here are twenty-five little-known quotes about wisdom that I imagine you would find worth your time. Think of them more like a little puzzle piece that takes time to understand, interpret, grasp, and appreciate than to envision each being a simple rule that can be easily memorized. More wisdom quotes can be found by searching The Wisdom Archive – a searchable quotation database that is always no-cost, easy, and ad-free!

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Is Death Good or Bad? To be Feared or Not?

death April 25th, 2018

Many writers, philosophers, theologians, and physicians have reflected over the centuries on the nature of death, including whether death is “good” or “bad”. Philosopher Thomas Nagel phrased the issue thusly: “If death is the unequivocal and permanent end of our existence, the question arises whether it is a bad thing to die.” In this blog, I will analyze death vis-à-vis meaning in life, and reflect on how we can integrate beliefs about the nature of death into our own lives. Epicurus’ ideas will be the keystone.

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Two Types of Values and Their Relevance

values April 23rd, 2018

British moral philosopher Bernard Williams (1929-2003) believed that categorical desires are those desires and aspirations that buoy us, give our lives deeper meaning, and really matter. The rest are mere ancillary and contingent desires. In Williams’ words, he believes we must have “systematic desires around which one organizes life activities which make life worthwhile.” Desires can give life meaning if wisely-placed. At least for a while. This blog will briefly summarize and reflect on the kinds of values human beings hold, and how positioning certain values front-and-center can be inspirational and motivational.

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Environmental Sustainability: Our Top Priority

environmental sustainability April 21st, 2018

Environmental sustainability should be humankind’s top priority, but it clearly is not. Though it is obviously only one of many priorities and goals for individuals in competitive societies, it’s “game over” if pollution makes the planet unsafe. Even worse, it’s “game over, you are a bunch of losers” if we fail to heed the loud and clear reports by legitimate scientists about climate change caused by human activity. Without environmental sustainability, we will all be too sick to pursue other goals such as creativity, social justice, values such as peace and family, and ultimately, wisdom. Here is a brief call to action. 

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Pithy Quotes by Unitarian Universalists

Unitarian Universalist philosophy April 16th, 2018

I have been looking more and more into the religious/spiritual movement of Unitarian/Universalism. Not sure if you’ve heard much about it. It’s in the category of agnosticism, spirituality, deism, and pantheism as far as being a reasonable, admirable, defensible, humanistic approach to personal growth and community enrichment. I wanted to share a bit about the philosophy (I think that is a decent word to describe this thing – more apt than “religion” or “sect” or something. Perhaps “tradition” or “movement” would be fine, too. To that end, I will quote liberally from the Unitarian Universalist Association website and then I will share a few quotations from prominent (even, famous) U-U thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility and Freedom

existentialism April 13th, 2018

I am taking a wonderful class entitled “Meaning in Life.” It deals with meaning, obviously, and personal significance, purpose, fulfillment, death, and philosophy. My professor is named Mattias Risse and he’s really quite erudite. The topic I wanted to write about follows a lecture of his about renowned existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Ancillary topics are scientism, truth, and ethics. The background is in the era of 1900-1960, thinkers such as inimitable philosopher Bertrand Russell and the French intellectual Sartre were trying to find meaning and purpose in a secular-humanistic way. Much later, philosopher Robert Nozick made some improvements to their work. None wanted to slide into radical scientism as much as they didn’t want to resort to theological/religious assumptions. Indeed, Sartre penned a significant essay entitled “Existentialism is a Humanism”, and this is a medium-length encapsulation of how Sarte believes ethics is part and parcel of a developed form of existentialism.

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