Human beings find comfort in certainty. We form governments, make calendars, and create organisations; and we structure our activities, strategies and plans around these constructs. These routines give us the satisfaction of knowing that, by having a plan, there’s a means of it coming to fruition.
But there’s another force, constantly at play in life, that often makes the greatest difference to our futures: the ‘unexpected’ or the ‘unforeseen’. If you think about it, you already look out for the unexpected every day, but perhaps only as a defence mechanism. For example, whenever you use a pedestrian crossing on a busy road, you look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That ‘alertness’ to, or awareness of, the unexpected is at the centre of understanding the science of (smart) luck and exploiting it to your benefit.
Samuel Beckett turned an obscure 17th-century Christian heresy into an artistic vision and an unusual personal philosophy…
We keep chasing happiness, but true clarity comes from depression and existential angst. Admit that life is hell, and be free…
I hope all of you got to rest and take a break from the chaos of last year and feel more motivated and hopeful for this new year. Did you guys get up to much for the holidays? Wishing you all a lovely and wonderful year ahead.
If you think about boredom at all, you might consider it trivial – a part of the furniture of life, mostly an affliction of youth, and characterised by the quintessential couch potato. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, the couch potato is a better description of apathy than boredom. Apathy is the absence of any desire. Boredom, by contrast, involves desperately wanting to do something, yet nothing seems to fit the bill.
It’s also incorrect to suggest that boredom is frustration in a different guise. Frustration arises when you are thwarted in the pursuit of your goals. Boredom is the yearning for a goal to pursue in the first place. When you’re bored, whatever you’re doing right now is unfulfilling in some important way; you really want to be engaged, and you’re urgently looking for an activity to satisfy your deep restlessness.
Maybe you’re unfulfilled by the daily drudgery of highly repetitive work that never changes. Maybe it’s the irksome task of having to do your taxes. Maybe it’s trying to read an instruction manual for your dishwasher. Whatever your current situation, boredom is urging you to explore better options for becoming engaged. It’s motivating you to make a change.
How fortunate are we as human beings to receive such unconditional love and companionship from goofy and innocent souls? Dogs are amazing (and cats too).
Stoicism’s distinctive contribution to ethics lies in the nature of the change in thinking it recommends, according to Schopenhauer. First, the Stoic observes that painful feelings of privation ‘do not follow immediately and necessarily from not-having, but rather from wanting-to-have and yet not having’. It then becomes obvious that to avoid these painful feelings altogether, we must eliminate the wanting-to-have part. Furthermore, the bigger our ambitions about what we want to have and the higher our hopes of achieving them, the sharper the pain when we fail. If we cannot help wanting to have some things, then we should at least keep those wants within realistic and achievable proportions. Perhaps lapsing back into his own pessimism, Schopenhauer adds that we should become suspicious of ourselves if we begin to expect a great amount of happiness waiting for us in the future; we are almost certainly being unrealistic. ‘Every lively pleasure,’ he says, ‘is a delusion.’
Forgiveness, of others and one’s self, can be a powerful, life-altering process. It can change the trajectory of a relationship or even one’s life. It is not the only response one can make to being hurt or hurting others, but it is an effective way to manage the inevitable moments of conflict, disappointment, and pain in our lives. Forgiveness embraces both the reality of the offence and the empathy and compassion needed to move on. True forgiveness doesn’t shy away from responsibility, recompense or justice. By definition, it recognises that something painful, even wrong, has been done. Simultaneously, forgiveness helps us to embrace something beyond the immediate gut-reaction of anger and pain and the simmering bitterness that can result. Forgiveness encourages a deeper, more compassionate understanding that we are all flawed in our different ways and that we all need to be forgiven at times.
Moral Redundancy. A post by me, prompted by a conversation with @tsak
Saw this [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/12/21/what-if-you-could-do-it-all-over] posted on HackerNews - it’s a lovely piece, all about choices and regret and “what if’s”.
HN responses to the piece [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25547448] seem largely career oriented which is interesting to me as I personally consider other things to be much more important. I’m also quite sanguine about “what if’s”, partly because I am lucky enough to be fairly content but partly because I’m increasingly of the opinion that free will is an illusion :-)
How do you guys feel about your life choices? Are you ok where you are, striving for something different or full of regret about the opportunities you’ve missed?