"It's important to try to change yourself"

How a philosopher Ales Antipenko, moving to the village, changed his lifestyle and wrote a book.

Фота Сяргея Ждановіча
Алесь Анціпенка – беларускі філосаф, медыя-аналітык, аўтар кнігі «Быць прысутным» (2012), адзін з заснавальнікаў Беларускага інстытуту стратэгічных даследаванняў, былы кіраўнік «Беларускага калегіюму».

Пяць гадоў таму спадар Алесь з'ехаў з Мінска на лецішча, што ў Смалявіцкім раёне. Там нарадзілася яго новая кніга «Прыпадобніўшыся да насарога». Назва кнігі – частка рэфрэну будысцкай «Кхагавісана суты», які цалкам гучыць так:

«Ідзі адзін, сваім шляхам, прыпадобніўшыся да насарога».
- I had no intention to write books after leaving Minsk. I decided to work on myself instead.
My life in the city became too dull, and it seemed to me that I began to lose something important.
Even before the "escape" from Minsk, I felt, if not "knew", that each of us has a completely different person hidden inside. And I also knew "where," in which books I should "search" for this person, in the books by those people who had faced similar problems long before me. Laha Tzu's Khaggavisāṇa Sutta and Tao Te Ching are fine examples of brilliant explorations of the depths of the human inner self and a radical solution to our existential issues. These texts are united by the idea of the structures of our existence that are not always obvious. They require a change of mind or internal self-transformation to be seen.

I would also like to point out that the texts I mentioned are not just philosophy. In today's world, philosophy is understood to be something different. And I would not call my work a "collection." After all, all my texts are about the same thing, about something hidden and not obvious in all of us.
- Don't you feel the need to return to the city?

- I have no such need, really.
I seek neither fame, nor money, nor comfort, nor property.
I read and write about what is crucial and relevant to me only. Something that is important and familiar not as a theoretical reasoning, but as a practical experience of my own self-transformation. Again, I would like to expand the meaning of the word "philosophy" that we use.
My field of interest is better outlined as a religious, mystical, and philosophical thinking experience. An experience or a journey of human self-discovery. And that is what all the great texts of mankind are about,
from the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bible, and to the works of such "modern" mystics as Ibn Arabi, Ramakrishna, or Vivekananda.
- How do you distinguish between the experience of religious and philosophical thinking and philosophy itself? Is there a difference in their goals in the first place? Or is it something entirely different?

- The answer to your question is extremely voluminous. However, I will try to give a very brief answer relying on the intuition of the reader. Religion is a practical philosophy. In such a philosophy, there is no division into actions and theory, which could be different. But I'm not talking about the philosophy of life here. Life ends, and a true religious philosophy seeks what is given to us beyond life.
It is also an attempt to answer the question, "who am I?". And not just answer, but make it visible! And not in a social sense, but much deeper. This is exactly what my book is about.
And usually, philosophy can have various problems as a subject of its reasoning: from the ways of thinking to changes in the concept of the epistemological subject and to the problem of corporeality or sexuality.

The first way of reasoning where we question ourselves was actually lost in the European tradition after Parmenides and Socrates. But it was strongly developed in Hinduism, Buddhism, and in the form of Islamic mysticism - Sufism.
- How did you feel about the city? How has your understanding of a city changed over time?
- A person needs a city to expand their inner self.
To gain money, fame, power and property. Since I had no such ambitions, the city began to wear me out.
I'm "old" enough to live in the city, but young enough to genuinely enjoy the sun, the trees, the flowers,
my pets, the hedgehog called "Andrushka" and the large texts that belong to a variety of religious traditions but, in fact, to all of us. However, it is necessary to reject superstitions of different confessions to get it at times.
All of us can change our "patterns" of life. But if we do try to change them, then, from my point of view, it is important to understand the reason behind it.

And my thinking in the village has changed indeed. Or rather, I tried to change the coordinate system of my life to build an adequate hierarchy of values that would fit my desire to "live solemnly."
- "Live solemnly "... What do you mean by it?

- "To live solemnly" means living with light inside you. With an unshakable inner peace, harmony, and love for all living things. With compassion, which, if a person has it, shows how egocentric and how unjust we sometimes are. It guards us against cruelty and disrespect for what's alive.
- From my point of view, it is important to try to change yourself. Upon reaching a certain age of 40-50 years old, we often begin to walk the already trodden paths, think in the familiar formulas, "know" the answers to many questions, if not to all of them. And suddenly we feel tired. That's the trick.
Nothing is so tiring as mundane life, routine, the lack of a new vision of life, the confidence that we already know everything there is to know about ourselves and others.
And an even more serious issue is presented by developing incredible activism in an alleged attempt at changing something for the better. But in fact, we are just hiding emptiness inside us.

I understand that changing one's life is hard. But very, very often, people get dividends they never ever expected when they try.
- If you have little money, there are two ways to solve this problem. The first one is to try to earn more. Then you will certainly have less time to deal with your issues. And the second way is to minimize your needs. Then you will definitely have more time. And if you manage to find a way to change for the better in harmony with yourself as well, you will have an ever-expanding inner space of freedom and joy.
If you try to control yourself, the problem of comfort gradually disappears.
Naturally, I have no desire to fight for more comfort. And any cultivation of new desires and needs is the easiest way out of freedom.
Darya Traiden
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