Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.
My consistent experience has been that the more routine I can make the basic practical aspects of my life, the more I am able to be energetic—and spontaneous—about intellectual and other things.
They cannot admire you for intellect. Granted–but there are many other qualities of which you cannot say, “but that is not the way I am made”. So display those virtues which are wholly in your own power–integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnanimity. Do you not see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude? And yet you are still content to lag behind.
Getting up and going for a run everyday doesn’t need to be “justified” a few months later by competing to finish an arbitrary number of miles in a certain amount of time against a bunch of other unhappy losers. No, you run because keeping a healthy body and clear mind is part of your job as a human being. Because its a commitment you made to yourself that you’re obligated to keep no matter how tired, how busy or how burn out you feel. In other words, it’s practice—proof of your ability—in always having a little bit extra in you.
For if he shall begin to fall into dotage, perspiration and nutrition and imagination and appetite, and whatever else there is of the kind, will not fail; but the power of making use of ourselves, and filling up the measure of our duty, and clearly separating all appearances, and considering whether a man should now depart from life, and whatever else of the kind absolutely requires a disciplined reason, all this is already extinguished. We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.
…a Greek word with several translations into English including a reminder, a note, a public record, a commentary, a draft, a copy, and other variations on those terms.
The context was Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, but it sounds like a good description of Tumblr, Twitter, and a number of wonderful things on the internet. I first came across hypomnemata (sleep + thread…) in The Present Alone is Our Happiness (recommended in Ryan Holiday’s super awesome reading list email archive).
Reading the Wikipedia entry, it made me realize what I often (mostly?) use this Tumblr for: to make notes to myself, shaping and re-shaping my perspective. Many of my favorite posts (tagged, e.g., work, opinions, empathy, arguments, happiness, death, travel, thinking, philosophy, stoicism, psychology) function as a sort of admonishment that I really do re-read every now and then. It’s an attempt to refresh and re-calibrate, internalize. This journaling/commonplacing thing isn’t new, but there’s something satisfying about knowing that one strand of the tradition goes back to an old Greek word. See also commentarii, commonplace, memoranda.
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
This reminds me of a favorite blog post I came across several years ago: You don’t need a plan, you need skills and a problem (original blog now defunct?).
Screw your plans. Work on your skills. Apply them to a problem that is biting you. Flush and repeat until people believe you had a plan.
I love the sense of *action* that Frankl gets at. Meaning doesn’t happen to you or arrive through talk or navel-gazing, it’s something you do. You have to scratch around a bit. It’s part of a process, which itself is part of the fun, if you’re doing it right: Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. Opportunity comes dressed in overalls, as they say. You’ll have to spend some time groping, listening, testing, accepting, discarding. And if you’re doing it right, it won’t feel good a lot of time: you can tell if it’s your own plan by how lost you feel.
Doesn’t mean you have to be super-choosy (although Family. Friends. Health. Work. Pick any three is helpful to keep in mind). Be careful what parts of yourself you give up on: “You can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain.” And you have to keep in mind that, if you do ever succeed, having found your life’s purpose/calling/vocation/mission, it’s not going to extend your life and not necessarily make you *happy*. One year’s answer might not do for another. And by the way, “Don’t let yo’ happiness make somebody sad!”
A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little.
It is hard to contend against passion, for whatever it craves it buys with its life.
Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.
Whatever moral rules you have deliberately proposed to yourself, abide by them as they were laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety by violating any of them. Don’t regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you put off thinking yourself worthy of the highest improvements and follow the distinctions of reason? You have received the philosophical theorems, with which you ought to be familiar, and you have been familiar with them. What other master, then, do you wait for, to throw upon that the delay of reforming yourself?
Probably going to go on a Stoicism bender pretty soon.
There is great danger in immediately throwing out what you have not digested. And, if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun your business. For sheep don’t throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you likewise not show theorems to the unlearned, but the actions produced by them after they have been digested.
Fact is, we just don’t want to work that hard! We already work harder than we feel like working. We enjoy having time to lay around in the living room with the kids, reading. We like to watch a little TV after the kids are in bed. We like going to the park and visits with friends and low-key vacations and generally relaxing. Going further down our respective career paths would likely mean more work, greater responsibilities, higher stress, and less time to lay around the living room with the kids.
There’s something important here. I’m not good at keeping to them all the time, but I think I have similar ideals.
The medium chill involves what economists call satisficing: abandoning the quest for the ideal in favor of the good-enough. It means stepping off the aspirational treadmill, foregoing some material opportunities and accepting some material constraints in exchange for more time to spend on relationships and experiences.
It turns out, though, that satisficing doesn’t come easy to us human beings. We have an extremely hard time saying, “okay, this is good enough.” Why?
I do not disagree with any of these. Food for thought!
Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on; it will not prolong itself at the command of a king, or at the applause of the populace. Just as it was started on its first day, so it will run; nowhere will it turn aside, nowhere will it delay.
Heaven knows! such lives as yours, though they should pass the limit of a thousand years, will shrink into the merest span; your vices will swallow up any amount of time.