"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mop Philosophy

I've been thinking lately about the definition of Mop Philosophy.  At one time I had a little blurb about it somewhere on the blog, and if I remember correctly it alluded to an idea of a little stopping place to discuss issues (of a non-pressing nature) that might circle around the mind while engaging in mundane tasks, like mopping.
That's not quite the whole of it though.  Really, I have to say that I think Mop Philosophy can be defined as little ideas or conversations that can bolster life in small ways.  Anything comforting, mentally uplifting, visually beautiful or inspiring that can somehow improve life even in a tiny way has the ability to lead us up the path to The Good Life.
When I first began studying philosophy at University I was fortunate to attend classes with a really bright young fellow who quickly became a friend.  His name was Marcus and he was gifted with the sort of intelligence that made studying philosophy easy for him (unlike me he could scrawl out the answers to logic problems without crying!)
 I reacted with quite a bit of disappointment when he told me he was dropping out of the program at the end of our second year.  He could no longer see the point in studying philosophy, unless it was to discover ways in which to live The Good Life.  This, he assured me, could be accomplished by reading Bertrand Russell in the park.  In fact he had become convinced that this was the only point to studying philosophy, and his new park-bench method the only method which could come to any kind of graceful thinking.
I don't know what happened to Marcus but I have found myself thinking of him over the years.  He was definitely onto something and I know that the memory of that last conversation I had with him led in some way to Mop Philosophy.
For this I have to thank him, I've really enjoyed discussing those non-pressing issues: wardrobe ideas, household organizing and menu planning, these are the small things that can improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
I've been reading some Big Names in philosophy these last weeks, and the interesting thing is that at the end of the day even those brilliant 17th century philosophers like Leibniz felt that the true goal of philosophy was to find ways in which to improve our lives, bit by bit.  Then, as now, a major preoccupation was winding around ideas of explaining evil in a world which had been conceived of by an omnipotent God.  One of the popular (if dismissive and shallow) ideas that Leibniz left in his writings is that we live in "the best of all possible worlds" yet it was really the metaphysical proofs of God's existence that were his true gifts to us.
So I guess my Mop Philosophy this week has been thinking in small ways about big ideas, and this too I find bolstering.  One particular trick I recommend is to read a few pages of something thick and inspiring before embarking on those mundane tasks (like the never-ending mopping).  This has the ability to occupy the mind and offset anxiety, and sometimes at the end of the kitchen floor cleaning something new and beautiful might set itself up in the Old Bean where it didn't exist before.  That, I guess, is the ultimate goal of Mop Philosophy.
xoxDani


62 comments:

  1. What a perfect post, especially considering all the violent events of this past week. Have you ever looked for Marcus - I wonder what's become of him? I think I'm going to read some Bertrand Russell today.

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    1. Kathy I read BR a few times a year, he was very good at explaining very complicated ideas wasn't he!

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  2. I think Marcus is the spiritual father to my son! I do that as well - read deep, hard things before doing whatever form of meditation I undertake, from cleaning to walking and now actual meditation. It helps me swallow it down as well. I love all of the posts here, Dani, and I especially love the thought provoking ones; it does seem to me that the people who perpetuate violence are somehow in a complete state of anomie (ah my old friend, Emile Durkeim!) from the beauty and possibility that exists around them. That state of anger and hopelessness in the end can only be countered by good deeds, however small, within and outside of our homes. I believe that all things done with love create love. Of course, I am an overly-educated bleeding heart liberal! :-) Have a great day and thank you so much for a little mop philosophy!!

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  3. Oh - maybe you can start the mop philosophy book club, Dani - I know I keep bugging you about that - but it would be a fun way to help the rest of us get through some of it!

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    1. Yes, brilliant idea. Let's really do it.

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    2. Okay I'm in, any ideas re organization most welcome. I wouldn't mind discussing that book The Dinner, it's been bugging me since I finished it!

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    3. I nominate Wendy for Chief Operating Officer - I have a strong feeling she'd know how to do the organizational aspects of this very well. Wendy, are you in? You won't have to buy a new suit for this job. I'll be wearing PJs to all of our meetings.

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    4. I'm in for a book club too. I need some inspiration. I'm reading a new novel, but it is just ok...which is disappointing.

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    5. Great idea... Would be interested joining, you just have to know I am slow reading...

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    6. I would love to do this! What a great idea! Even though I work in academia it's so busy that there's precious little time to actually reflect and discuss.

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    7. Book Club details to be announced soon, I'll be brainstorming with Wendy our CEO and also GetFresh Resident SuperBrain has several details figured out already. This will be a fun new chapter.

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    8. I'm interested too :)

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    9. I'm down as soon as the semester ends. Though being an academic is fun, it leaves little time for "extra curricular" reading!

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    10. Yay, yay, yay! I am so excited!

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    11. Have been checking back waiting for your answer - are you really up for it Wendy? Would you know how to organize it? I think it would be really great.

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    12. Oh, just read Dani's comment and Wendy and Get Fresh - thank you both, Dani too!

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  4. You might want to track Marcus down...and just see if his philosophy has stood him in good stead.
    I have had a few surprises when I have reconnected with friends from school and their lives have turned out so different than I would have expected...and some very sadly.
    I find that domestic work gives one the opportunity to ruminate on the deeper subjects in life so MOP philosophy feels about right.
    Keep those brilliant blog posts coming...

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    1. Hi Hostess, I wonder if it has. Sometimes peoples lives don't follow their potential exactly.
      Thank you Hostess.

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  5. EVERY DAY Dani, what a perfectly timely post. There's so much to consider around valuing the activities we do as part of the daily rota and investing them with value and purpose. The difference between every day living and the everyday grind we can sometimes fall into.

    Unlike, hostess, I would be leaving Marcus as a wonderful inspiration, only because sometimes I think as we all change over the years what we imagined and what is now can sometimes come as a bump. But we do owe him a vote of thanks in some way too, for bringing your blog thoughts to us. And I hope that some of the encouragement you've shared in today's post comes winging back to you pronto. (Off to pull out a suitable pre-floor tome.) Ruminating always reminds me of cows, newly green grass - and cheese ;-)

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    1. GF thanks and I think I will leave Marcus just where I left him. Let's banish everyday grind, we don't have time for it!

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  6. Have you read any of Alain de Boton's stuff? He's our present day philosopher, and turns philosophy to current problems and conditions I love his work and am in total awe of him, last year we were out to dinner in London and he was at the next table and I could barely eat because HE was there, hubs kept saying go on then, go over, tell him how much you admire his books, but he was with 4 others and I couldn't bear looking like such a groupie.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation - just ordered two of his books, overnight! And hubs was right, you should have gone over, he would have loved it.

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    2. Tabs yes I have and I also admire his work. The next table! I think he's a wonderful speaker too and I enjoy his talks very much, I also like the fact that he is a tolerant atheist.

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    3. Kathy - oh excellent, I hope you like them, I think he's a fascinating man.

      Dani: I could barely eat, I was a teen fangirl, just constantly staring!

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    4. Tabs, just thinking of him reading these comments and Dani's brilliant post ( I think mop philosophy is a truly genius idea). His Consolations of Philosophy is a fun read. His list of what he'd buy with endless money is truly over the top and in the chapter on the Consolation for Not Having Enough Money ( Epicurus). I did not study philosophy as I didn't think I was smart enough at the time; I now like to read bits at a time as well ( Seneca, the stoic, Hume, Spinoza).

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    5. Lane we definitely know you are smart enough and if you are reading Spinoza then maybe you have a second career there!

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  7. Beautifully put, Dani. I often find that when I'm fully physically engaged in some mundane activity, that it frees my mind up to find solutions to niggling problems. Our thoughts and emotions can take a battering at times so any inspiration from any source is most welcome. That's why we love your blog!

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    1. Sulky thanks. And we love your blog because you make us laugh until our noses snort!

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  8. Unlike Archimedes, I have never had any profound thoughts while relaxing in the tub. But, like Sulky Kitten, I find that my brain seems to work on problems in the background while I am running or doing housework. I guess sometimes I just get in the way of my own thought process!

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    1. Merry Wife it is definitely something about moving around and thinkin' on stuff that gets the ball rolling.

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  9. Dani, I don't remember how I happened to stumble upon your blog. As you know, reading one thing leads to another, so I assume I was following a trail of links. What I want to tell you is that your blog is one of my favorites. At first, I did not understand your penchant for "dressing up" at home. Most of us probably wear our most comfortable clothing at home, whether that is work out clothes, jeans and t-shirts, or, as I am dressed now, a summer sleeveless shift. BUT, what I have learned from you is a sense of grace, love of beauty, and the kindness you show to all of your readers.

    I agree that it is good to read meaty tomes. I usually choose history instead of philosophy, but have good memories of my single college philosophy class. I took it the first semester of my freshman year and I am still pondering teleology and deontology. (I hope I've spelled those correctly.)

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    1. Susan the fact that you can remember those terms tells me you learned quite a bit! I wish I had taken more history, though of course studying philosophy is really studying the history of philosophy, but we tend to ignore many of the events around the thinkers.
      I don't know how you found my blog either but I'm sure glad you did. Thank you!

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  10. Great post Dani. Perfect for the awful events of the week.

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  11. I guess I should be known as the Mow Philosopher. I am never more relaxed and at peace, when alcohol is NOT involved, than on the riding mower. It's twenty minutes of praying to God, twenty minutes of silence, twenty minutes of listening to God.

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    1. Mow Philosopher, you have good company in life with my Grandma Jean. She loved her riding mower too, and some of the great stuff she came up with back in those days, I bet she thought of while riding her lawn mower!

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  12. What a great post Dani... I have been really bad at reading my classic and specially the philosophy book. Strangely enough, it was my best topic while studying, knowing I was in a technical section, meaning, math, physics and technics were really the main topics and others such as philosophy were secondary...
    I am for the moment deeply in Sir Ken Robinson and I am reading the Element... I definitely can tell you that this book will change my life. How much I can't say it now, but I already know it will...
    By the way, it was a pleasure to read you.

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    1. Steph what is this Element, I'll have to go find out. Math and physics, you are like my son, I was just speaking to him, he wrote his Quantum Physics exam on Monday which went very well for him, he's dropping his philosophy so that he can focus on physics and math, insisting that he can read philosophy his whole life and it's true, it is a subject which can be self-taught to a point, that's definitely not the case with physics and maths.

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  13. Thank you for this, Dani.

    A Beloved Relative told me that when she was in high school, her English teacher assigned the class to pick an important writer, living or dead, and write a letter to him/her. In the letter they had to ask at least one question. My BR wrote to Bertrand Russell, and in an excess of enthusiasm, mailed the letter, care of his publisher. To everyone's shock, Lord Russell answered, and they corresponded for quite a few years.

    So I am going to ask my favorite philosopher a question that's been rabbiting around my brain lately: is it better to have had one great lightening-bolt love that burns out fast or otherwise ends early, or a few slow steady relationships that, uh, simmer at a gentle heat for a long time?

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    1. Fred, I'm shocked that your BR corresponded with Bertrand Russell! My gosh I hope she saved the letters!

      Are you asking me this question? Well I'm not sure you are but if so I can only tell you that slow and steady wins the race, and provides the most pleasure in the end!

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  14. I think you are right, Dani, The Good Life is found in the everyday. (Not that I wouldn't fancy a trip to Europe now and then too!)

    And I know what you mean about big ideas developing while mopping the floor etc. Kind of calls into question the notion of domestic tasks as "mindless," doesn't it?

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    1. Sarah, I know. Maybe more like Mindful Chores. Of course, as my MrBP says, it's all in the attitude we bring, mindful vs mindless I guess it's up to us. We make it all up. Life is a subjective experience isn't it!
      The everyday is beautiful, of course it does seem especially beautiful in Europe... ;)

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  15. Posts like these are wonderful Dani. Lots of food for thought. I love the idea of elevating my cleaning chores to add a meaningful intellectual or spiritual element.

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    1. I agree. I try to avoid chores, but my daily walk to work provides time and space for reflection and philosophising.
      My days of studying philosophy are dim and distant, but inspired by this post I think I will try to re-read some of the ancients.

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  16. Dani,
    I love this post. When I was on my sabbatical from working my mind was freed to think about so many things and I never felt more alive or inspired. Those months walking to pick up my daughter from school, vacuuming and scrubbing gave me such clarity and brought up so many thoughts and ideas. True Mop Philosophy I would say. It also was a period of my life where I started to understand what I truly want in my time here on earth and what I am willing to put up with in my life and what I am not.
    I miss those days alot. I miss my time pondering Mop Philosophy. Thank you for sharing.

    xo,
    Eleanor

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  17. ahhh, just sitting in the park and reading. what pure genius!

    x

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  18. Hi Dani, this is a wonderful post.

    I really enjoy reading your blog, and it is through your blog that I discovered this nice community of thoughtful and intelligent bloggers. I sometimes feel like starting a blog, to more fully participate in the community, but that's not for me at the moment so instead I leave chatty comments!

    I love your idea of reading something meaty before moving on to chores, I think I will try this. I also like to listen to radio programs while doing things around the house. When I lived in Canada, I'd listen to Ideas on CBC while doing the dishes.

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    1. Hi Abby, I have the CBC on all day long, it really keeps me company when the house is quiet!
      Thanks and I love your chatty comments, if you ever do start writing a blog sign me up!

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  19. Dani, this is such a great post! I must try this. I spend a lot of time sitting and reading, so that's become my "thinking pose". As an academic, I don't get a whole lot of time doing mop philosophy, but most of my epiphanies happen in the shower or while sleeping. I think Marcus had a point: life is what happens when you are out there living it rather than sitting at a desk pushing abstract ideas. Can you tell publishing deadlines have turned me into a cynic?

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    1. Hi Anthro Blogger, I was surprised that Marcus threw up his hands and gave up studying as he was quite gifted, who knows maybe he went back to it. Publishing deadlines would chain one to a desk, well I would say you are a cheerful cynic anyway. ;)

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  20. Hi Dani-OK, I've cheated, being chicken that I am and cowed by the obvious intellect of those who post on this blog. When I was young, I was quite headstrong(possibly that would be the polite way to characterize my thought processes, though hard-as-concrete headed would be more accurate) and I was darned if anyone was going to tell me how to approach thinking about things, including what the world deemed great modern thinkers. I had read bits and pieces of the old guys(Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus) growing up and appreciated their talent for merging truths and a mean Greek phrase. When I got to college and was given the philosophy or math choice, calculus won easily. I've not changed in this. I find that I do some good thinking, like Blue Booby, when I'm out appreciating nature, however it is not a lawn mower that is my vehicle for introspection, rather a slightly dull shovel. For many years my most favorite thought-provoker has been the apostle Paul and his beautiful words of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. "What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror: then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial: then it will be complete-as complete as God's knowledge of me. Meanwhile, these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 12-13. Thank you for your lovely blog and the goodness you give to it.

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    1. Thank you David, and thanks for this image of you in your garden with a dull shovel and your mind fixing on the words of the apostle Paul!

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  21. I love to read and I read quite a lot, including a little bit of philosophy aad such but I am afraid I tend to digest too fast. Many times I forget what I read two weeks ago... I find that slowing down really helps and I try to keep the journal of what I read. I recently found that doing yoga really helps me with getting into more meditative mode and makes my reading more meaningful. Another thing that helps me is to just lay down for half an hour listening to music and just thinking of what I read or what I have been pondering over recently. I know, it sounds like a luxury but it beats perusing the websites in the same amount of time...
    I love the idea of a book club too, count me in. As for Marcus, I find encounters with people I haven't gotten in touch for a very long time, but which were important to me in the past, utterly fascinating, regardless of what happened in their lives. It usually is not so much about what happened with them but more about what happened with us, how much and how little we changed after all those years, so if it was me I would look him up (unless it was also a romantic attachment that you don;t want to revisit).

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    1. ajc it definitely wasn't a romantic attachment! You have a very curious mind and I can understand the fascination with meeting people from way-back-when. I find I have to re-read anything challenging over and over in order to have an understanding, very different from reading novels which are pure entertainment.

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  22. Thanks for this very thoughtful post. It had a very calming effect on me. Most of the time, I feel so frazzled and burnt out, it is hard to carve out some me-time/alone-time. My husband relaxes while watching TV shows and movies, but for some reason, I tend to get more stressed out - I keep think of all these other things I have to do. Your idea of reading something weighty before doing something mundane (like the neverending housework) is a good one. I haven't read much in the way of philosophy, but recently I have been digging through some science articles and textbooks, and reading those. The analysis and problem solving aspect of science (specifically, chemistry) has always worked well to occupy and calm my brain.

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  24. Great post and an idea well worth trying!

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