David Dillard-Wright, Ph. D., is an associate professor at the University of South Carolina Aiken. His research examines human relationships with non-human animals and the environment, including topics in bioethics and philosophy of mind.
What is the study of philosophy and how does it influence us today?
“Etymologically, philosophy is the “love of wisdom.” It refers not necessarily to finding wisdom but to the search for it, the pursuit of it. We all hope to find wisdom, but there are no guarantees. The study of philosophy is looking back over the centuries to find the ideas that people have found to be helpful in one area of life or another. We then use the tradition to look for ways to approach the problems of today, whether we are talking about politics or art or ethics.
In philosophy, we don’t throw away the work of previous generations. So we can still read Plato and Aristotle and find inspiring things there. There is an odd feeling sometimes in reading philosophy, where it feels like the author is speaking directly to you. Of course, this is due to the excellent work of translators and editors who keep these texts up-to-date for our time and language. I think anyone can read philosophy and benefit from it, even if it is difficult to understand. Philosophy provides good mental exercise, even for those who might not want to make a lifelong study or a professional study. “
Have you found yourself having self doubt sometimes? If so were you ever in denial?
“Self-doubt is one of those demons that we all face, that nagging inner critic. I think the best medicine is to just ignore that voice and proceed anyway. Usually the things most worth doing are a little bit scary. If they are not a little bit scary, they become mundane, even boring. So we should see that little bit of fear as an ally: it tells us that we are on the right track creatively, pushing the boundaries of what we have done in the past. Denial is somewhat related. It can be an avoidance tactic for ignoring something important but not very fun.
Perhaps we want to avoid some less-than-flattering part of our personalities. Other people, especially those who are close to us, can see these acts of denial more clearly than we can. That’s why we need to be in relationships with others.”
Do you believe self doubt starts from a young age?
“I believe that self-doubt, like most negative emotional states, can be passed down in families. We unconsciously adopt the tendencies that our parents have. Self-doubt begins in childhood when children don’t receive enough expressions of praise, love, and support. We really need to do a better job of letting our children know that they are loved and valued, not just for the things that they achieve, but unconditionally. We can also help children by learning to deal with our own self-doubt. Then we will be a better example for young people, who are always looking to us for cues as to how they should live.”
How long did it take you to write this book?
“I have written this trilogy of meditation books, first, A Mindful Day, then A Mindful Evening, and now A Mindful Day, in a little more than a year. Of course, the research and practice that went into writing the books took many years, probably a decade or two. I set a goal of writing a thousand words per day. I didn’t do this every day, but it was a good goal to keep me on schedule. This is a practice I would recommend to all writers who want to get a lot done in a short period of time.”
When did you find yourself interested in mindful thoughts?
“I first got started with the Christian tradition of contemplative prayer during college, reading the books of Thomas Merton and other devotional writers. My interest in Indian philosophy and meditation came a few years later. Now I look for inspiration wherever I can find it, although I do practice traditional forms of yogic meditation under a qualified lineage of gurus.” Link to book https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Evening-Complete-each-heart
What has been your greatest accomplishment throughout your career?
“That’s pretty tough to say. I’ve written academic work in animal studies and philosophy of mind, but I also like the more popular stuff I have been doing with meditation and mindfulness. I let my curiosity be my guide. So I’ve written about feral children, about the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, about politics, and about my innermost thoughts. It’s odd that I feel funny posting on Facebook, but I’m totally comfortable revealing myself in printed books! My writing is a pretty good reflection of what I was thinking at the time, like a trail of breadcrumbs that I have left behind me.”
If you could go back in time what’s some advice you’d tell your younger self?
“I would say, try to be at peace with yourself. Don’t look for external validation. Get right with yourself, and everything else will follow.”
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