The other day I went to see the eye doctor, who told me I have blended vision: one of my eyes is farsighted and the other is nearsighted, but they function well together. Quite a fitting analogy for what Pierre Hadot called philosophy as the love and practice of wisdom. We tend to think of philosophy as hopelessly abstract, but if it is in part a practice then it focuses not only on what is far but also on what is near. One of the poems in my book Songs of Zarathustra tries to capture this insight:
FAR AND NEAR
The hand of those who legislate
Directs you to what’s far away:
Salvation, science, riches, state,
The things that by convention pay.
Instead consider what is near
To be your weightiest concern
And focus your attention here:
Apply your powers and discern
What benefits you in the way
You interact with foe and friend,
The best division of the day,
Reflection on the time you spend
In work and leisure, art and play,
In nature and society,
In what command and what obey,
In courage and propriety.
The body has its wisdom, too:
Philosophy applies to sleep,
To what you eat, to what you do
In daily life – this too is deep
And subject to a higher code
By following your natural mode,
You ground your own reality.
For related thoughts, see Nietzsche’s early work Human, All Too Human, Volume II, Part II, §§5-6.