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Wisdom from The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

by Charly Mann

Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) believed that all humans have the potential for becoming wise and virtuous, but that most of us will not achieve this because we are not focused enough on acquiring real knowledge. He believed that all of our problems can be solved, and that man can achieve inner peace if he acquires sufficient wisdom.


The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Socrates taught that the best way to learn was by asking important questions. He believed that an educational system like the one most us are schooled in, where people are simply taught the right answers does not help people do this. He said if one wants to find the truth one must learn to think for themselves, and be skeptical of conventional wisdom and what people you associate with believe.

Socrates usually responded to his students' questions with another question. He felt open-ended questions made his students think critically and express their own ideas. He knew that everyone has built-in beliefs and biases, and emphasized that the only way to overcome this was to always question what we are told to believe.

The greatest virtue according to Socrates was knowledge. He reasoned that if one truly knew what was good, one could never do wrong. He held that the reason there is so much evil and immorality in the world was because there was so much ignorance.

Socrates lived in ancient Athens, the world's first democracy. He was considered dangerous by the majority of people in that city because he was constantly posing thoughtful questions that challenged their convictions. The people of Athens took pride in the fact that its people were free and could speak their mind. Socrates, however, pointed out that most of the people who lived there were slaves and had no freedom.  He also rejected the officially accepted polythesistic religion of the state that held only people of Greek ancestry would have a life after death. Socrates disagreed and stated, "All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." These words were considered blasphemous and the major reason the people of Athens put him to death.

Socrates was a man of the highest character. He dedicated his life to lifting others from their ignorance without regard for his own income or personal safety. He was aware that people who tried to expose the ignorance and hypocrisy of the established order would likely be ostracized, and often imprisoned and put to death. 

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An Interview with Socrates

The following conversation occurred along a walking trail I traverse for exercise almost every morning.

Charly Mann: What – where did you come from – do I know you?

Socrates: Were you not recently thinking about me?

Charly Mann: Yeah – oh I get it... you must be an actor playing the role of Socrates in Aristophanes' play THE CLOUDS being performed at the nearby college.

Socrates: No my friend, I am Socrates.

Charly Mann: Look buddy... cool... whatever you say. Now I want to get back to my walk.

Socrates: So you do not think I am Socrates?

Charly Mann: Look, you can be whoever you want to be, but just so you know Socrates died over 2500 years ago after drinking hemlock.

Socrates: Yes, my soul did leave my body, but my presence is alive as long as people like you think about my ideas.

Charly Mann: Okay – I'll play along for a while. You can be Socrates, and I'll ask you some questions. Why don't you walk along with me? I'll slow my pace down on account of your age.

Socrates: I will enjoy walking with you, but let us walk faster. Fast walking does for the body what thinking does for the mind.

Charly Mann: Hey that's a good line. So here is a question I would ask the real Socrates. Can one find happiness in life?

Socrates: Life is not for making you happy, but for perfecting your character. To strengthen oneself requires great challenges. Does your life give you those?

Charly Mann: Yes, I know from experience that life is a series of great challenges.

Socrates: That is very good. Life should be a psychological gymnasium that gives you opportunities to work on yourself.

Charly Mann: Out of curiosity Sir, I always thought Socrates spoke in Greek. You seem to have mastered English quite well since the time of your death.

Socrates: Ah yes, there is only one language to know if one is fortunate to spend time in the company of the Divine, and that has been English for almost 200 years.

Charly Mann: Okay so why is that?

Socrates: God has a small group of souls that she spends much of her time with. When we gather it always includes someone you may have heard of named Jane Austen, who sits on the Supreme's left side. Being in God's presence is the most blissful experience one can imagine, but even the Divine seems overwhelmed when Jane reads to us.

Charly Mann: I see, and would I know anyone else in this select group?

Socrates: Yes there are only two others, Marcus Aurelius and George Washington.

Charly Mann: A rather small group considering all the souls who must reside in heaven.

Socrates: Yes we are all fortunate to have escaped the cycle of birth and death and gain eternal life, but much of heaven is reflected in your own world. Each soul is an individual that has its own interests.  Everyone is in a constant state of joy and peace of mind, but few even in heaven have much desire to learn more. For the most part they are all intoxicated by the serenity of their eternal existence and seek nothing more.

Charly Mann: I must say that sounds wonderful.

Socrates: It is not enough for me, and those who are closest to God. The real health of the soul comes from continuous growth. My gift has been to provoke and even annoy others to come to know themselves, for only in this way can we ever really be close to God. Jane Austen, for example, has written hundreds of books since she came to us, each much better than the previous. On the other hand, most of the great writers, philosophers, composers, and artists you know from your world simply ceased creating and growing when they settled in heaven, being satisfied with perpetual bliss.

Charly Mann: So let's get back to earth for a moment, I have long had an interest in how to best find contentment in this world.

Socrates: Almost all of one's discontentment on earth stems from an inability to sit quietly with oneself.

Charly Mann: You mean like meditation?

Socrates: No, meditation usually means emptying your mind. Your mind is meant for thinking and learning.

Charly Mann: And what types of things should I be doing then?

Socrates: The best way to use time is by improving yourself through other men's writings so that you can come easily to what others have labored hard to know.

Charly Mann: Alright, but there are many responsibilities and distractions one encounters each day which make it difficult to find much time for this kind of self-improvement.

Socrates: Nonsense. You should focus on excellence and learning whether you are at work or at play. There should be no distinction between the two.

Charly Mann: There are so many bad things in this world. Can I do anything to improve it, or should I leave that for God?

Socrates: God has sent help to this world, and it is you and every other person who inhabits this earth.

Charly Mann: But the problems seem immense. I really don't think someone like me can make much of an impact.

Socrates: The problem with you and almost everyone else on this planet is that they think like you. They refuse to aim too high in their ambition because they are afraid they will miss their goal, so instead, they aim too low and they reach it.

At this point we reached a bench on the side of the trail and Socrates sat down and then told me to continue my walk without him.

I became interested in Socrates in 1963 when I was in the eighth grade and had to read excerpts of Plato’s Dialogues that describe his character and philosophy. Since then I have spent countless hours reading and re-reading Plato's Apology, Symposium, and Citro as well as Xenophon’s Apology that all focus on Socrates’ beliefs and life, and were written by two men who knew him well.

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We All Belong to One Race - The Human Race

by Charly Mann

President Barack Obama's ancestry is 50% black and 50% white, yet he declares himself black. For much of the history of the United States federal and state courts have said a person was black even if they were only one thirty-second or one-sixteenth black. In no other country in the world has another group of people been defined this way.

I believe a person's race, and in most cases gender, should not matter. If they do, then we are guilty of racial discrimination. It is ludicrous to think we can make an objective judgment about a person based on their race. If it is necessary to evaluate an individual, one should do it on criteria such as their experiences, character, accomplishments, or education. Whether you accept Darwin's theory of evolution that we all descended from a common apelike ancestor, or the belief of most religions that God created us in his image, we must agree that the only race is the human race. A physical trait such as skin color is just an arbitrary way to classify people. We might just as logically classify people by their hair or eye color. Today far too many of classify someone as Black, Asian, or Hispanic because of what they look like. Almost everyone considers Tiger Woods to be black, even though his mother is Asian. Similarly, Halle Berry, who has been hailed as the first African American to win best actress Academy Award, had a white mother, who actually raised her.

A common principle of the world's religions and philosophies is the essential unity of all people. Any idea that claims one group of people is inherently superior or inferior to another has no scientific foundation, and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity.

The painting featured in this article is called The Octoroon Girl, done by Archibald Motley in 1925. Motley's ancestry was Creole, Native American, and African American, but he was considered black, and at time when interracial marriage was almost totally unknown, he married a white woman, ostracizing them both from their families and most other people. Motley was very aware about how people focused on race. He admired the many shades of skin tone found among people classified as Negro. He also knew how a person's skin color affected their quality of life. The woman in the painting was legally black, yet because she could pass as white, she had many more opportunities than darker skinned blacks of the time.

 

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Smiling is Infectious

Smiling is infectious,
You catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner,
And someone saw my grin,
When he smiled I realized,
I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile,
Then realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine,
Could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin,
Don't leave it undetected.
Let's start an epidemic quick,
And get the world infected.

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Interested People Have Great Lives

We live in a world where we are overloaded with information, but most of us have few passionate interests. People who are enthralled by one or more subjects become captivated with learning about what interests them. This invigorates their mind and turbocharges their thinking.

The best way to find what is intellectually stimulating to you is to ask yourself the question: “What makes me curious?” If nothing quickly comes to mind think of something you deeply want to achieve, and then get motivated to get the information and develop the skill that will allow you to fulfill your goal.

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Your Destiny Is In Your Hands

by Charly Mann

All of the world’s great religions share the belief that our purpose in life is to work for salvation through compassion and spiritual awareness. This means we should always live by the Golden Rule. All of the great teachers of the major religions including Buddha, Jesus, Moses, and Mohammad emphasized it is not what you say you believe that will lead to divine enlightenment, but how you act. This means a truly spiritual person lives their life differently from everyone else. However in today’s world I do not see much evidence of this. People instead focus their lives on the idea that they can find a bit of heaven on earth by attaining contentment through a romantic relationship and/or their job. These are two beautiful ideals, but they require hard work, constant attention, talent, and good fortune. In our modern world jobs are rarely permanent and romantic love usually fades within a few years,

 

Most people spend much of their time focusing on their own problems, infected by the disease that ravages humanity; self-pity. Self-pity prevents us from spiritual and personal growth. It also makes us self-destructive and mentally unbalanced. We have become obsessed by the belief that whatever goes wrong in our lives is somebody else’s fault. As a result the majority of people are hopelessly discouraged from working hard or being ethical, since life will never be fair.

 

The truth is your destiny is in your hands. How you make it in this world, for the most part, depends more on what you do than whether people like or dislike you. Discipline, hard work, ethical behavior, and most importantly enthusiasm are the ingredients for getting the most out of life. Be determined to do the best you can in your job and your personal life. If you are attracted to taking responsibility for your life, you will derive great joy and satisfaction from almost everything you do. Finally, the best cure for self-pity is to stop thinking about yourself and instead do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
Charly Mann

About Me

Ever since I was very young I have been intrigued with how one could live happily ever after like the characters I read about in fairy tales. As a child I noticed most of the adults I was exposed to were often anxious and angry, and only a very few seemed to be calm and happy. By the time I was a teenager I was scouring philosophy and psychology books looking for instructions on how to have a marvelous life. I also began questioning scores of adults I would encounter about their philosophy on life and what they thought one needed to do to be perfectly contented. In 1967, at the age of 17, I started a daily journal that compiled all the information I acquired that day on the subject. Today that journal includes three dozen large notebooks and more than 3,400 pages on my hard drive.

I have had a marvelous life thus far - most of it incredibly happy, healthy, and successful. Since 1968 I have also tracked how happy and successful I was in the previous year. Through the end of 2013, each year has been significantly better than the year before. I believe much of this can be attributed on what I learned and implemented in my own life about achieving good health, success, and happiness. As I mature and learn more my methodology for making my life great has changed a lot. I achieved enormous financial success before I was 25, which contributed greatly to my enjoyment of life for almost a decade, but even before I was 30 I found that there were things far more important than wealth that made my life great and I keep discovering more. I have had financial independence since I was very young, but almost all the joys and pleasure I now derive from life are free or cost very little.

On Uplifting Visions I share insights that I have gained from my own experience, observation, and a life of research on attaining happiness, health, and success.

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