What you might ask would a 23 year old have to say on experience? Well before you jump to any obvious conclusions I think it might be a tad unfair to immediately victimise my youthfulness. Firstly it is a naïve assumption that a broadness of life experience carries a great deal more wisdom than a somewhat narrower one. This idea is often mirrored in the lives of many of our greatest thinkers. Friedrich Nietzsche was a syphilitic crazed shut-in in his later days, Proust bed-bound most of his adult life and Sartre somewhat wryly declared that “Hell is other people”.
These remarkable individuals despite a seeming deficiency in what I shall call “worldliness” had something to say about how we live our lives. The resonance of their works has arguably the greatest contribution of any intellectual endeavour- it has changed how we think about the world and painted a course on how we might live happier lives.
I’m not denouncing living a rich and varied life, there is fantastic joy to be garnered from both the most carnal desires to the most selfless acts. These people drew their value from the approach they took at examining their own meagre lives and simply by offering up their worldview, however small and however subjective, they gave something precious to us- an insight into the human condition.
One of our biggest failures as human beings is to declare these people as so very different from ourselves. When asked to mimic these individuals in attempting to answer to life’s big questions people will quickly protest their own incompetence “But they were more educated than myself”, “Their understanding of suffering is far better than my own”, “Their personal experience gave them insight I could never have”. I feel here, people are too quick to sell themselves short. When did we become so insecure that we felt what little wisdom we have is so worthless?
I’ve learnt valuable life lessons from the most unlikely of places, coked-up London socialites, strict Mormon fathers and the Television have given me accurate advice directly or indirectly on how I might live better. I think the key to unlocking their worth is in the attitude by which we choose to understand their lifestyle. I think perhaps the biggest tragedy here is that as valuable a source as these people might be for guidance, very little physical record is kept on the knowledge gained through their experiences. If only they all had blogs...
So then, I would feel somewhat hypocritical if I didn’t, at this point, reflect on the importance of our experiences and how we might go about shaping them into into a cohesive life-enriching philosophy. I will not recount my personal experiences directly here, but I would invite you to speculate on what exactly has affected me so personally as to make me want to reflect on the very nature of experience. As always the mazy subject of human experience will require some guidance to prevent us from getting bogged down in tangent or to wander aimlessly along the misty moors of knowledge.
As before my ideas will be split into three areas. Firstly I wish to talk on the importance of self reflection and how Socrates may teach us not only how to ascertain truth in our lives but also how we may use these ideas to make ourselves happier. Secondly I will suggest how increasing our appreciation of art might actually give us a more lucid insight into better ways of living our lives. Finally I will petition you not to let fear cripple your creative expression, for this is the most critical and perhaps the most effective way in which we can communicate the lessons of our existence to one another.
Being white, working class, young, single and atheist living in the UK means I should probably have little, if any genuinely unique life experience but then again I always did like a challenge...