Oxfam and UN advisor, tennis player, gardener and furniture-making fanatic, Roman Krznaric is the Brian Cox of philosophy, making it fun and relevant.
In the first part of his event at the Swindon Festival of Literature yesterday on the curious histories of how we live, I was reminded of my first year of my degree studies. This was about the Ancient Greeks and their various types of love. How ‘love’ didn’t necessarily mean passion, and how the Greeks actually felt wary of erotic love.
Which made me think that just because we (in the English language) don’t give different types of love their own names, does this mean we don’t have similar concepts? Or does giving them their own names raise awareness, legitimise them? Raise their importance? Or is the multitasking of one word just as good? Hmmm.
And here’s a ‘did you know’: the Eros statue in London’s Piccadilly Square is not the god of romance at all. Nope, it was erected (snigger) as a monument to his twin brother Anteros, the god of requited love and also known as the Angel of Christian Charity.
Ahha! I see what you’re doing there, Swindon Festival of Literature. I’m founding out things and getting a bit of mental exercise. Mission accomplished.
So plucked out of his book, The Wonder Box, Roman chose his five top people from history to inspire our modern day lives.
Japanese poet and pilgrim Matsuo Basho shows us – instead of going to Butlins or Italy for our holiday – the joys of a personal journey. Such as visiting the streets where your mother played as a child.
From Henry David Thoreau: the art of simple living. The idea that we can break the cycle of work-slavery by carving our spending into ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, and deciding if those ‘want’s are really necessary to happiness.
Helen Keller, the death-blind writer, teaches us how to appreciate all of our senses, rather than relying on sight, ‘walking around with our hands in our pockets.’
Writer George Orwell – he of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm – was one of the ‘great empathic adventurers of the twentieth century…It made him good and was good for him,’ said Roman. Basically, see how the other half live. I think the government needs a bit of this…pasty tax anyone? Festival director Matt Holland held up an earlier festival speaker and Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh as a great example of an empathic adventurer.
Writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft treated her life as an experiment and didn’t let the norms of the day stop her from being fulfilled.
Roman hopes that this approach to history will find its way into schools – lessons from the past teaching us how to live today. He gets my vote.