How to Give Yourself a Philosophical Crisis during Quarantine: A Memoir

“I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather that what he will be.”

Mr. Rogers

Hello again. *sighs*

Another week is over.

Only a few more to go before I get to very, very slowly move back into a normal life routine (unless this is the new normal?). This week had me searching for intellectual stimulation, only to mentally exhaust myself from seeking out too many questions that are often left unanswered. A few nights ago, I wrote in my journal the following confession:

“If nothing else, I’ve realized that the road to truth (in my mind, at least) is a lonely and narrow one. I feel my mind losing strength under the weight of all the overwhelming questions. Does your heart long for something more? It must. It must. If it does not, either it is not beating or you are not searching hard enough.

I’m not quite sure to whom I was posing that question. I do know, however, it was not to myself because I have evidence that I am longing for something more. In many ways, I have already discovered and know what it is. Yet there is still much to learn, and I have expended almost all my mental resources this week trying to understand a variety of topics.

So, let’s discuss. As I told my best friend in an email last week, “I’m just trying to hear more opinions. I’m tired of my own.”

Media Consumption in the Age of Quarantine

It’s times like these I am very happy that I was part of the School of Journalism and Communication because I was afforded the tremendous opportunity to study media, media trends, the history as well as future implications of media outlets. Simply put, the word media refers to the plural form of medium–a way to convey or express. In society at large, media often refers to the collective outlets of mass communication (newspapers, websites, radio, television, etc.).

Social media is a different thing entirely. Social media refers specifically to “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” My blog, therefore, is a social medium. My Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all social media.

A newspaper is not social media. A newspaper is a medium and a form of media outlet. Just for clarification.

ANYWAY

I was thinking about what media teaches us and how it teaches us. Are we powerless in the clutches of media moguls, as many Facebook moms seem to think we are? Do we–the consumer, the collective society, the individual–shape the media? Is it an equal give and take? (I seriously miss my Mass Communication and Society class right now. I’m lookin’ at you, Professor Natalia.) These questions have the ability to be answered, but the lines certainly aren’t clear cut. And that’s kind of the beauty of it?

Podcasts are really a cool, new form of communication. People can share thoughts without having to go through production houses, and small communities are created from various walks of life, which gives us an opportunity now more than ever to be conscious consumers of media.

But can we admit that it’s also overwhelming? There are so many. SO MANY PODCASTS. I mean, just go to Spotify right now and try to find one that specifically draws your attention and intrigues you within the next five minutes. I have the hardest time doing that because the tyranny of choice is too real for me.

And thus I’ve never really been a podcast person. I wish I was. After all, they’re pretty hip right now. But I almost always opt for music or, if I have a car, the radio (yes, I love the radio). Anyway, I have decided to venture out into the podcast world during this quarantine, hoping to garner some insight as to why I should continue listening to podcasts. There are a couple podcasts I have tried. I listened, in its entirety, to Up and Vanished Season One. I’ve listened to Throughline from NPR, an episode of On Being, and from time to time I listen to France Culture’s “Les chemins de la philosophie.”

Which brings me full circle to this week and the theme that followed me everywhere. It was in my morning devotions. It was in the movies I watched. It was in the stream of my unconscious thoughts. And in the podcast episode I listened to yesterday.

The episode was called “L’amour” and it was featured on France Culture’s “Les chemins de la philosophie.” Pour ceux qui aimeraient l’écouter, voici le lien. Sorry to my anglophone friends, you’re out of luck (unless you’d like to test your French comprehension. Then listen away!).

What Is Love? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

Ahhh, love.

The thing that completes some people and completely undoes others.

The thing that drives people to madness and murder and love-making and acts of kindness to strangers.

Love is a fascinating thing. It is undoubtedly at its root a divine thing, being that God is love.

And every single philosopher has something to say about it. Which is precisely what the podcast episode discussed. The episode itself had a great setup, with high school students asking questions to college professors with Masters and PhD’s in philosophy. And yet, the professors had the hardest time answering these questions.

Whew. That makes me feel better.

Philosophers have been searching for answers to the simplest questions since the beginning of time. Because the thing about simple questions, is that they are rarely ever as simple as they seem.

After listening to the podcast, here are some quotes I found interesting from various philosophers. I’ll put the high schoolers’ questions below as well, in order to give you some context. (Disclaimer: I did very little research after listening, except to see more writings of the specific philosophers mentioned in the episode. I know, however, that many more names and quotes can be discussed.)

Question 1: L’amour fait-il le bonheur ? A-t-on besoin de se sentir aimé pour être heureux ?   
Does love make people happy? Does one need to feel loved in order to be happy?

To that, we find Spinoza’s response in his book Ethics (more specifically in part three, proposition 13). “Love is nothing but joy with the accompanying idea of an external cause. / L’amour est la Joie, accompagnée de l’idée d’une cause extérieure.” We also see in Michel de Montaigne’s essays a recurring theme of love in the context of friendship.

Question 2: Est-il nécessaire d’aimer ou peut-on se satisfaire de notre amour propre ?                      
Is it necessary to love or can one be satisfied with their own self-esteem?

This question was answered with a quote from Rousseau. Here it is in French. “Il ne faut pas confondre l’amour propre et l’amour de soi-même; deux passions très différentes par leur nature et par leurs effets. L’amour de soi-même est un sentiment naturel qui porte tout animal à veiller à sa propre conservation et qui, dirigé dans l’home par la raison et modifié par la pitié, produit l’humanité et la vertu. L’amour propre n’est qu’un sentiment relatif, factice et né dans la société, qui porte chaque individu à faire plus cas de soi que de tout autre, qui inspire aux hommes tous les maux qu’ils se font mutuellement et qui est la véritable source de l’honneur.”

Now English. “Amour-propre and amour de soi, two passions very different in their nature and their effects, must not be confused. Love of oneself [amour de soi] is a natural sentiment which inclines every animal to watch over its own preservation and which, directed in man by reason and modified by pity, produces humanity and virtue. Amour propre is only a relative sentiment, artificial and born in society, which inclines each individual to have a greater esteem for himself than for anyone else, inspires in men all the harm that they do to one another, and is the true source of honor.”

And then, of course, there is also Plato’s Symposium and the Myth of Aristophanes. You see how it’s really quite a lot to think about? How all these brilliant minds have something to say and how I am drowning in the sea of their words? Surely, you must now better understand my exhaustion.

I conclude this blog post with a very simple thought. I think it is a beautiful thing that we have minds to think deeply and curiously about the core of our human experience.

May we never lose to the desire to learn. It is one of the few glimmers of hope in this world for growth and change.


That was a long read. If you made it to the end of this, I would assume you like philosophy or sharing ideas (or maybe you just wanted to mock me, who knows). In any case, I’d love for you to comment your favorite philosophers, quotes, or any other small contribution you’d like to make to my little online community. And check out my other latest blog posts! They’re much more light-hearted, I promise.

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