At Night We Talk: Hannah Buchanan

At Night We Talk is a new series whereby I interview a friend or person and hear what they have to say –

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So Han, let’s start big – what are you passionate about in life? 

I am really really passionate about animals and their wellbeing. I guess that’s how you’d describe it – I think animals need to be respected, and we can’t just do what we want to them. I just don’t believe we have a right to stuff animals in a cage and eat their meat if it hasn’t been respected.

If they’ve had a good life and they’re free range, able to roam free and killed humanely, then that’s a different story – people are always going to eat meat, but it needs to be done properly. When things aren’t free range, that’s not done properly.

Animals that aren’t free range are effectively sick – why do people want to eat sick animals? This goes a long way to explaining why humans have such bad health problems these days too.

New Zealand is one of the better countries compared to China where there are no animal rights, but I think crates for pigs need to be banned here, which is meant to be implemented  by 2015. Imagine being kept in a cage your whole life where you can’t stand or spread your wings.

You know in the amazon jungle,  so much is being cut down so people can plant palm oil trees for cosmetics and food, so many animals habitats are getting wiped out for our supposed benefit. It all stems back to people trying to make a quick buck the easiest way possible, and not thinking of sustainability.

And you know there are fur farms in china? They keep dogs, cats and racoons in cages and skin them alive, so they’re still warm and the fur falls off easily, just so people can wear them!

So the real thing I’m concerned about is the life that animals have. I hate zoos, I hate circuses, entities that use animals for human entertainment or testing. If you want to see a monkey, go out into the wild and see if for yourself.

I think people just need to be more educated.

Where do you see yourself in ten tears time? 

I picture myself happy, fabulous, going off to my job that I’m passionate about and making a change in peoples’ lives. I want to do something inspirational, you know? I either want to work with people or animals – teaching  kids with behaviour problems, making a difference to their lives. I feel like I’d be really good at that,.I’ve finally figured out what I hope to achieve. People and animals – maybe I could make a difference with both.

Does wisdom come with age? 

Yes and no. Some people just are wise and some aren’t. But of course wisdom can be learnt and taught. If you make your own mistakes and learn from those you become more wise…from seeing other peoples’ mistakes too. Do you get wiser as you get older? Some people don’t.

Are you an old soul or a young soul? 

I don’t think I’m an old soul. You know how you can just tell with some people that they’re an old soul? With the things they say and think, you can just tell. I know I’m not an old soul because I just don’t feel like I am. How do I know? I just do. I probably sometimes value the opinion of others more than myself – I don’t just say yes, I totally think this! Sometimes I need to confirm things with other people to make sure. I think if you were an old soul, you’d just know…even though they would still ask questions. Seb thinks everyone in the world is an old soul trying to better themselves, he thinks we’ve been around before and now we’re back – I think that’s a pretty cool way of looking at it.

This is good for me to be asked these questions.

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 Is there something your mum has told you that will always stick with you?

People shouldn’t worry about getting old, it’s a privilege and a lot of people don’t get that opportunity.

I do find it frustrating when people say they don’t want to grow old – get over it, it’s life. My mum has multiple sclerosis which doesn’t make life easy, but she is proof that you can still be happy even if life doesn’t go the way you think it will. Life’s not always easy, you just have to go along with it, it goes go on, and sometimes…well you’ve told me, you’ve got to find ways to make you happy, happiness doesn’t just come to you… so i actively try to do things that make me happy. I love movies. I  love hanging out with my dog. I love hanging out with Zander – he’s the one person that makes me the happiest. I love going to cafes. I really do love learning about new things. Having some passions make life interesting. It’s just the little things. Different things make different people happy, whether it be small or big. Going to a cafe and sitting there or going for a drink, I just absolutely love it. I realise it’s easier said than done though, as there are a lot of unhappy people. People do have their reasons. But i just hope that people can find those little things that work for them.

My mum, not with what she has said, but just from watching her, well she has a horrible disease but she is still happy, she never complains, she just gets on with it.

I think love definitely plays a big role in happiness. Being in love is the best feeling ever, what more could you want? Being lonely would be sad and scary. At the same time, I love spending time by myself. It’s a balance. I don’t think love needs to be hard, of course it doesn’t have to be easy the whole time….but…it shouldn’t be too hard, if it’s right. You won’t always have good times, but the good times should far outweigh any bad ones.

Any closing words today? 

Sometimes I wish I was a bit more outrageous..I can be quite….I need to say yes more….

Maybe this is something you could work on?

I haven’t read for awhile either…

 You’ve got to make times for books.

I really loved Harry Potter, I never thought I’d love something like that, but i really did.

 Millions of people did, hence its critical acclaim.

I wish I could have loved something more original.

 There’s a reason it isn’t.

I know.

 Tell the world one thing.

Do what makes you happy, try and be the best person that you know you can be, keep learning and having fun…before we know it we will be 80…we want to look back and have lots of fond memories. You know? We want to look back and say “I had a happy and fulfilled and great life.”

There’s that line in An Education where she is talking to the teacher, it was interesting – “I feel very old but I don’t feel very wise.” I think this ties in with what I saying before about wisdom. It doesn’t necessarily come with age.

Is there a movie or book you would share with the world, if one?

War Witch – I saw it recently in the French Film Festival – it shows someone who has been through so much yet still finds happiness. It’s very inspiring and gripping, even though it’s gut wrenching.

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The Mona Lisa Curse

In his award-winning polemic documentary, The Mona Lisa Curse, Renowned art critic Robert Hughes explores the rise of contemporary art. Hughes invites us into his New York apartment to reflect on the catastrophic transition of art as art to art as commodity. His longstanding position as art critic for Times magazine stands him in good stead to uncover his lifetime’s worth of knowledge.

 Hughes blames art investors for transforming the once tasteful tenet of culture into a money-making machine. He also blames artists such as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst for their contemporary works, which he says are the product of too much money and not enough ability.

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Whenever a famous work goes on sale today, it is a matter of which investment banker, businessman or aristocrat will bid, as oppose to which art museum. The Guggenheim, The Met, The Louvre and MoMa, for example, all rely on “founders” to lend or donate art. This means the public are exposed to art that is subject to these founders’ taste, as oppose to a comprehensive array of transcendental art. The art museums struggle to break even from year to year, while investors make millions of dollars off each sale. Did the artists spend their entire lives painting to feed one man’s bank statement? Hughes believes not.

While I happen to be an avid Warhol and contemporary art fan, there is huge value in the arguments posed by Hughes. Luckily you can [legally] stream the whole documentary on YouTube:

Book club: The Consolations of Philosophy

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Never before has a book struck a chord with me quite like The consolations of Philosophy. It is the pinnacle of my literary life thus far.

Author, Alain de Botton, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, has trawled through history and compiled various philosophies from other great thinkers of the past – Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

On where clever people should get their ideas from:

“From people even cleverer than they are. They should spend their time quoting and producing commentaries about great authorities who occupy the upper rings of the tree of knowledge,” (page 161).

De Botton wrote this page with reference to Montaigne who owed much to the idea. Montaigne felt the likes of Plato and Cicero had captured points more elegantly and more acutely than he was able to. De Botton concurs, and speaks of the temptation to quote authors when they express our very own thoughts but with a clarity and psychological accuracy we cannot match. With this in mind, I turn to quotes and passages from the book to summarise the greatness it encapsulates.

On art:

“What we encounter in works of art and philosophy are objective versions of our own pains and struggles, evoked and defined in sound, language or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us what they have felt, they present our experiences more poignantly and intelligently than we have been able to; they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognise as our own, yet could never have understood so clearly on our own. They explain our condition to us, and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it,” (page 199).

“Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfilment.”

On difficulty: 

“We are liable to think that anxiety and envy have nothing legitimate to teach us and so remove them like emotional weeds. We believe, as Nietzsche put it, that ‘the higher is not allowed to grow out of the lower, is not allowed to have grown at all…everything first-rate must be causa sui [the cause of itself].’ Yet ‘good and honoured things’ were, Nietzsche stressed, ‘art-fully related, knotted and chrocheted to…wicked, apparently antithetical things.’ ‘Love and hate, gratitude and revenge, good nature and anger…belong together,’ which does not mean that they have to be expressed together, but that a positive may be the result of a negative successfully gardened…To cut out every negative root would simultaneously mean choking off positive elements that might arise from it further up the stem of the plant. We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failure to grow anything beautiful from them,” (page 228).

“Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us. Not everything which hurts may be bad,” (page 244).

On the body versus the mind:

“Our bodies have the upper hand over our minds,” (page 122).

“Montaigne’s philosophy is one of reconciliation: ‘The most uncouth of our afflictions is to despise our being.’ Rather than trying to cut ourselves in two, we should cease waging civil war on our perplexing physical envelopes and learn to accept them as unalterable facts of our condition, neither so terrible nor so humiliating,” (page 123).

“That nothing can happen to man is inhuman, that ‘every man bears the whole Form of the human condition,'” (page 125).

“If we accord importance to the kind of portraits which surround us, it is because we fashion our loves according to their example, accepting aspects of ourselves if they concur with what others mention of themselves. What we see evidence for in others, we will attend to within, what others are silent about, we may stay blind to or experience only in shame,” (page 129).

“Epicurean and Stoic philosophies had suggested that we could achieve mastery over our bodies, and never be swept away by our physical and passionate selves. It is noble advice that taps into our highest aspirations. It is also impossible, and therefore counter productive: ‘What is the use of those high philosophical peaks on which no human being can settle and those rules which exceed our practise and our power? It is not very clever of [man] to tailor his obligations to the standards of a different kind of being,'” (page 130).

“Schopenhauer…concurred with Montaigne’s view that our minds were subservient to our bodies, despite our arrogant faith in the contrary,” (page 185).

On love:

“Philosophers have not traditionally been impressed: the tribulations of love have appeared too childish to warrant investigation, the subject better left to poets and hysterics…Schopenhauer was puzzled by the indifference: ‘We should be surprised that a matter that generally plays such an important part in the life of man has hitherto been almost entirely disregarded by philosophers, and lies before us as raw and untreated material.’ The neglect seemed the result of a pompous denial of a side of life which violated man’s rational self-image. Schopenhauer insisted on the awkward reality: ‘Love…interrupts at every hour the most serious occupations and sometimes perplexes for a while even the greatest minds…It does no hesitate to interfere…It sometimes demands the sacrifice of…health, sometimes of wealth, position and happiness,'” (page 185).

On joy:

“What if pleasure and pain were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other…you have the choice: either as little displeasure as possible, painlessness in brief, or as much displeasure as possible as the price for the growth of an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys that have rarely been realised yet? If you decide for the former and desire to diminish and lower the level of human pain, you also have to diminish and lower the level of their capacity for joy,” (page 214).

As per the title, this book confronts and consoles the inadequacies people face in life. My general philosophy is all the more enriched from reading it; I urge everyone to do the same.

“‘Oh, why did you have to be born with this intense spirit, this uncontrollable passion for everything you are close to! I implore you,’ she went on, taking his hand, ‘be calmer. Think of the many joys your spirit, knowledge and your gifts afford you!” (page 200).

Word of the day

 

 If there ever was one –

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.[4]

 

The word “philosophy” comes from the Ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.[5][6][7] The introduction of the terms “philosopher” and “philosophy” has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.[8] A “philosopher” was understood as a word which contrasted with “sophist“. Traveling sophists or “wise men” were important in Classical Greece, often earning money as teachers, whereas philosophers are “lovers of wisdom” and were therefore not in it primarily for the money.

 

Top Ten Teds

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Ted is a not for profit organisation dedicated to promoting “ideas worth spreading.” Enhance some of your free moments and thereby your mind when you’re waiting in line, walking to work, or lying in bed wide awake, by tuning into Ted Talks. Here are my current top ten to get you started:

  1. Rick Warren – A Life of Purpose
  2. John Wooden – The Difference Between Winning and Success
  3. Alain de Botton – Atheism 2.0
  4. Mark Bittman – What’s Wrong With What We Eat
  5. Isabel Allende – Tales of Passions
  6. Ken Robinson – Schools Kill Creativity
  7. Seth Godin – How to Get Your Ideas Spread
  8. Bill Gates on Energy – Innovating to Zero
  9. Stephen Hawking – Questioning the Universe
  10. Bono – The Good News on Poverty (Yes, there’s good news)

Einstein

“. . . I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment—an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections. It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the ‘merely personal,’ from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned as a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in its pursuit. The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to my mind, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal. Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights they had achieved, were the friends who could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it.”

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