In “Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day,” author Robert Rowland Smith takes the things that make up our day-to-day existence (waking up, getting ready, cooking, etc.) and applies various big philosophies to those little actions. In the book, he tackles commuting, so we had him give us three mantras on the philosophical importance of our daily trudge to work.
Love thy neighbor
“You get into the train or the bus or the car, and somehow think you’re different. On your way to work, you believe the calls you have to make are especially important; that the meeting will make a big difference; that the presentation could swing it. Same on the way home. You think that getting back for the kids, finishing those e-mails, getting to that game, or watching the season finale carries significance greater than that of anyone else around you. But the truth is, they’re all thinking the same. Everyone has their agenda, and on the way to or from work, you’re in a much more universal space than you might think. So practice some compassion. Love thy neighbor on the next seat.”
“Commuting usually forms part of a routine. And a routine can affect one’s inner life as much as one’s outer habits. It’s not just that you catch the same ferry at the same time; it’s that the thoughts you have more or less repeat those you had the day before. They vary a bit, but they generally fit within a pattern. So buck the trend. Look at the next stranger you see, and think yourself into their lives. What’s it really like? If you were born in the same setup, what would you be thinking now?”
Stop dreaming, start living
“When you commute, you intensely feel how commuting is all too real, so you fantasize about an ideal life on an island or in a penthouse. But the more you fantasize, the further you remain from your ideal. So ditch your fantasies: they keep you in a state of passive wanting. Instead, you must make an action that counts, and that proves you weren’t just another dreamer.”