"The return to life can't come about by talking..."

William James said there lurks for each of us a "worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight," a potential despoiler of our happiness which we must overcome if we are to reclaim our natural vitality and the enthusiasm for living which is our birthright. James had a lot to say about this. Academic philosophers—and James was one of the first—usually do have a lot to say. But James was one academic who knew that talk can carry us only so far. "The return to life can't come about by talking. It is an act; to make you return to life, I must set an example for your imitation, I must deafen you to talk." James urges that we listen instead to our own hearts' yearnings, cultivate our personal enthusiasms and reap the harvest of our habitual "delights." In the process, he thinks we may achieve not merely our own happiness but a greater regard for others and a deeper experience of life. Paradoxically, a Jamesian kind of self-regard may be the best antidote to blinding egoism and despair, and an overlooked avenue to "transcendence" and a genuinely spiritual life which is yet fully and responsibly engaged in the communal life of our species.

Phil Oliver