“Western philosophy is about striving for personal perfection in an imperfect world. Eastern philosophy is about accepting personal (illusory) imperfection in a perfect world.” By Naval Ravikant
The above thoughts and quote by Naval (who is a billionaire tech entrepreneur, by the way, look him up – incredible man), couldn’t be truer in my opinion.
Growing up in a Western country, Australia – within a capitalist society with a culture based on consumption, that prioritises personal pleasure and financial gain over inner peace and collective wellness has left me pondering my place in this world many times. The more I dive deep within my self and look around at the society around me, the more the above rings true. However, I am seeing a slow shift, not only within myself but also many others around me.
I am not a religious man, perhaps I would label myself agnostic or even spiritual, but I am not big on labels, they always change. The realisation that this existence is not just about pleasures and the material has lead me down the path of researching and learning about Eastern cultures and belief systems, which for the most part has been extremely beneficial. For me, they provide more of an anchor into this existence, a pillar of belief that is okay to feel what I feel when I have experienced bouts of deep nihilism.
This I do believe is somewhat of a learnt behaviour, I was never a nihilistic kid or young man, however I found myself surrounded by people who would whine and complain and thought the world was going to end, so I found myself copying their behaviours and regurgitating their beliefs, until I found it in myself to ask some questions and try break free of the shackles of a negative mindset – which for me is a continual work in progress. Understanding that thoughts are just thoughts and learning to try and control the controllable and not sweat the small stuff is the basics of what i believe a lot of the Eastern philosophies preach. Perhaps i should meditate under some trees more?
I look around and read and think a lot, I see modern life and all our diseases are diseases of abundance, not diseases of scarcity, which is a new challenge for our species. In a world where I can see more naked images of women with the click of my thumb than all of my ancient relatives combined and have more food within a thousand-metre radius than my forefathers saw in their lifetimes means we have to become somewhat ascetic and learn to create our own emotional and mental boundaries. I truly believe this is where the Eastern philosophies help and become more relevant – acceptance of my own current state in this world and that the world in itself is imperfect makes more sense to me than constantly chasing the carrot, the illusory perfection that always eludes us.
Being more mindful and being okay with whatever is going on in your head and in your life is the crux of most ancient Eastern philosophies – “life is suffering” you may have heard preached from people who follow Buddhism, comes across as if it by definition is nihilistic, however is actually more about being okay with the fact that we will encounter suffering, not to wallow in it. I didn’t know, nor believe any of these ideas growing up, so the data that I received into my brain has left me with certain patterns of behaviour that I am forever working on changing, perhaps mindfulness should be taught in schools? Not attached to any sort of doctrine, just so us as human beings are not so caught up in our heads and the material? Maybe one day.
Changing ourselves is much easier than changing the world, and the best way to change the world is to change ourselves – then hopefully the people around us will join, then the greater community and so on and so forth. I think it is important to believe that we can make a change for the better in all our flaws and faults as a society and as individuals.
Anyways, I continually digress, story of my life – Feel free to look up Naval and take a peek at some of the beliefs of the East and see if they tickle your fancy, I hope you find some wisdom and helpful tips for becoming the best versions of yourselves.
Until next time.
Thanks for reading!