Given his stature as a 20th century giant of philosophy, we would be remiss if we did not mention Wittgenstein’s doubt regarding the sensibility of the question of life’s meaning, with the caveat that his positions are notoriously difficult to pin down and that we cannot, in this short space, do justice to the depth of his thought. To get the briefest handle on his thought on the question of the meaning of life, we will ruminate briefly upon the haunting lines that conclude his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
For an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered. Skepticism is not irrefutable, but palpably senseless, if it would doubt where a question cannot be asked. For doubt can only exist where there is a question; a question only where there is an answer, and this only where something can be said. We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer. The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem.(Is not this the reason why men to whom after long doubting the sense of life became clear, could not then say wherein this sense consisted?) There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical …Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.[i]
The number one question that people ask once you tell them you’re considering early retirement is: What will you do with your time?
They ask it urgently, with earnest expressions indicating a mix of confusion, fear, and excitement.
The reason they ask is typically because they don’t know what they’d do with all of those empty years, either.
Love it or hate it, work fills most of the space in your life. It gobbles time like pacman eats dots, and as an added bonus, it provides a path through the maze of your existence; you know exactly which direction you’re expected to grow.
So, if you are close to the end of your early-retirement journey, it’s possible you’re asking this question to yourself. What will you, in fact, do with all that free time?
Despite having firm plans to retire and reclaim their lives, many people find elements of doubt creeping in here and there. Do you actually have enough interests and activities to sustain you? Will you get bored?
Of course, some lucky people already know exactly what they’re retiring to, answers firmly in hand.
It might not seem there’s much to learn about how to work hard. Anyone who’s been to school knows what it entails, even if they chose not to. There are 12 year olds who work amazingly hard. And yet when I ask if I know more about working hard now than when I was in school, the answer is definitely yes.
One thing I know is that if you want to do great things, you’ll have to work very hard. I wasn’t sure of that as a kid. Schoolwork varied in difficulty; one didn’t always have to work super hard to do well. And some of the things famous adults did, they seemed to do almost effortlessly. Was there, perhaps, some way to evade hard work through sheer brilliance? Now I know the answer to that question. There isn’t.
To be really good at anything means doing it a lot. Sure, there are some shortcuts but no great writer, artist, musician, athlete etc has so far been able to fake hard work and determination. There is simply no replacement for it.
An easy way to spend a lot of time doing something is by necessity: cooking, exercise and writing, to name just a few activities. You may even end up enjoying some of these as you find your skill grows and you surpass others.
There is also no replacement for the overwhelming satisfaction and pride that hard work and determination inevitably leads to. This is an innate, selfish need we all have but one that belongs entirely to us and us alone.
We are all just sailboats on a stream, taking our time.
David Dushman, the last surviving soldier who took part in the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1945, has died at the age of 98.
Dushman, a Red Army soldier who later became an international fencer, died yesterday, said the International Olympic Committee in a brief statement.
On 27 January 1945, he used his T-34 Soviet tank to mow down the electric fence of Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, helping to set prisoners in the death camp free.
“We hardly knew anything about Auschwitz,” he said, recounting that day in an interview in 2015 with Sueddeutsche daily.
But he saw “skeletons everywhere”.
On a damp and cloudy afternoon on February 15, 1894, a man walked through Greenwich Park in East London. His name was Martial Bourdin — French, 26 years of age, with slicked-back dark hair and a mustache. He wandered up the zigzagged path that led to the Royal Observatory, which just 10 years earlier had been established as the symbolic and scientific center of globally standardized clock time — Greenwich Mean Time — as well as the British Empire. In his left hand, Bourdin carried a bomb: a brown paper bag containing a metal case full of explosives. As he got closer to his target, he primed it with a bottle of sulfuric acid. But then, as he stood facing the Observatory, it exploded in his hands.
The detonation was sharp enough to get the attention of two workers inside. Rushing out, they saw a park warden and some schoolboys running towards a crouched figure on the ground. Bourdin was moaning and screaming, his legs were shattered, one arm was blown off and there was a hole in his stomach. He said nothing about his identity or his motives as he was carried to a nearby hospital, where he died 30 minutes later.
A life led in this way would harmonise body, mind, social purpose and wonder at nature. Such a life, for the Aztecs, amounted to a kind of careful dance, one that took account of the treacherous terrain of the slippery earth, and in which pleasure was little more than an incidental feature. This vision stands in sharp relief to the Greeks’ idea of happiness, where reason and pleasure are intrinsic to the best performance of our life’s act on the world’s stage. Aztec philosophy encourages us to question this received ‘Western’ wisdom about the good life – and to seriously consider the sobering notion that doing something worthwhile is more important than enjoying it.
This post-pandemic summer is evidently expected to be one long orgiastic reunion, after which, once that’s out of our system, it’s back to work, back to school, to what we used to call “normal.” And if the pandemic had ended, say, last June, after a couple months of lockdown, we probably would’ve returned to our lives with relief and jubilation. But after a year in isolation, I, at least, have gotten acclimated to a different existence—quieter, calmer, and almost entirely devoid of bullshit. If you’d told me in March 2020 that quarantine would last more than a year, I would have been appalled; I can’t imagine how I would’ve reacted if you’d told me, once it ended, I would miss it.
One of the best insights on what true productivity means in the 21st century dates back to 1890. In his book The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, William James wrote a simple statement that’s packed with meaning: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”
Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together — where we can work from home (or a train or a plane or a beach), watch our kids on a nanny-cam from work, and distraction is always just a thumb-swipe away — has that ever been more true?
A five time Space Shuttle astronaut is now a convicted felon. James Halsell stood before a Tuscaloosa judge and pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in the 2016 traffic crash that killed two young girls. APR has been following the case from the beginning. It was a shock to observers of the space program and a long wait for justice for the victim’s families.
I haven’t given up, even as, each day, at various moments, I find myself giving in. There are books to be read; landscapes to be walked; friends to be with; life to be fully lived. And I realize that this is, in some ways, just another tale in the vast book of human frailty. But this new epidemic of distraction is our civilization’s specific weakness. And its threat is not so much to our minds, even as they shape-shift under the pressure. The threat is to our souls. At this rate, if the noise does not relent, we might even forget we have any.
A strong, rigid identity is commonly understood as a strength. However, the very idea of a fixed identity is premised on a philosophical myth: having a complete, all-encompassing account of The Truth, a worldview. Once we realise that we can recognise the imperative for having one, consistent identity as a relic of an ancient, eccentric ethical ideal, argues Raymond Geuss.
Working long hours poses an occupational health risk that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, the World Health Organization says.
People working 55 or more hours each week face an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people following the widely accepted standard of working 35 to 40 hours in a week, the WHO says in a study that was published Monday in the journal Environment International.
“No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, calling on governments, businesses and workers to find ways to protect workers’ health.
The other afternoon, in an effort to avoid doing my work, I picked up Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. It turned out to be a fitting choice, as Thoreau has quite a bit to say about wasting time. “The cost of a thing,” he wrote in Walden, “is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
Thoreau’s point is not that we should be all work and no play—he was one of history’s most prominent critics of that way of living. Rather, he argued that we waste too much of our lives on things we don’t value. Without thinking about it, we are spectacularly failing some cosmic cost-benefit test, as measured not in money but in what matters most: time.
This argument is hard to refute. Many of the pastimes on which we while away huge portions of our lives feel good in the moment but bring us anxiety and regret when we manage to tear ourselves away. The average American spent three hours and 43 minutes every day watching live TV in the first quarter of 2020, according to Nielsen. That’s a lot, but still less time than the three hours and 46 minutes people spent staring at their smartphones.
It’s a nice day, you’re strolling along, music’s queued up, prospects looking good, your sweater’s matching your pants, the person you’re seeing just sent you a cute text, no one you know is actively sick or angry at you, your dreams are, if not on the brink of actualization, not impossibly far from it, and yet here you are, suddenly bowled over by the memory of some dumb thing you said a decade ago.
That’s the power of embarrassment. Doesn’t matter how long it’s been. Doesn’t matter how thoroughly you’ve attempted to remake yourself. Embarrassment doesn’t care that you’ve made amends with who you were; embarrassment doesn’t care about your various retroactive justifications for doing or saying what you did, or for why what you said and did weren’t actually that big of a deal. Embarrassment will get you, even years down the line. For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out why.
Barred from docking, deprived of medical access, and left with little oversight, migrant fishers have faced abuses and vulnerabilities because of pandemic lockdowns.
Plato and Aristotle can help you resist conventional worldly success, direct your energy and find your own highest calling…