How philosophy inspires living

"Always the journey, never the destination." Simon Rattle

Things don't always pan out the way we want them to. That's why the journey is so much more important than the destination. The things we learn about ourselves along the way, the struggles and moments of weakness, the brave steps into the abyss, the times we walk in the sun or can't, and the times we're helped along our path; they are the stepping stones which make us who we are, whether they lead us toward our desires or not. I'm a believer in the journey, not the destination. I have goals, but they're best kept flexible, because to me the end of a journey signifies a new one. 

Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Vesterbro, Copenhagen

My journeys have led me to wonderful places—places I've loved and places I'll always go back to—and along the way I've written in my heart a philosophy that straddles the line between hope and acceptance. I hope for the things I want. I work hard to achieve them. I accept the things I cannot change, and I instead alter my focus to let new dreams flourish. This might not be for everyone. My personal philosophy has been formed by my experiences and my personality, but it has driven me forward, given me perspective when I needed it, and made me happier in the life I've built than I would have been otherwise.

At être our brand philosophy guides every aspect of our business practice. From research, photography, design, copywriting, production and marketing, to store styling, aesthetic, business and brand development; our hands touch every aspect of our practice to ensure we're making a tangible connection with our audience. Our brand philosophy is simple authenticity, and it drives us to vet every place we recommend, take each photo we feature, hand illustrate our maps, write in our own words, design, print and hand produce every product we sell. In this way we share our view of the beautiful world we live in, and help our audience live authentically in the neighbourhoods we've loved. Even if just for a moment.

In our wanderings we often come across philosophies which inspire us. Confucianism is one of them. Although there are a few outdated concepts written into the fabric of this philosophy, it has a host of beautiful ideas to recommend it.

Herbert Fingarette conceptualised Confucianism as a system within which the "secular is sacred". Accordingly the ordinary activities of human life are revered, and the manifestation of this is human relationships. Therefore it is much more than just a philosophy. In fact, it is a way of life, reaching into all secular areas of society.

Confucian doctrine emphasises the the cultivation of virtue in a morally organised world. It rests upon the idea that humans are fundamentally good and teachable through communal and self-cultivation. I love that idea. That anything wrong in the world could be righted through learning. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, but Confucius was eons ahead of his time in prescribing education as the path to a better world. With the benefit of hindsight looking back through history from the 21st century, it is plain to see that education is the antidote to all the ills ignorance can cause, when ignorance so often breeds hate. 

Confucias' ethical concepts boil down to compassion, good deeds, living according to a prescribed system of propriety, and having the ability to identify what is right and fair. The second two concepts are more of a support structure for the first two. The pillars reaching toward heaven if you will. The first two are the foundation of the system; a beautiful bedrock prescribing empathy toward your fellow man and always doing good in the world.

This is why I feel so drawn to Confucianism. At its heart it imagines a world where our good natures prevail and justice is fair. It is a world in which kindness and respect are the rule of law, not just qualities we sometimes forget to employ. It puts humaneness at the centre of its universe, making love the default, not hate. Perhaps it is unrealistic, but I'd like to see that world.

When you visit Denmark the evidence of Hygge is all around you. Just as Confucianism is considered a way of life, so too is Hygge. More specifically for the Danish, however, it is a feeling.

There isn't an accurate English translation for this Dutch word, but according to Alex Beauchamp of Hyggehouse it can loosely be described as a feeling of warm comfort, contentment, safety, closeness, reassurance, kinship and simplicity. It is acknowledging a feeling or a moment as special, whether it is with loved ones or alone, at home or away, ordinary or otherwise. Hygge is a philosophy that encourages not just being present in the moment, but appreciating it consciously. For the Danish it creates comforting rituals in daily life, transforming the domestic and personal into an art form.

This moment the Danish wish to capture with Hygge is something we speak a lot about at être. It is a huge part of the reason we began our journey in the first place. We have an unceasing desire to capture moments in time and place that we've treasured. Our travel guides are these moments, and with them we hope to send others to find their own.

At être we have been aware of the impact philosophies have had on our lives for a long time. In fact a love of meaningful conversation about the world forms a large part of what brought our partnership together. But in a global sense, philosophies effect much more than we would ever dream. Whether we're aware of it or not, they have formed our worlds over and over again, shaping lives and minds for generations. The impact is immeasurable, but to harness more control over our own existence, we can cultivate a personal philosophy to forge a more conscious path.

Your path is yours, so keep learning and formulate your own philosophy. Dream, work, experience and think. Have compassion and live a good life you won't regret. Stay in the moment and treasure the small things that bring you peace and happiness. Make the most of the beautiful world we live in. Embrace everything. You and it won't be here forever, so don't wait, be.

Kaffebar, Copenhagen

Kaffebar, Copenhagen

Jægersborggade, Copenhagen

Jægersborggade, Copenhagen

Copenhagen Botanical Garden, Copenhagen  Photography by @looseleaf

Copenhagen Botanical Garden, Copenhagen
Photography by @looseleaf

Do China and Denmark intrigue you? Take a look at our Shanghai—Xuhui and Copenhagen—Vesterbro guides, full of local gems waiting for you to explore. 

Further reading

Confucius Come Home
Hygge: the Danish Art of Cosiness
The Year of Hygge, the Danish Obsession With Getting Cozy

Keaton Fletcher