As a reliable compass for orientating yourself in life nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calamities, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular and not to be expected but will find them entirely in order, well knowing that each of us is here being punished for his existence and each in his own particular way. This outlook will enable us to view the so-called imperfections of the majority of men (i.e. their moral and intellectual shortcomings and the facial appearance resulting therefrom) without surprise and certainly without indignation: for we shall always bear in mind where we are and consequently regard every man first and foremost as a being who exists as a consequence of his culpability and whose life is an expiation of the crime of being born.
Arthur Schopenhauer is regarded as one of the most pessimistic philosophers, a sentiment clearly demonstrated in the above quote from his work Essays and Aphorisms. Despite this obviously negative view of the human experience, let’s dissect this quote and see what we can learn.
He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.
The tragedies of life — a plane crash, a baby born with a terminal condition — can make one cry out, “Why, God?”. It is safe to assume one cannot expect any answer back from the heavens. The almost brutal indifference the world can show to our dreams and our prayers leads one to think that life is absurd. The French existentialist Albert Camus (1913-1960) likens the human condition to that of Sisyphus in Greek mythology:
In a genuinely developed society, work is an essential dimension of social life, for it is not only a means of earning one’s daily bread, but also of personal growth, the building of healthy relationships, self-expression and the exchange of gifts. Work gives us a sense of shared responsibility for the development of the world, and ultimately, for our life as a people.
With the exception of a select few, everyone must work. It is the bedrock of our civilization — through working we are able to obtain and sustain the lifestyles that we wish for ourselves and our future kin. We spend so much of our life working that it inevitably becomes part of who we are and who we become. For this reason, we must look deeper into our relationship with work, past the superficial premise of the exchange of time for money, to find the meaningful work that we all need.
As I continue to age and leave behind my youthful energy and resilience, it has become evermore important for me to structure my days in a sustainable, productive, and efficient way. In previous years, particularly in high school and university, I thought myself to be firmly in the night owl camp — sleeping at 2 or even 3 AM was not uncommon, and this would in turn shift the productive hours of my day towards the afternoon and evening. When you are a student with no time or personal obligations, it is possible and even enjoyable to live such a lifestyle. However, being a 9-5er with goals outside of my professional life, the game of time management is one I am starting to appreciate, and enjoy. It seems to me that having less ‘free time’ actually leads to more productivity and ‘true free time’, because it forces one to address the mandatory tasks and blocked off hours of the day before scheduling the remaining personal time with tasks of priority. Like anyone else, I have my highly productive days and practically useless days, however one thing that has been a consistent and critical variable in the productivity of my days has been the quality and quantity of sleep. The benefits of sleep are well documented, and I will not attempt to rehash them here. However, one must approach sleep in a personalized and disciplined way in order to get the most out of their days. Below are a few of the most important factors in mastering sleep and maximizing the potential of the day:
Habits and routines are useful tools that help us simplify the world, making it manageable enough for us to confidently navigate and experience; it can even be said that they are critical to the achievement of goals and maintenance of every day life, promoting consistency and discipline. Despite its utility, habit and routine can cause our life to become methodical and bland, void of the joy and novelty necessary for a fulfilling life. It is therefore necessary, on occasion, to force ourselves out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. I reckon the mid-life crisis strikes those who, after living busy and repetitive lives for 35 or 40 years, one day realize that they have less time left than they have lived already and have neglected their inner desires, drives, and passions for the comforting embrace of routine and the societal status quo. Seeking new experiences and knowledge can help to renew that vigour for life that often dissipates as we age and grow into adulthood. Below, I propose three ways we can continually challenge ourselves throughout life to avoid that dreadful mid-life crisis.
“To realize one’s own destiny is a person’s only obligation.”
~ Paulo Coelho
My choice for book club this month, The Alchemist, is a story about a young shepherd who goes on a journey in search of treasure buried near the Pyramids of Egypt. This classic book uses his journey to articulate the need to follow one’s inner voice, to pursue your dreams, and have faith along the journey of life.
Memory is one of the most, if not the most, important capabilities of a human being; it allows us to learn, critically think, and find complex solutions to complex problems. Also, the ability to store personalized information that is read, heard, or experienced is consequently what makes us unique as individuals. Your memories, distinct from my own, are what you have used to develop the concepts that help you navigate the world: your ideas of friendship, of love, of family, of society, of work, are all derived from your experiences throughout life stored as memories. Memories provide guide-rails for the future, however how reliable are they?
“As soon as he has spoken with éclat, he is a committed person watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, who’s affectations must now enter into his account.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I recently stumbled upon an article on the internet detailing the ‘canceling‘ of a certain TikTok star due to some comments she made towards her chef. The advent of ‘cancel culture’, at least the widespread nature of it in the current media, is a direct result of the development and proliferation of the internet social media. It is something that I think is highly toxic and frankly quite dangerous.
He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.”
~ Sun Tzu
I have always been interested in military tactics, particularly in the bygone era of pitched battle tactics. I have begun to question whether the conventional wisdom surrounding strategic warfare has been made null by the advent of nuclear weapons.