A Library on the purpose of man

The Age of Empathy (De Waal), Working (Studds Terkel), Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (Galileo), The Nature of Things (Lucretius), The Histories (Herodotus), A Vindication of the Right of Woman (Wollstonecraft), One Man's WIlderness (Proenneke)

De Waal,"The Age of Empathy"
Studds Terkel, "Working" Man was made to work. In the beginning we worked for the necessities of life, hunting and gathering. Over time we would develop and advance our work, making our lives better and changing our interaction with the world. Part of this need to work is to have a purpose in life. Whether it be to keep yourself fed, devote your life building a cathedral to God, or researching for the next medical science breakthrough. In the modern day however, this sense of purpose is being lost as human jobs are slowly replaced by technology. With this loss of purpose comes a sad outlook on life and sense of being lost.
Galileo, "Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany" Galileo was a genius forced to constantly fight against the Catholic church. During this time period the church was incredibly powerful as well as corrupt. Church leaders understood that knowledge is power. A Man like Galileo, making claims that went against the church doctrine, threatened the unbreakable hold the church had on its followers. He found purpose in this fight and continued to promote his ideas and discoveries. Though Galileo would eventually be prosecuted and locked in house arrest, his legacy remains today because of his sense of purpose and motivation to enlighten.
Lucretius, "The Nature of Things" The Roman poet attempts to explain the mysteries of the natural world. He sees that their is a natural order to things and that every element of nature has a calculated purpose. His writings bring up questions about the meaning of life, fate, the circle of life, and death. The main motivational factor for man is a fear of inescapable death. Dutch and Flemish artists of the Renaissance often focused on these same ideas through their ornate "memento moro" still lives. These paintings are filled with secrets and allegories that relate to the briefness of life and impending death.
Herodotus, "The Histories"
Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" Studds Terkel interviews a handful of women in "Working", a testament to the time where women were less welcome in the workplace. Their jobs are all low in skill and put them in a position to serve a man. Wollstonecraft, who came decades before these women, preaches for the woman to elevate herself and fight for equality. She sees the second class status the woman has in the world, and she therefore feels like she lives a lesser life. She argues that the woman needs to find purpose in life for herself, and not to serve a man. John Singer Sargent painted "Madame X" in 1883 and it quickly caused an uproar. Now surely one of his most famous paintings, it was at the time of its creation considered scandalous and ruined his career in Paris. It is a fascinating image of the classical objectification of women, while simultaneously showing a strong, mysterious woman. She looks away from the artist with indifference and stands with an elegant strength. It was a new view of the woman, seeing her as a human with a personality rather than a beautiful Venus figure.
Dick Proenneke, "One Man's WIlderness" "One Man's WIlderness" is a collection of journal entries written by Dick Proenneke while he lived completely isolated and self sustained for 40 years in the Alaskan Wilderness. Fed up with his American life, Proenneke journeyed to Alaska where he built a cabin for himself. He lived off the land, built his own tools, and documented his stay. What began as a 2 year experiment would become his way of life until his death 40 years later. Proenneke found the ultimate purpose and pleasure in life by returning to the most basic forms of working and finding beauty in simplicity and nature. Though his new life required more physical labor than most lifestyles, he found freedom from the constraints and stress made by our society.
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