Taking the red pill, or the blue one…

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    Dear forum members,

    I just discovered this website rather by accident. Apparently, it is one of the first results Google shows when you type “I hate every job I do”… which gives a pretty accurate albeit condensed summary of the situation in which I currently find myself (and many other people as well, so it seems… :-)), so why not take the opportunity to discuss and share certain thoughts with you.

    Just as a preliminary remark: I do not know whether this website has been intended for an American readership (or not), since I live and work in Belgium. But I think that many of the challenges I currently face are quite similar to people from the USA, or can even be shared universally. And perhaps it could be refreshing to have some thoughts and insights from people living thousands of miles away across the Atlantic… 🙂

    So let me start by giving a brief autobiography. I am currently 29 years old, male and single still living with my parents due to financial considerations – even though these are not the real challenges I face.

    I had the opportunity to attend university back in 2006, not knowing exactly what kind of job or career I would like to pursue later on, so on my parents’ advice, I enrolled at the faculty of law. During that year, I met a couple of people who would later on become my best friends (some of them still are) and who managed to stirr my interest in philosophy and under whose influence I enrolled at the faculty of philosophy one year later (I did not terminate my law studies). Then there came a very cheerful, fulfilling and purposeful period which lasted until 2012, when I succesfully terminated my MA in Philosophy. Of course, the question then arose what I was supposed to do afterwards since an academic degree in philosophy is definitly not of the highest market value – to say the least. My biggest dream was to pursue an academic career at the faculty of philosophy, so I enrolled as a PhD student at my alma mater. This was in 2014, but there was quite a challenge to face: I wasn’t granted any funding, so I had to earn my modest living myself, as I didn’t want to imply my parents all the time for financial support.


    Back then, I already had a first (completely unrelated) parttime job as an administrative assistant in the office of a law enforcement firm (a very hard, ruthless and rude world indeed!) which I did not detest altogether, but which I had to leave since the monthly paycheck was much too low. So at the same time I was drafting the very first pages of my PhD dissertation, I also applied for a new (parttime) job, to find myself ending up as a claims officer for an insurance agency. The job itself, which I quit in September last year, was (relatively speaking) certainly the most pleasant of all the jobs I have done so far, since I had a real face to face contact with the many customers and claim experts in my office. My boss even gave me the suggestion to become an independent insurance agent, since I did my work so well, and many clients liked the way I coped with their affairs. I, by contrast, was rather reluctant since I my heart and passion still belonged to my PhD project…

    … which did not quite proceed as I exptected or would have liked it to proceed. For a start, my job at the insurance agency was very demanding: even though I officially worked until 5:30 pm, I had many days that won’t end sooner than 8pm (a bit my own fault, since I was too perfectionistic to treat the files that I was entrusted with in a purely administrative/procedural way). Moreover, I was legally obliged to follow certain courses and pass exams in order to have the legal permission to keep doing the job I was doing. Due to this, there was not so much progress going on in my PhD project, which irritated my PhD supervisor who was constantly asking for administrative progress reports. I, on my turn, was a bit annoyed by the fact that he couldn’t fully understand the circumstances under which I had to operate). I also had the feeling that I and my PhD project were just approved, not out of interest in the themes I wanted to treat, but rather to fill the faculty’s statistics with regard to the number of enrolled students (by means of which its subsidies and allocations are calculated). As I result, the relationship between my supervisor and me did not last long, and I formally ended by PhD project in the first half of 2016.

    After doing this, I made the most terrible mistake ever. Instead of focusing on other opportunities to fulfil my academic and philosophical interests, I instead turned my focus fully toward my ongoing career in the insurance industry which I wanted to further develop. Perhaps not really out of interest, but out of frustration: it was the insurance company that in a certain way jeopardized my academic pursuits, now it would be payback time for them! Hahaha! However, instead of becoming an insurance agent (which is just a puppet-on-a-string of an insurance company), I wanted to become an independent insurance broker. I even followed a couple of additional courses and a training in business management, and I also applied for jobs with insurance brokers and insurance companies in order to gain more in-depth professional experience. Without success, however, perhaps even luckily so.

    Such a vainglory and such a waste of precious time, I could say now! What went on in my mind just one year ago remains a mystery to me. However, at a certain moment last year when I was looking for something in my wardrobe, I stumbled upon a carton box containing all the papers and books related to my PhD project, and I perused in some of the materials that immediately caught by interest back again. It was then that I realized that I was just wasting my time by joining the headless cohorts of career hunters, opportunists and hollow businessmen in black suits. So the only thing I could do then (out of psychological necessity) was to quit the whole insurance world, which I succesfully did in October last year. Since then, up to now, I work as a customer service agent for a Belgian supermarket chain. Even though this job is actually a ‘degradation’ in rank as compared with my previous job in the insurance agency (and boring as hell!), having fewer responsibilities and duties, my monthly income rose once again.

    A happy ending, then, after all? No, for I wouldn’t have submitted anything on this forum. Since my new workplace is located about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from home in an industrial area poorly accessible by public transportation, I now see my myself (luckily “just” for 4 days a week) driving to a place I, in fact, truly hate – frequently getting stuck in traffic jams around Brussels – and where I just go to collect my paycheck. What keeps me going to that place is the relatively good pay, and the fact that it is also a parttime job.

    However, doing a parttime job means that one does it in order to have more free time to pursue an (or more) activities that give more instrinsic satisfaction. I was thinking to either restart my PhD project on a more freelance basis (that is, without all the administrative redtape that goes with it) or to enroll for a new study at university – just out of curiosity (both theology and classical languages are still on top of my bucket list!) But I still cannot decide what to do, and when. As for now, the commute to and from work is really exhausting, meaning that the third day of my weekend is usually used to recover from the fatigue. Also, the workplace itself is a large open office with little or no air circulation, noisy environments and dull (mostly female) colleagues that keep on chatting on the newest type of nail polish they just tried on. In short, a real ‘hellhole’ for silent and introverted persons as me, also draining a lot of energy out of me.

    Which means that even if I succeed in doing an extra study or an informal PhD on top of my job (a job that I will, sadly, need to cover the costs), I still need to schedule a plan for the ‘longer’ future – that is, for around 2025. But what should I do, and how? These are the questions that haunt me day and night, 24/7.

    For a start, I am about to become an ‘unbeliever’ with regard to the modern mantra of ‘work-life balance’, which is actually a myth. It implies that there are two distinct realms that inhabit a person, and that somehow need to be balanced. But what one really wants is simply life, without the work. So, we aspire to work less and ‘live more’, but this usually does not happen as we want to do things (travel, follow courses, buy a new tv set,…) that are certainly costly endeavors and for which money is required, and for which we usually have to work… harder to get them! Moreover, employers are well aware of the fact that the costs of living are dramatically rising as well, hence that they can actually do with their employees (whose revenue probably comes solely from one employer) whatever they want. In my case, for instance, I could save a lot of time and energy by working remotely from home (which could be perfectly possible if I just had a laptop with the necessary equipments!) but the company I work for still adopts an old-fashioned policy involving time clocks, ‘staff watchdogs’ and other utterly pointless control mechanisms. So, there I am back in the traffic jam, exhaling gazoline fumes in the air and asking myself for whose purpose I am doing all this… And yes, I could also move closer to work, which I am intending to do, but even then things won’t be as perfect as they should or could be. Then there is also the final remark that employers, regardless whether you work parttime or fultime and even regardless whether it is the public or private sector, expect you ‘to give the best’ or ‘to run that extra mile’ (if you know what I mean…) and to keep up with the newest technologies, working methods, etc. Things I really don’t care about at all (I just do my current job as good as it needs to be, that’s it!), so whenever there will be a reorganization within the firm, I am afraid I’ll be the first who may pack his belongings. And there I’ll stand then, single, without work and without any courage let alone desire to put myself on the crushing wheel of the economic system again…

    So in the long run, I definitely will need to do something that I can do fultime and that I can call not simply my work, but my life. And here’s where I simply get stuck. Whereas I am still applying for paid academic positions, I am still wondering whether this is the best strategy to pursue: the academic world, even in the humanities, has become increasingly competitive and becoming obsessed with purely quantitative evaluation criteria such as grades, distinctions and number of peer-reviewed publications. Moreover, research assistants and paid PhD students are required to get involved in a lot of administrative tasks that do not deliver anything substantial to the project they are working on (even though I was fully aware of the ‘administrative burder’ in the time when I was an unpaid PhD student). But the worst thing is that even if one manages to survive the academic rat race, chances are pretty low to proceed your career once your PhD is finished. And then we finally enter the gruesome caverns of the labour market after all…

    So is there any place, then, where I can pursue my lifelong project of discerning and discussing truth, knowledge and goodness without having to undergo the hellfires of the earthly Jeruzalem? The last couple of months I am still more and more considering entering a monastery, even though I do not have any official religious affiliation (not with Buddhism, nor with Christianity which are the two main progenitors of the monastic life) and, most importantly, even though I do not know whether this is a vocation that would really suit me (however, I’ll go on a one week retreat this summer in a Trappist abbey in Southern Belgium – yes, with a brewery internationally acclaimed for its beer, indeed! 🙂 –  so I may figure it out then)

    These are my thoughts as they are right now, but I am not sure whether they are correct and/or whether I am missing something and/or whether I am not relying on too many prejucides. What are your thoughts on this, dear forum members? As the great philosopher Socrates’ command went: ‘know thyself!’ But without your help, I wont be able to discern anything substantial about myself altogether, I am afraid…

    Best regards,

    Plotinus (not my real name, of course, but the name of a very enigmatic ancient philosopher whose work I really appreciated! :-))




    I can relate to your frustration, disenchantment and worry with your journey in finding meaningful work, a place in society, a path to something more fulfilling and economically practical.

    It sounds like you really like to think deep and theoretically and ponder life’s higher questions from your interest in theology and classical languages.

    You toying with the idea of going into a monastery may be a good way to go since this type of life and orientation seems more aligned with those things you are drawn to.

    I believe that your abbey retreat is a good start to have that time and environment to ponder.  I recommend do not go into that experience with an specific outcome in mind.  I would just be in the moment-to-moment experience and notice what comes up from that.  Let go of expectations and “goals.”




    Dear Plotinus:

    I googled Plotinus. Here is one quote I came across: “Everything in the world is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together”-

    Reads to me that your post is a testimony that Plotinus was wrong in that quote, according to my understanding. Maybe in nature undisrupted, that quote is true. Not in human society. All things are disjointed, more often than not. Things suffocate things (not breathing together, as stated) and we survive as a result of some random mix of events and developments most of which are out of our control.

    What you described is a situation where all possible solutions are not attractive, and so, there is no solution. In such a case, better undo all that thinking (although stated so intelligently and attractively), and start from the beginning.

    The world is disjointed, nothing much makes sense, almost everything is not how it should be. Now, what does one do?






    Hi Plotinus

    My conclusion is that all honest philosophical inquire ends in the absurd. A good thing as once the question is answered one can move from thinking about life, which is often the attempt of the ego trying to control what can’t be controlled to living it.

    I believe Plotinus quote “All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together” is an acknowledgement as Life as it is. That each moment of life, each breath of life involves both death and rebirth. Each single moment made of a infinite number of breaths, each dependent in mostly unknown ways on each other, flowing together in each moment. The past, present and future existing only in the moment. It is an illusion of consciousness that sees life as linear experience.

    “Self-knowledge reveals to the soul that its natural motion is not, if uninterrupted, in a straight line, but circular, as around some inner object, about a center, the point to which it owes its origin.” ― Plotinus

    Nothing you have learned is wasted. Everything you have learned has brought you to this breath in this moment, just where you need to be to take your next.  Regret, if only, should have… stories can only distort the breath

    “We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing, a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use.” ― Plotinus,


    • This reply was modified 10 months ago by  Peter.


    I have often contemplated the life of a hermit or monk of just some tropical island somewhere… however for me the imaginings are based on a romanticising and so would likely find the reality disappointing.

    Just came across a Brad Warner blog on hardcore Zen

    He was asked a question from someone who felt day job was getting in his way suggesting that – “shouldn’t we run away from this mundane work-a-day life into the beautiful romantic world of being a peaceful monk in a dreamy temple in the far-off mountains?”  to which Brads answer. “If you cannot find the truth of your life right here, you will not find it anywhere else. There is no anywhere else.”

    At first glace the answer might appear harsh however there is also a door to a realization that you can get where you want to go from just where you are. This does not mean not setting intentions or paying attention to our callings but a letting go of this clinging to how we imaged our path must look. The difference is in entering the flow of life, as it is, verses fighting the flow



    Dear Tiny Buddhas,

    Thank you so much for your input! But I would like to Peter’s final thoughts, as I do not fully concur with his.

    I definitely do not want to cling to an idealized or romanticized portait of how the monastic way of living ought to be – moreover, how could I, as I have never really visited (besides as a tourist) nor experienced it so far? I remember that a couple of years ago, I once applied for a job in a small bookstore where I was also told that I kept an ‘idealized’ version of what the job would imply. I then thought, indeed, that the job would indeed look like a kind of paid holidays: sitting in a cosy armchair, being surrounded by tons of books out of which I could freely take out one and read, and occassionaly help a ‘lost’ customer who would enter the shop instead of the supermarket next door. The bookstore’s owner immediately brought me back to my senses: I would pass my working time unpacking boxes, making inventories and cleaning up the shelves… In any case, the employer didn’t hire me, so I can’t tell whether she was right or not. Now, about five years later and a couple of jobs done myself, I think she is!

    The latter part of Peter’s comment is where I certainly do agree. The grass looks always greener on the other side, whereas it isn’t (or not necessarily not). But it is only by crossing that ‘greener side’ that one realizes that one has simply been chasing wind all the time: I, too, always clinged to an imagined path that I ought to follow, but so far, I only stumbled from one disappointment into another. But on the other hand: don’t we always, and out of empirical necessity as we are beings having a threedimensional location in space and time, follow a ‘path’ in a certain sense – whether we like it or not – and that we ought to change that path for the better and within the means that are possible to us?

    As to the quote “If you cannot find the truth of your life right here, you will not find it anywhere else”, I definitely agree with it. I certainly do not need a monastery or a temple high up in the mountains to read or to contemplate – things I do regularly in my own bedroom right here and right now – but, to put it rather bluntly, that doesn’t pay the bills. And then, perhaps, brewing beer or making cheese is a better tradeoff  instead of answering phone calls from angry customers? 🙂

    All the best to you all,




    Dear Plotinus:

    I re-read your original post and would like to understand your situation better. Here is my summary of your share there: you enrolled in the faculty of law, quit after a year and enrolled in the faculty of philosophy, earing an MA in philosophy. You then enrolled in a PhD program in philosophy. To finance your studies you worked as an administrative assistant in a law enforcement firm and later as a claims officer in an insurance company. You ended your PhD project in 2016 and aimed at becoming an independent insurance broker. You then quit the insurance world and now working as a customer service agent in a supermarket chain, long commute, at 29, living with your parents. You are considering restarting your PhD project, enrolling in a new study at the university (theology or classical languages perhaps), and finding a job closer to home.

    Here is a key sentence for me, in your share: “I could also move closer to work… but even then things won’t be as perfect as they should or could be.”

    Here are some of the imperfections you mentioned: your PhD project was approved not because of interest in the themes but rather to fill the faculty’s statistics, an insurance agent being a “puppet on a string” and agents being  “hollow businessman in black suits”, administrative red tape., quantative evaluations criteria, administrative tasks, rat race in the academic world.

    If you enroll in a new study, such as theology, you will get to choose your classes, your schedule, your themes.. that is what you like. Problem is it doesn’t pay and you will have to work part time, and after you graduate, then what…

    The imperfections in the working world, for you (and for everyone) is that you have to do things you don’t want to do and don’t feel like doing, and lots of those things, I fully agree, don’t make sense. But they are requirements nonetheless, the way things are, having been determined to be so before you came along. A lot of the time you will have to be that man in a suit, and somewhat of a puppet on a string.

    We cannot be free or independent when it comes to making money. There are always requirements, always strings. Even entrepreneurs, employers having their own businesses, have to do things they don’t want to do, such as getting health insurance for their employees and going through certain legally required procedures when firing an employee they prefer to fire immediately.


    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by  anita.


    Hi Plotinus

    Thanks for responding. Its always helpful to hear different perspectives.

    Red pill or blue pill? It is said once a question is asked it cannot be unasked so in this case asking the question may be answering it – the red pill has been chosen.  ?  Cypher wishes to un-ask the question and in deceiving himself is killed so we must be authentic in the quest.  As you say we must follow our path, or perhaps more correct to say enter ‘into’ the flow of our path as laid out and that we attempt to shape.

    Have you read ‘After Zen’ by Janwillem van de Wetering?

    Janwillem was seeking the answer to the question of purpose and meaning and hoping to find it in a monastery.  He found it but didn’t find it… (which may be a very Zen state of being). The other issue I noticed in his quest, which may have been just me reading between the lines, is the struggle between the tension of action and being. Gaining a moral detachment to life as it is while staying engaged in Life as it is. For me detachment often leads to indifference, the loss of motivation to act. Which if I’m being honest with myself is part of the appeal of being a monk – as I image a monk life would be… not having to concern myself with ‘paying the bills’ or worry about the other mundane stuff of life.  Thus for me the option of being a monk would be wrong.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the issue of moral detachment and action.



    Dear Plotinus,

    Work has probably been the biggest problem in my life,  so I read with interest your autobiography.   Back in the 1970s I finished my degree in history, but I did it for love as I didn’t want to  be in academia. So I went to law school, but ran out of money and had to leave. So what I decided was a solution that would allow me freedom and flexibility, which I  value highly, was to work full-time temp jobs. I did this for years!  I had a variety of experiences, met new people, and felt much less trapped then I would have if I were doing those same jobs on a permanent basis.

    Another thing I did was do volunteer work. That can lead to anything you want…

    So those are two suggestions which worked for me at the time and which could allow you to make money and  take the time to explore your options.

    And if you don’t have a lover or a partner already,  that is a blessing I would wish on you too – someone to share life’s journey!

    Best wishes,







    Dear Tiny Buddhas,

    Thank you once again for your numerous replies, which I’d like te respond one by one. Even though I’d normally cling to the rules of etiquette and courtesy, I’ll occasionaly breach the rule of ‘ladies first’ and respond to Peter first, then turn to Anita and finally contemplate on Fern’s remarks.

    I do not think that detachment would lead to indifference, and this for two reasons. First, even the most secluded hermit still needs to find shelter, cater for food (e.g. by farming or hunting on a very basic level) and do other things that are inherent to the human condition. Or to take an example from the other extreme pole: someone who just won the lottery and turns into a billionaire overnight, will also have worldy affairs to arrange, such as the administration of his assets. Cenobitic monks (those who live in a community) are definitely not spared from the mundane things of life either – it is in fact part and parcel of their very lifes and existence: brewing beer, cleaning guesthouses, doing some gardening, selling souvenirs to tourists and, yes, ultimately even paying bills; since most monasteries (at least in the Western world) are fully equiped with running water, electricity and in most cases even internet connections. Now I guess that those amenities are, despite their many prayers, not God-given and therefore need to be paid for? 🙂

    Secondly, I certainly concur that one has to pay his dues as long as one is a full part of this world. When I worked in the insurance industry, for instance, I took it as both my moral and contractual obligation to make sure that any client who had concluded an insurance contract with our company would be reimbursed appropriately. I can assure you that this was definitely not an easy endeavour, as I encountered many obstacles during a reimbursement operation, especially at the level of the “corporate headquarters” where the bank transfers really took place – I was the ‘go-between’ who had to negotiate the deal on behalf of the client. I will refrain from giving the details (I am sure you can think of something vile and ugly when thinking about insurance companies?! :-)), but indeed, it did not leave me indifferent at all. It was in fact the reason why I, at first glance, did want to make a further advance in my career in the insurance industry since, given the technical knowledge I gained after nearly two years and my employer’s insufferable as-long-as-the-cat-catches-mice-it-doesn’t-matter-which-colour-it-has-mentality, as I felt it morally required to leave my job, and to either ‘fight or flight’. So at first, it became ‘fight’: try to find a new professional position, either as  independent insurance broker or as an employee for an independent broker, so that I could help the maximum number of people with their insurance-related files (which implied a tacit acknowledgement of utilitarianism, according to which an action is good if it fosters the good of a maximum number of persons).

    However, I quickly noticed that I was adhering to a faulty or at least incomplete ethical framework. Whereas I think that the utility principle can be true under certain delineated circumstances, utilitarianism’s canonical definition betrays circular reasoning: goodness is defined in terms of a quantitative maximum that needs to be reached, which on its term is used to define the goodness of actions. But this leaves out a substantial definition of what ‘good’ is (its ‘essence’, to speak in Platonic terms), and utilitarianism cannot provide such an answer out of itself – save by relying on extremely dubious terms such as ‘happiness’ and/or ‘pleasure’. So speaking about Plato (whose metaphysics I would certainly endorse, albeit in a slightly modified form): whereas there are certainly actions that are just or morally good they do not exemplify justice or goodness as it is the form attached to matter (as Aristotle would hold). This discloses a transcendent definition of goodness according to which the definition exceeds any number of exemplars as well as the possibility of a hierarchy of goods (or a hierarchy of values) in which we can evaluate a certain action or state of affairs as better than another.

    It is in the light of this insight, that struck me once again as I opened that carton box last year, that I came to see that whereas it is indeed better to be an insurance broker than an insurance agent; I would have just climbed one step on an infinitely high staircase by changing offices. And I felt I just want to reach out for the clouds and beyond, that is, toward the Idea of Goodness itself – even though not knowing exactly how or why (which is the reason why I started this topic). So in short, Peter, if I feel the need to live in seclusion (or something close to it) it definitely won’t be out of (moral) indifference – on the contrary. Nevertheless, I do think that there are certainly people who enter the monastery simply for the comfort of not having to care for paying the bills and stuff like that. But if this purely extrinsic motivation is the sole reason to enter a monastic community, I think one definitely should reconsider the choice on this point. I personally do confess that instrumental reasons as these play a role in my own discernment process, yet they are not the sole let alone most important reasons. As for Janwillem van de Wetering’s book, no, I haven’t read it, but I will definitely do when I got the opportunity… eh, when I got through the about 800 other volumes still waiting for me on my shelf… 🙂

    Anita, I fully endorse your comment, but still want to leave an open question regarding the following: “after you graduate, then what”. I certainly admit that my intention to take up a new study is indeed a manoeuvre to procrastinate things further, but this comes out of my grievance that the “ordinary path” that most people take simply does not seem to work for me. Most people, including fellow students who enrolled in philosophy five/ten years ago, ultimately study or do something ‘practical’ in order to get paid for something. For instance, they follow some additional courses that enable them to start teaching (on non-academic levels, i.e. in secondary schools) or they ultimately get into the spiderweb of some corporation (as I did and still do). Whether they are happy with it is still the question: I recently encountered an acquaintance who majored in history, but who now is (reluctantly, I guess) studying architecture. But I could tell from her facial expression that she is pursuing that study not with the whole heart. So, she is heading straight to her first burn-out once she enters the labour market, I guess. Which turns your question upside-down: “then what…” What is the purpose of doing extensive (and expensive!) studies if it is not for the achievement for something that gives, in itself, a feeling of pure fulfillment? I do not really see the point of that. Nevertheless, your “then what…” question is certainly right, and the reason I opened this theme in the first place. There is no problem with living in the present, as the Buddha would have done, but this may not be an excuse for not taking care of the future. “Define, or be defined”, as the saying goes… 🙂

    Fern, I am glad to read that my autobiography has been of interest to you. I also met a lot of people through the jobs I had by now, even though I regret that, so far, there are no meaningful relationships that arose out of my work experience. Personally, I always worked (deliberately) parttime up to now – just in order to keep some ‘sanity’ in my life – but have been granted the ‘luxury’ (read as: the ‘golden cage’) of a permanent contract which I, rather reluctantly but yet…, cherish since I know it is very hard to get such a type of contract these days. I could definitely switch job, but as this is already my third job so far, I am not sure – and even doubting – whether the game is worth the candle. Getting a job these days, even for low-skilled functions such as customer service agent, is a hard job in itself, meaning going through the whole process of writing applications, going to job interviews, impatiently checking one’s mailbox all the time for the recruiter’s final decision, and so on and so forth (things I need to do during my cherished yet scarce free time!). Up to now, it always took me about a year to change jobs, so I have had my part of the Ovidian Metamorphosis so far… 🙂

    Just out of curiosity: why didn’t you want to pursue an academic career after you graduated in history? I thought that academia were still relatively unaffected by the increasing dominance of instrumental means-end reasoning back then in the 1970s? Or am I mistaken on this point?

    Best regards (and if meanwhile someone of you has a broken dishwasher or wants to order a new vacuum cleaner, please call me in about eight hours! :-))




    Dear Plotinus:

    Reading your exceptional writing (I read a whole lot from hundreds of people on this site), I see you teaching philosophy or the like in a quality university, teaching highly motivated students, maybe students on a Masters program or higher.

    I am not familiar with academia, but seems to me that you belong there. Your thinking, your intellect, your writing itself, my goodness, it is too valuable to not be shared with inquiring minds eager for knowledge, eager to know more, to find out more.




    I do not think that detachment would lead to indifference, and this for two reasons. First, even the most secluded hermit still needs to find shelter….

    I have struggled with the concept of detachment and not falling into the trap of indifferent so hope you don’t mind that I’m using your posts to help me clarify my thoughts.

    When I imagine of a monastic life I’m assuming one in which much of the day is spend in contemplation, meditation/prayer and taking care of the general stuff – food, shelter, cleaning, … the danger of indifference with regards to life out side of that.

    From what I’ve read the intention of such contemplation and mediation is to lead an awakening to life as it is – the life/death/life cycle… the good the bad and the ugly (which are neither good, bad or ugly) and know (gnostic knowing) that life as it is… is Love (And You are It).

    To get to a place where one can say Yes to this realisation one learns to become detached from outcomes, suffering, joy… and in this way be in the present.  One will continue to notice outcomes…suffering and joy, the cycle of life – death – life however one is not attached to these experiences but a kind of observer of experiences.

    (I wonder that if the self does exist is exists at the still point as the observer. ‘I’ am not my thoughts ‘the still point I’ observes thoughts. ‘I am not my experiences, feelings, ‘the still point I’ observes experiences, feeling…)

    When you begin these practices enviably the thought comes that all is meaningless. That if all that happens is as it must be, life as it is, working towards some specific end is pointless. If one is detached from any experience why bother? (Of course, such thoughts indicate one continues to be attached and the whole process becomes a tangle and you begin again) Easy to understand how detachment often ends in indifference and depression.

    My observation is that many of those who practice detachment don’t engage in life. They do enough to feed and shelter themselves but they don’t engage in life, or vote. If they engage in life they quickly lose the ‘serenity’ that they had achieved when being still so one can understand the temptation to remain still and fall into interference.

    The trick then is to awaken to a way of being that can say Yes to Life as it is, know it to be Love while continuing to engage in Life. Acting out one’s truths while being detached from those truths, which may or may not be correct… but as they are yours in this moment must be lived out if one is to be authentic. Open of course, to doing better when learning better.

    I think/feel that if someone reaches that kind of state of being one could only view and participate in life from a place of compassion. At such a point questions of purpose, meaning, the good, the bad… the problem of opposites… disappear, become unskillful. This way of being that is ‘present’ while sitting still and or acting and engaging Life where ever you find yourself.

    That probably doesn’t make any sense, but there you go.



    Hi Plotinus,

    It looks like you received alot of great advice, but I am wondering, since you are interested and passionate about academics, why not work in the college or school you are in? When I was in college, I worked in the financial aid office, helping first time students navigate Stafford loans, grants, etc. I really enjoyed it, since I had been through the process, and it gave me great enjoyment helping others through my experiences. I also worked as a teaching assistant in a research and statistics class, and then I worked helping new students pick what classes they needed to take. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction and purpose. It’s not the best paying, but I was happy, and that’s what matters. Good luck.

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