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10 Krishnamurti quotes on the meaning of life

The Indian philosopher had a lot to say.

  • The Indian philosopher taught that concepts get in the way of observation, and only by ridding yourself of concepts can you experience freedom.
  • Reared to be a Theosophist leader, Krishnamurti rejected that system (along with all others) in formulating his outlook.
  • His books touch upon topics such as education reform, physics, and meditation.

Of all the philosophers on my bookshelves, Jiddu Krishnamurti might be the hardest to implement. Born in India in 1895, he was initially groomed to be a "world teacher" in the Theosophical tradition, reared under British socialist Annie Besant, who in turn was trained under the cult's founder, Helena Blavatsky. Though owing his oratory powerful style in this tradition, he eventually rejected Theosophy, along with every other system created by man. Observation, not prejudgement, is a recurring theme in his talks, pointing to a path to understanding meaning — if meaning is even to be derived.

Following a transformative experience in Ojai in 1922 — some claim it to have been a possession or spiritual occurrence, others the result of an illness that he emerged from — Krishnamurti effectively mimicked the path Gotama had taken in achieving Buddhahood: reject all teachers for the wisdom of the experience. Yet even "self" is a debated topic in his many books and lectures over the next six decades until his death in Ojai in 1986. (I highly recommend visiting his center there, simply to gaze out into the beauty of the Ojai valley.)

Reading Krishnamurti, as mentioned, is no easy task. Many of his directives require a complete overhaul of how we view and live through reality. As demanding as he comes across on the page, he demanded much of his own mind. He openly discussed and debated with mystics, psychotherapists, and physicists in an attempt to encourage collaborative disciplines. All paths, he felt, describe one reality.

Krishnamurti's books are sometimes best read as koans, insights for further thought and internal debate. No worthwhile achievement is easily won. The man taught us to grapple with the contradictions in nature as well as our own minds, the highest form of intelligence.

Why are you here? | J. Krishnamurti

"That is the first thing to learn — not to seek. When you seek you are really only window shopping." (Freedom From the Known)

"It is man's pretense that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence." (Public talk in Ojai, April 1980)

"If you escape from the battle, you have not understood the battle. The battle is you." (The Awakening of Intelligence)

"Freedom comes with self-knowledge, when the mind goes above and beyond the hindrances it has created for itself through craving its own security… Freedom is at the beginning, it is not something to be gained at the end." (Education & the Significance of Life)

"One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid to the known coming to an end." (Fearless Soul)

Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti arrived in Sydney, 14 November 1970. Photo credit: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

"Freedom and love go together. Love is not a reaction. If I love you because you love me, that is mere trade, a thing to be bought in the market; it is not love. To love is not to ask anything in return, not even to feel that you are giving something — and it is only such love that can know freedom." (Think on These Things)

"When we look at what is taking place in the world we begin to understand that there is no outer and inner process; there is only one unitary process, it is a whole, total movement, the inner movement expressing itself as the outer and the outer reacting against the inner… Nobody need tell you how to look. You just look." (Freedom From the Known)

"Education in the true sense is helping the individual to be mature and free, to flower greatly in love and goodness. That is what we should be interested in, and not in shaping the child according to some idealistic pattern." (Education & the Significance of Life)

"When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind." (Krishnamurti: Reflections on the Self)

"Sacredness is a fetish." (The Awakening of Intelligence)

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  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
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  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
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"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

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  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
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  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

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  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

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