Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Don't try to live an extraordinary life

Don't try to live an extraordinary life. You may find yourself disappointed, for not all lives can be extraordinary and such things cannot be planned. Try instead to live a just and honorable life. Treat people with kindness and dignity. Act admirably in all of your dealings. You may find, then, that you have lived a good life - a life of wisdom. And there surely can be no disappointment in living wisely.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Legacy, Immortality, What really Matters?

Will I be remembered after I'm gone? This is a question many people ask. In the 1984 movie Amadeus, Mozart's rival composer, Salieri, recounts his life-long obsession with composing music that will survive beyond his death. As portrayed in the movie, his obsession made him act in shameful ways. He became a dishonorable person. Then, approaching the end of his life, he despairs that Mozart's music has survived while his own music has gradually become extinct. 

When we listen to the great music of Mozart, we may marvel at how it has endured through time. As if Mozart is somehow still with us. Perhaps immortality is possible after all. But the truth is, Mozart is gone. He died in 1791. No good nor harm can come to him now. So it is of little use to Mozart that people still listen to his music. It means nothing to him.

What matters then? Perhaps not that you have posthumous fame. You will never know. What matters is how you live your life right now. If you enjoy creating music, do your best - not so that you can benefit from it being remembered for hundreds of years, but because of the impact it has on you and the people of this time. Live a just and admirable life. Make yourself into the best human you can be right now. That is what counts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Focus on what is within your control

We all feel frustrated from time to time. Those annoying social media posts; those crazy political decisions; the damn weather. Why can't things just go right? Why can't people be nice to eachother? Why can't the government get its act together?

But many of these things are beyond our control. And much of it doesn't actually harm us -- that is, until we form an opinion about it. Then the harm comes when we feel frustrated or angry. We demand that things beyond our control be a certain way and we are shocked when they are not. No wonder we get so upset.

What is the solution? By the gods, I am uncertain. But perhaps a good place to start is to focus on things that are within our control. Focus on your own actions. This is not to say we should ignore wrongs that are committed in the world. But many of those things are distant and are beyond our influence, so cursing and punching walls is pointless. Instead, ask yourself: am I living an honorable and just life?  What can I do to be the best person I can be? From this local level, you may find that you can make the world a slightly better place.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

It's my opinion

During a recent dialogue my interlocutor shut down discussion with the following statement: "this is my opinion and I'm entitled to my opinion". In other words, he was saying that he was as right as possible without needing to actually prove it. Or, put another way, there we was no need to refute his point because he couldn't be wrong about it - because, it was his opinion.

I understand how opinions can't be challenged when they relate to matters of taste such as "in my opinion chocolate is nicer than strawberry". But when statements relate to matters of fact, such as "vaccinations are effective" or "CO2 warms the atmosphere", I believe there is a truth value that can be uncovered through investigation and dialogue. Simply brushing the issue aside by claiming to have an unchallengeable opinion seems to me to leave the issue completely unsettled.

- S