The Ithaca Diaries Mission Statement
The Ithaca Diaries aspires to create a community of growth-oriented individuals by producing content that is thought-provoking, educational, and pragmatic in the real world. I aspire to provide an antidote to the generic, preachy material of the 'self-help' industry. I believe self-awareness and inner mastery are the building blocks to a good life.
Offering both a podcast and a written blog, the holistic approach will incorporate a vast a...rray of ideas and disciplines.
The podcast seeks to pull back the curtain on individuals of great interest, deconstructing the philosophical toolkits and the principles used on their journey.
To date these interviews have gone beyond surface level topics, and even beyond the interviewees’ perceived domain of expertise, to produce a distinctly unique and thought-provoking discussion. We discuss the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the guests’ mindset.
The podcast is worth your time if you aspire to:
Expand your intellectual horizons.
Become a powerful individual people want to be around. Knowledge is power.
Challenge your preconceived opinions and biases. Ignorance is not bliss.
Enhance your self-awareness and self-confidence. Become socially adept and transcend social hierarchies.
Be a part of engaging conversations discussing ideas, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, politics, and social/cultural commentary.
The written blog is a platform for documenting my own personal insights on my journey of intellectual and emotional maturity. The original content is philosophically and psychologically oriented, yet spans a wide spectrum of influences.
Who am I?
In the real world The Ithaca Diaries is more commonly known as Brian Cronin, a 24 year old from Dublin in Ireland. I was compelled to start The Ithaca Diaries for two main reasons:
i. I am driven by an insatiable intellectual curiosity. Through The Ithaca Diaries I aspire to shine a light on the awe and magnificence of life, and simultaneously try to figure out how to transcend the existential anxieties and the suffering of everyday living.
ii. I want to create something that is beyond myself, perhaps to provide greater meaning to my life. It is my (perhaps ambitious) goal to encourage and inspire people to empower themselves and live life on their terms, to return the favour that many of my greatest influences have had on me. I want to create a community of like-minded individuals who challenge and support each other along the journey of life.
Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes:
I have had the good fortune of coming across some insightful, thought-provoking and well written articles in recent times. I figured it might be useful to share these articles here for anyone who may be sufficiently intrigued, or simply wants to enrich their daily commute.
As I hope you have gathered, The Ithaca Diaries strives to avoid promoting any one ideology or agenda. As such, these articles will span a broad spectrum of topics. More than likely I’ll probably end up lin...king the articles that most challenge my own thinking, but ain’t that the whole point of the exercise.
Anyway I am kicking things off with this article from The New York Times Magazine, written by Michael Pollan back in 2002. It’s about meat eating, and farming, and nutrition, but mostly it’s about the supposed hypocrisy of veganism or vegetarianism as an animal friendly way of life.
Admittedly I do have my own personal opinions on this area. But this article challenged them in a variety of ways. Irrespective of your viewpoint, it is well worth a read. The article is actually an excellent entry point for a number of philosophical schools of thoughts. Pollan references Jeremy Bentham, utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant, Descartes, Peter Singer, Benjamin Franklin and many others.
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"The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionists are philosophers and saints"
- Will & Ariel Durant, 'The Lessons of History'
Re-learn how to think.
We are in the midst of a seismic cultural shift (Trump, Brexit are way bigger than most people appreciate). Things are changing. Nobody has a clue what is happening. Fluidity of thinking and the ability to perceive reality for what it actually is (and not what you've been thought to think it is) will be essential.
Explore. Break your habitual thought-processes. Ask questions of yourself. Challenge your pre-conceived ideas and beliefs about how the wor...ld works. Are they actually right? Observe how you perceive reality. Like examine your most basic assumptions.
Become comfortable with chaos and ambiguity. This is a chaotic process. It will be worth it though because you'll begin to see both yourself and the world for what they actually are.
School has a narrow purpose. It teaches us habitual, automated thinking (which is cognitively efficient but not good for knowledge). It does not teach us learning for learning's sake, harnessing the innate ability we possess for exploratory learning, which we experienced as a child or when we learn something new for the first time.
'Awaken', and become a force for good.
Killian Stokes is an individual who has walked the walk after being inspired and compelled to action by his eye-opening experiences travelling around Africa. A social entrepreneur and lecturer in global development, Killian combines his passion for economic and social justice with an eye for innovative business models that can end extreme poverty and protect the planet. He has worked for over twenty years across Eur...ope, Africa, Asia and US in the tech and not for profit sectors.
Killian and I began by taking stock of where we currently stand as a society, and some of the topical issues which need to be addressed (and why ultimately, there is cause for optimism). We proceeded to discuss:
Who is Killian Stokes?
How extreme poverty is being rapidly eradicating
Technology as a tool for alleviating poverty
Changing our relationship to people in need
Redefining ‘charity’ as ‘justice’ and ‘aid’ as ‘international welfare’
Is the Global North commercially interested in maintaining the status quo?
Africa’s resource curse
Internet access as a basic human right?
Changing population trends
The effect of emancipating women in developing countries
Reframing and redefining Africans as consumers
The coffee industry – a snapshot of global trade inequality
The relationship between commerce and the environment
The effects of the population increasing
The existential threat to our planet
The two main challenges facing our world: extreme poverty and the environment
Moyee Coffee’s evolution
Reconstituting our approach to aid
Governance and corruption issues in Africa
Income inequality and the eroding of the middle class
The role of a strong government vis a vis business
Billionaires and philanthropy
The gift of life – what philosophy guides Killian’s life?
My intention was to write a clickbait article to improve my SEO on Google. What resulted, paradoxically, may be one of my most pragmatic articles.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious” – Albert Einstein
The foundational motive for establishing The Ithaca Diaries was curiosity. I wanted to fulfill a deep desire for knowledge and learning, and to explore the awe of life.
Gary McGowan embodies this same curiosity in his own unique and brilliant way. His originality of thinking provides the platform for a stimulating and eclectic discussion. There is value and wisdom emanating throughout this conversati...on. We surveyed a broad array of topics:
Who is Gary McGowan?
Curiosity as a way of life
Dropping out of college
Life is not supposed to be easy
Happiness as a long-term game
The snowflake generation
Rights versus responsibilities
Victim mindset and its relationship to mental health
The softening of our environment is damaging the resilience of the individual
Discipline equals freedom
Mental fatigue from constant productivity?
Reflections and impact of working in an orphanage in Belarus
Transcending the suffering of the world
Religion – do we need it? And its useful function in society
Physiology of stress
Psychology is physiology
Stop comparing yourself to the ‘Irish fitfam’
Triage’s niche offering for females training – menstrual cycles & dietary adaptations
The lack of nutrition education in schools in Ireland
Gary’s greatest influences and recommended intellectual resources
Becoming a well-rounded, independent thinker
Jordan Peterson and the Self-Authoring Program
The Malleability of Your Reality
We tend to view reality as unquestionably objective. It simply is what it is. Since the Scientific Revolution we have made enormous technological and scientific strides in applying this approach to the world around us. This was largely founded on old Newtonian physics, which claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of it.
Quantum physics subsequently made the discovery that the act of observation actually aff...ected the object being observed.
From this we can extrapolate that as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes. Reality is, in essence, malleable and subjective. If you ask two people to recount the facts of a shared experience, invariably you’ll often find that two completely different stories are disseminated. Why is that? The perception of reality differs depending on the observer.
We often use the analogy of ‘the glass half full/empty’ to differentiate between a positive and a negative perception of life. I think we could take this a step further. One could consider the glass half full of water, or instead half full of air. It depends entirely on how you perceive what is in the confines of the glass (or in any given situation). Both perceptions are correct, yet different.
Why is this relevant?
Our perception of our experiences in life determines how we experience the experience. We always have a choice when it comes to what perception we choose to adopt. Often one perception will prove to be more empowering and reassuring, while the other is based on fear and conspiracy.
Of course there are limits to such thinking. Certain things which happen to us are undeniably terrible. But the malleability of our reality, according to our perception, empowers us in the majority of situations. As Marianne Williamson said,“a miracle is merely a shift in perception”.
Almost anything can be leveraged to our advantage. We can extract value from every interaction, obstacle, and experience if we so wish.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, it could be an opportunity for forgiveness.
When someone is rude to you on the street, it could be an opportunity for compassion.
When you’re forced to do something you don’t want to do, it could be an opportunity for cultivating resilience and discipline.
The list goes on.
As with many concepts, this all sounds simple in theory. It is a far greater challenge to implement it in practice. I think the first step is realising that the power of perception lies within your control, and that your perception affects the reality of your experiences.
The Ithaca Diaries
"One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts".
- John O'Donoghue (a superb, gifted Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher. Its perplexing why he isn't more well known, considering the breadth and brilliance of his work. I myself only became aware of him within the past year)
For 25 consecutive days I posted content to The Ithaca Diaries. It was a challenge, but a very enjoyable one.
Recently my priorities shifted and therefore I do not intend to continue posting daily. The creative demands meant that I could not devote enough time to writing long form articles, which is ultimately what I most enjoy and wish to pursue....
I derived two key takeaways from this endeavour:
1. You can make the time for anything. Due to my commitments outside of The Ithaca Diaries, producing a piece of content required me waking up at 6am everyday to write, and then sometimes working late in the evening after I came home from work. This may seem daunting, but I honestly enjoyed ‘the grind’. What I learnt is that you can make time for anything if it means enough to you. This can either involve sacrificing something less important, being more efficient with your time (for instance writing on your daily commute), or sleeping less. The choice is yours.
2. The more ‘at bats’ you take the greater your chance of being noticed. Frequency pretty much essential when it comes to online traction. I would like to think that I maintained the quality of content to which I strive. I certainly found that the demand to produce something everyday focused my mind to create and instigate new thoughts.
I still fully intend to produce a high frequency of content. But in order to devote the time, attention, and perhaps most importantly the mental energy towards my restated ambitions, 365 Consecutive Blog Posts is being put on the backburner.
Productivity is cool, but it aint the be all and end all.
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Have you ever tried to view yourself in a detached, objective manner? I mean observe yourself from afar and judge yourself as you would a stranger. Every single little thing you do: from habits to patterns of thinking to social interactions to fidgeting to the words you use in conversation.
This can be an incredibly beneficial, fun and (sometimes) frightening endeavour. Engaging in the process of conducting a personal inventory of everything that makes... you ‘you’ requires constant reminders, in order to take yourself out of your ‘mind’ and become removed from your body to the position of third person observer.
A good analogy is to view yourself as if you were observing a chimp in an experiment (which, ironically, is essentially what we are). Or view yourself like you would someone you’re caring for – a child for instance. We can often be very blind to many of our ways of being simply because they have become so ingrained over time.
I am attempting to keep a list of the things I would like to start doing + things I would like to stop doing. It is an exercise in humility laying everything out bare on paper.
The Ithaca Diaries