Saturday, June 17, 2023
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Imagine that you died this morning. All has come to an end. No more music; no more friendship or love; no more thought. It is gone.
But, now imagine that by some miracle you are granted bonus time. You have your life back. How will you live it now? By arguing with strangers online? By spending countless hours at a job you don’t like? By obsessing over the accumulation of wealth?
Perhaps a second chance would shift your focus to other priorities. Think about what they might be and live your life well.
Monday, January 16, 2023
OSCAR: Socrates, Socrates, slow down. Give me a chance to catch up. Where are you going in such a hurry?
SOCRATES: It is good to see you, my friend. I am on my way to listen to a political rhetorician. There is an election coming up, and I am eager to hear what the politicians have to say.
OSCAR: May I join you? I would like to talk.
SOCRATES: My fine fellow. You know I will never turn down an opportunity to dialogue. What’s on your mind?
OSCAR: I have been thinking about our recent conversations concerning happiness and wealth. You said that “money can’t buy happiness”, but I think that is not true. I think money can buy happiness.
SOCRATES: That is an interesting thought, Oscar. I would very much like to learn more. Can you provide an example to support your claim?
OSCAR: Certainly I can. I have bought a new TV, a phone, a laptop, a painting, a Lego model, and a great many other things that have made me happy.
SOCRATES: Would you mind showing me one of your products, so that I may see the happiness for myself?
OSCAR: Well, it so happens that I have one here in my backpack. I am taking it to show a friend.
[They stop walking and Oscar carefully pulls a Lego model from his bag]
OSCAR: Here you go, Socrates. Take a look at this model.
[Socrates examines the model]
SOCRATES: Can you confirm that this is an example of money buying happiness?
OSCAR: Yes, indeed it is.
SOCRATES: I must be blind in my old age. Can you please show me? Can you point to the happiness?
OSCAR: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: You claim that this is an example of happiness which you have bought with money. Well, where is it? All I see is a collection of plastic bricks. Can you point to the ‘happiness’ that you’ve purchased?
OSCAR: Are you acting deliberately foolish, Socrates? I can’t point to it. It’s a feeling. An experience. I felt a sense of happiness while working with the bricks.
SOCRATES: Is this feeling guaranteed when someone buys bricks?
OSCAR: No, of course not.
SOCRATES: Ah, I understand. So, would you agree that happiness is not a thing contained in the bricks. It comes from the person using the bricks—in this case, you?
OSCAR: It is as you say, Socrates.
SOCRATES: It seems, then, that money can buy pieces of plastic but not happiness itself. Something more is required to achieve happiness. Perhaps you could experience the same level of happiness by stacking pebbles or building sandcastles. Happiness is not a property of any of these things. Rather, it is a thing you create for yourself.
OSCAR: I must agree with your assessment Socrates. Perhaps you are right, after all. Money alone is no guarantee of happiness.
Thursday, December 29, 2022
2022 is coming to an end. As we enter the year 2023, we can be forgiven for thinking that things look rather bleak. The latest climate change forecasts are worrying. The pandemic continues to affect us as the virus evolves. And the war doesn’t seem to be coming to a quick end.
Will things get better? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Time will tell. Still, we may ask ourselves, has there ever been a time in human history where we haven’t faced serious challenges? It seems that difficulty is nothing new. And we have, in the past, overcome our problems, so perhaps we will also solve our current issues. But we will not solve them with inaction.
Some people think our problems are too large. They think their individual actions cannot make an impact. Of course, if everyone thought that way, nothing would change. It is true that individuals cannot change the world, but they can make an influence - even if small. And collectively, these small influences can amount to a big result.
Some people think they needn’t bother because the scientists have got it all wrong. This is possible. After all, scientists have been wrong in the past. Though it seems unlikely in this case. Regardless, this thought shouldn’t compel us to relax and do nothing. The possibility, even if small, that scientists are right, should compel us to act. Why? Because the stakes are so high and the cost of acting is very low. It is far better to take low cost action now, and then find out that it was not needed than do nothing, and later discover that we have missed our opportunity and have a massive cost to pay - perhaps the cost of our very existence.
So, what can we do? Don’t wait for business to change. Business responds to the market. It follows the lead of people. Don’t wait for governments to change. They too follow the lead of the people. We can guide business and government by making small adjustments to our own lives. It may be as simple as eating less meat, or switching to a fuel-efficient car - even an electric car. Or taking public transport. This is a key to stoic philosophy. Focus on your own sphere of control. Then you know that you have done what you can.
Monday, December 26, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Why do we wait? Our plans, big and small, often get put aside while we wait for a better time. Even simple acts like telling our children, parents, or spouse that we love them seem to be postponed until the time is right. We make excuses and promise that we'll do it tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year. As if we have all the time in the world. But we don't have all the time in the world, do we? Time inevitably slips away, and we find ourselves regretting the missed opportunity. If only I wrote that book. If only I tried that new job. If only I had told them how much I love them.
So, what are you waiting for? Now is the best time, because tomorrow may never come.
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Plans change! Get used to it.
As organized beings, we love order. We plan trips, dinner dates, and quiet nights in, to read a good book. But unexpected events often get in the way. Perhaps you are called in to work to cover for someone who is unwell, so you postpone your trip. Your friend may have a personal issue, which means you need to cancel your dinner date. Then, as you settle in to your quiet night at home, your family pays a surprise visit. Your plans change again.
Our plans are based on the assumption that the world is predictable. And, indeed it is. Events in nature unfold with a precise regularity. The future can be said to resemble the past. This fact allows us to predict the seasons, the orbits of the planets, and even the positions of the most distant stars. However, the human realm is rather less predictable than the rest of nature. Given the complex interplay between our beliefs, desires, and interpersonal relationships, we should not be surprised that our plans are always subject to change.
So, how should we respond to unexpected changes to our plans? Should we get angry? Should we curse other people? Should we stop making plans altogether? Not at all. We should calmly accept that some events are out of control. Embrace the change. Make new plans, and accept that they too are likely to change.
Friday, December 2, 2022
We've all had those days where nothing goes according to plan. Perhaps you've arranged a dinner friends. It starts out well, but then you find you've left your wallet at home. So, you turn back. Then you have a flat tire. So you change it. Then you arrive at the restaurant to find that it is closed.
Is there any point in complaining about these things? Should you curse your car or yell at the restaurant door? Doing so will change nothing, so there is little point in wasting your energy.
We prefer things to be a certain way. But the universe has no obligation to satisfy our preferences. Things happen - bad and good. Of course, we make every attempt to avoid the bad. However, we should remember that much of what happens in the world is beyond our control. We must therefore make the best of what fortune presents us. Amor Fati! Embrace life's challenges. This is how we reach our human potential.
Saturday, November 5, 2022
We are judgemental beings. Our nature drives us to form opinions about other people, and then to spread those opinions to anyone who has the time to listen. And there is certainly no shortage of ears, eager to hear the next juicy piece of information. We seem to be addicted to speaking about the affairs of others.
But often this talk amounts to nothing more than rumor, innuendo, or gossip. This is surely not worthy of our time. So, when offered information about another person, we should first ask: Are you certain that what you want to tell me is true? We should then ask, is your statement going to be good or kind? Finally, we should ask, is it necessary that I know this piece of information?
If the information on offer is neither true, nor kind, or is unnecessary to know, we should tell the purveyor of gossip to please say nothing at all.