Tag Archives: journey

The Journey – Artists and Philosophers (Part 2)

So Epicurus was right – up to a point.  His philosophy gets us to the “good life,” which is not a bad place to be.  Family, community, and the undertaking of “involvement” and “exposure” activities to achieve flow experiences, will alleviate the pain and anxiety of the everyday world.  The four painters mentioned earlier, Epicurus, and Maslow, are in agreement regarding how best to satisfy the first four Maslow needs.  However, there is still a fifth Maslow need, and a further segment of the road to happiness – the Adventure.

Epicurus does not recognize this fifth Maslow need – self-actualization, nor does he recognize the Adventure.

However, another philosophical school does recognize the adventure – The Stoics.

We now turn to this school to understand the Adventure with a series of three painters.

The Journey – Artists and Philosophers (Part 1)

Let me summarize the previous four posts:

1) Van Gogh – First Maslow need satisfied with food and warmth provided by family.

2) Brueghel the Elder – Second Maslow need satisfied with safety provided by community.

3) Renoir – Third Maslow need satisfied with a sense of belonging and flow experiences achieved with friends.

4) Rembrandt – Forth Maslow need satisfied with a sense of self-esteem and further flow experiences expressed by family and friends.

These four paintings, all with the dining table as the center of action, depict the satisfaction of the first four needs of Maslow.  But what do the philosopher say?

In my previous posts I mentioned the Epicurus was right up to a point.

Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.” In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).  Remember, it is the flow experiences that distance oneself from the worries of the everyday world; however, you can’t approach these experiences without first having satisfied the basic needs of food and safety.

The above paragraph is very remarkable: 1) we have a great philosopher, Epicurus, whose philosophy closely matches that of modern psychology regarding the necessity of a loving family, a just society, and flow experiences to lead one to a state free of pain and anxiety, 2) the same philosophy matching the first four of five levels of needs satisfaction of modern psychology driving human behavior, and 3) that a life free from pain and anxiety is one that avoids excessive greed, fame, and power, those things that will never lead to tranquility and happiness.

In summary, we can go so far as to say that the end of the Journey, the “good life,” is the aim of Epicureanism. Or, to put it another way, the Journey segment of the road to happiness is philosophically one of Epicureanism. It is the best approach ethically for completing the Journey. Seek out flow experiences and you will have friendships, family love, financial comfort, and a sense of self-esteem. Not a bad life, in fact, a “good life.” But, not happiness. You also need the Adventure!

The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 4)

In my last three posts, I presented three paintings centered around a meal.  The Van Gogh painting illustrated the need for food, being satisfied through the family.

The Brueghel the Elder painting illustrates the need for safety, being satisfied through one’s family as well as one’s community.

The Renoir painting illustrates the need for belongingness and friendship being satisfied through one’s friends.  It is the need for flow experiences, distancing one from the worries of the everyday world,  that this “involvement” activity satisfies. But this activity can only be  pursued if the previous needs have been satisfied by one’s family and community.

The fourth painting, representing the final segment of the Journey, is by Rembrandt.  This painting represents the attainment of the “good life.”  It presents a man who has achieved much in life, a position achieved by one who has developed self-esteem.  The satisfaction of the self-esteem need (Maslow’s fourth need) is achieved through engaging in “exposure” activities.  These activities distance the individual from others and leads to recognition, prestige, and the goodwill of others – self-esteem.  The desire for further flow is the catalyst for the individual to engage in these “exposure” activities, which, if successful, lead to the satisfaction of the self-esteem need.

473px-Rembrandt_-_Rembrandt_and_Saskia_in_the_Scene_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

This painting expresses the artist’s ideal of a man successful in his vocation. This ideal includes a woman (his first wife) and ale in hand, fine clothes, fine food, and attractive surroundings. The main character is shown as healthy and sociable, proud of his material possessions, and willing to share them with friends. The visual richness of the sword attests to his earlier vocational successes and status in life. The painting reflects a life of materialistic preoccupation that would preclude any serious human revelation by the artist at this time. The character is simply enjoying the “good life.”

How do these paintings reflect philosophical teachings will be discussed next.

The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 3)

In my two previous posts I presented two paintings situated around the dining table.  The first painting, by Van Gogh, expresses the satisfaction of the most basic of needs – food and warmth.  In the painting this basic need is satisfied through the family.  I then presented a painting by Brueghel the Elder in which the first need for food is satisfied as well as the second need for safety, which is provided by the community as well as the family.

In this post I would like to present a third painting, a painting by Renoir.  This third painting, also centered around the dining table, expresses not only the satisfaction of the first need for food as well as the second need for safety, but the third need for belongingness and a place among one’s friends.

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir

 

This painting is a magnificent depiction of sociability: friendship at its most sophisticated and glorious.  This one painting, with its colors, food, wine, and conversation, perhaps best represents the satisfaction of the belongingness need for most people today.  However, it differs from the Brueghel the Elder painting in that the characters are much less interested in eating (that need has been satisfied) and are less concerned with the safety of their surroundings (that need has also been satisfied).  What is driving the action is the need to satisfy one’s sense of belonging and place within society. 

Unlike the previous two paintings, there is a sense of flow among the characters.  The characters appear to be distant from the cares and anxieties of the everyday world.  All of them are enjoying the moment as a reward in and of itself.  There is no further motive than to enjoy the friendship of others.

This painting differs from the Brueghel painting in that the characters are interacting with one another, lost in the moment, rather than side-by-side each other in the same room with each expressing their own place in life.

Up next, the final painting along the Journey.

 

 

The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 2)

In my previous blog I discussed how Van Gogh had captured the first segment of the Journey by representing a family around a dining table happy just to be have food on the table.  There is very little else that the family can hope to attain if the desire for food and warmth (Maslow’s first need) is always present and never satisfied.

Once this physiological need for food and warmth is satisfied then the individual will become concerned with his/her safety.  This need for safety (Maslow’s second need) includes protection from animals and invaders, crime, disease, education, and the beginning need of being with others.

This safety need is best expressed in the following painting, The Peasant Wedding, by Brueghel the Elder.  It is in this painting that there is a depiction of plenty of food for future consumption and a sense of safety afforded by the community, which has come together to celebrate a wedding.

The Peasant Wedding by Bruegel

In this painting guests come to celebrate a wedding among peasants set in a barn after the harvest. This is a colorful painting of earth tones depicting the satisfaction of the first two Maslow needs (food/warmth as illustrated by the harvest, and the safety of those in the community) as well as the beginning emerge of a third need for friendship and a sense of one’s place among others.

This painting goes further along the Journey in that the need for food has been satisfied as well as the need for safety from animals, crime, inclement weather, etc.  However, the characters in the scene are not nearly as engaged with one another as you might expect at a wedding.

In my next blog I will discuss the depiction of the belongingness need expressed during another meal, but by a very different artist.

The Journey as Portrayed by Four Artists (Part 1)

The Journey is the first part of the road to happiness.  Once the Journey is complete, the road to happiness continues with the Adventure.

The Journey is that part of the road from birth leading up to the “good life.”  This segment involves nurturing by one’s family, safety provided by society, belongingness with one’s family and community, and a sense of self-esteem for a job well-done.   The nurturing and safety are provided to the individual by his/her family and society.  Belongingness and self-esteem are derived from “involvement” and “exposure” activities undertaken to create a sense of “flow.”  Flow is the experience of a distancing of oneself from the cares and worries of the everyday world.  This longing for flow experiences brings about activities that lead to a sense of belonging and self-worth.  It is through these activities undertaken during the Journey that one acquires the virtues needed for the Adventure.

I present a number of artists that portray each of these four segments of the Journey, which are displayed in the first three galleries of my book.  It just so happens that four specific paintings from my book are all that is needed to illustrate the Journey.  It is also interesting that these four paintings all involve activities around a meal with others.

What I would like to do in this blog and several future blogs is present just the four paintings that illustrate the Journey.  It will be interesting to see how each painter goes about presenting the corresponding segment of the Journey and how they differ from one another.

Let’s begin.  The painting below, The Potato Eaters, is by Van Gogh, his favorite of all his paintings.  The painting depicts a family happy just to have food on the table.  There is very little else on the minds of the characters beyond having food to eat.

800px-WLANL_-_vuurvlinder_-_the_potato_eaters

The lamp illuminates the faces of these workers, shown as compassionate and caring of one another. The character whose face is not seen, most likely a child, appears anxious for the food and grateful for the meal, supplied by the other adults at the table. This scene represents Maslow’s utopia for those who are simply attempting to satisfy the most basic need: a place in which there is plenty of food for the chronically and extremely hungry among us.

This is the very beginning of the Journey for all of us.  It would be difficult to move forward in life if all that you are concerned about is food and warmth.  The next painting, by a very different artist, will take us forward along the Journey.

More in the next blog!

 

Epicurus was Right, Partially (Part 3)

I finished my last post with the following:

Epicurus agreed with the other ancient philosophers that the aim of life is happiness; however, he defined happiness as tranquility and freedom from pain and anxiety – the “good life.”  To Epicurus, the freedom from pain and anxiety of the “good life” is a state free of any further needs or desires, and as such, happiness. In psychological terms, the Epicurean state of happiness is the satisfaction of Maslow’s first four needs of his hierarchy (achieved through a loving family, just society, and flow experiences).

The above paragraph is very remarkable: 1) we have a great philosopher, Epicurus, whose philosophy closely matches that of modern psychology regarding the necessity of a loving family, a just society, and flow experiences to lead one to a state free of pain and anxiety, 2) the same philosophy matching the first four of five levels of needs satisfaction of modern psychology driving human behavior, and 3) that a life free from pain and anxiety is one that avoids excessive greed, fame, and power, those things that will never lead to tranquility and happiness.

In summary, we can go so far as to say that the end of the Journey, the “good life,” is the aim of Epicureanism.  Or, to put it another way, the Journey segment of the road to happiness is philosophically one of Epicureanism.  It is the best approach ethically for completing the Journey.  Seek out flow experiences and you will have friendships, family love, financial comfort, and a sense of self-esteem.  Not a bad life, in fact, a “good life.”  But, not happiness.  You also need the Adventure!