I'm a Ph.D.-trained philosophical counselor who teaches individuals and organizations throughout Canada and northern Europe how to inquire into the things that matter most. In 2009, I left the academy and moved to New York City as much to understand myself as to lead a publicly engaged life. In time, the active life fell away and was replaced by a desire for contemplation. After spending a couple of seasons meditating in near solitude in rural Appalachia, then nearly two years in remote, wild Joshua Tree, I now lead a simpler, gentler life with my wife Alexandra in Ojai, California. I also teach and perform regularly at organizations such as The Banff Centre and Kaos Pilots, places where people are open, inquisitive, and brave and where challenging performances are warmly welcomed.
The Time of Inquiry
Learning to inquire is no longer a luxury. The reason is that we are living through unsettled time, a period in which our previous way of life is unraveling and the question of how best to live has resurfaced with greater force and added urgency. During this transition, few lucid answers have been disclosed, glimpses of new ways of living but seeming intimations. Like a promise, the path of philosophical inquiry leads one beyond bewilderment, revealing in the clearing new possibilities for leading good and beautiful lives.
In Walden Thoreau writes, 'There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.' This epigram became the title of an important essay by my philosophical guide Pierre Hadot, a scholar of ancient philosophy who passed away in 2010. Hadot argues that in its heart philosophy is a way of life, not a profession engaged in theoretical discourse addressed only to academic peers.
In the ancient world, philosophers were not professionals but exemplars of living wisdom. As humble guides, they spoke gently through their deeds, becoming resonant instruments of silence. Following their example, I have sought in my philosophy practice to reclaim philosophy as a form of guidance that, by means of eloquent inquiring, raises goodness up to beauty.
A philosopher does not speak or write except to make philosophical life manifest. Gentle, flowing art is thus not an end in itself but a pouring forth of philosophical thought.
My blog site, accordingly, contains some 1000 posts which were written over a four-year period beginning in January 2011. Subjects range from death to friendship, from work to love, from humor to praise to sorrow. Most approach-from one angle or another, through anecdote, argument, or haiku-the question of the beautiful by way of the good. Many rub shoulders with their neighbors, their friends, and cousins. Each, above all, I have treated as a spiritual exercise (ascesis): as a meditation aimed less at informing a pupil about a state of affairs than at transforming my perception of the world.