Wednesday, March 28

More than this

"More than this, there is nothing." - Norah Jones

"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb." - Churchill

A mid-life crisis is described as an emotional state of doubt and anxiety in which a person becomes uncomfortable with the realization that life is halfway over. There has to be something more, they feel, more than this. Amongst the various characteristics of people experiencing a mid-life crisis, Wikipedia lists 'a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished' and 'search of an undefined dream or goal.'

I wonder if this isn't really an underlying issue for all of us. It may not always be obviously present or recognizable in our minds, but the urge of making some sort of progress in our lives has been instilled in all of us. In modern societies this often comes down to getting a proper education, building a career and settling down - but the need to develop our lives is universal and concerns everything we do. We want to learn more, create more, have more, so we can prove ourselves and everyone else that we do not live in vain. As Muhammed Ali once said, "A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." Stagnation is waste.

I suppose that most people, at any age, from time to time, stop and wonder what they are doing with their life. Not just if they're happy with it, but also if it is really going somewhere. Because in the distance, we already see the end coming, well before we're halfway. The trick, I think, is to enjoy today consciously and not to care about your image too much. There will always be people more successful and gifted than you. Why compare, or care if others do? And if you really want to accomplish something big, don't hesitate to try. Regret for the things we don't do is the worst kind. Try and it'll be more, it might be great. Or perhaps that is only what that nagging feeling tries to make you believe.

Isn't that an interesting paradox? Progress seems to be an essential ingredient for a satisfying life, but at the same time we can't reach that happiness unless we realize it is found today - not at the next stroke or luck or major achievement, not in the distant future, but right now.

Friday, March 23

Sing, Goddess

Sing, Goddess, sing of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus—
that murderous anger which condemned Achaeans
to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls
deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies
carrion food for dogs and birds—
all in fulfillment of the will of Zeus.
- Homer, The Iliad

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are considered to be the oldest literature in the Greek language; most scholars date the two epics back to the 6th or 7th century BC. Can you imagine, we can still read stories written thousands of years ago. Well, I mean, some people can. Personally I have no other choice but to read the english translation. I think the translation of the Iliad I'm currently reading is a pretty good one, though. The translator - Ian Johnston - released it into the public domain and made it available for downloading here, along with the Oddyssey.

Reading the whole thing of my screen is not very comfortable. So I asked for a Word-document of the epics to be sent to my email address, downsized the text to a tiny Garamond 8 and put it in two columns. Removing all the line references took me quite some time, but it's worth it. I haven't printed it all yet but I think I should be able to get the Iliad on about 70 double-sided pages.

Although Homer wrote these stories at least 26 centuries ago, they're still very readable (in translation) - compelling and even comical at times. Tales of a time when men were heroes, and Gods quarreled amongst themselves much like is done in soap operas these days. I'm very impressed.

Sunday, March 18

A place I know

There's a place that I know where the sycamores grow, and daffodils have their fun, where the cares of the day seems to slowly fade away, and the glow of the evening sun. Peace when the day is done.

If I go there real late, let my mind meditate on everything to be done, if I search deep inside, let my conscience be my guide, then the answers are sure to come. Don't have to worry none.

When you find a piece of mind, leave you worries behind. Don't say that it can't be done. With a new point of view, life's true meaning comes to you, and the freedom you seek is one. Peace is for everyone.

- Norah Jones, "Peace"

In my last year of highschool, my grades for mathematics dropped dramatically. At every test, I would panic and forget everything I'd learned. My teacher enrolled me on a anxiety management course for pre-exam pupils. Amongst other things, I learnt to picture a brook alongside a peaceful meadow. I learnt to feel the grass under my feet and the sun on my head. I heard the birds sing in the trees. Water rushing past my ankles. It was a wonderful experience, feeling almost as real as dreams can feel.

I should visit that place again, sometime.

Tuesday, March 13

Simplify

When you gonna realise, that you don't even have to try any longer?
Do what you want to.

- 'Put Your Records On', Corinne Bailey Rae


Anti-smoking guru Allen Carr claimed that escaping an addiction is only difficult when you believe it is. The problem is mainly in your head, he said. I feel it often is, in all sorts of situations. Why is it that sometimes it is so tempting to keep analyzing and worrying over something that you can't change? It's only your own way of thinking you can change; and with it, the way you feel. Why don't we?

Maybe that's easier said than done. But maybe it is still easier done than we tend to think. We often know the answer to our problems, we just need to accept it. Then it all gets much easier - you wonder why you made such a fuss about it in the first place. I know I do, every once in a while. Why do we keep putting ourselves through that pointless process? Some things have the potential to be exactly what we want them to be, not because we can change them, but because we can change the way we deal with them. There's no reason why that should be so hard to realise. Feel how you want to feel. Do what you want to. It would be so easy.

Friday, March 9

Cloud

As you might know I'm not very fond of labels. I don't like categorising if it's not necessary. Yet I've been labeling all my previous posts (over 200) this week, because I found the most lovely 'Label Cloud' code right here. And here's the result, at your right. It's not perfect yet, but it will be better soon. I'd like to think of these labels as very vague and broad indications as to the nature of the posts - as opposed to actual categories. 'Truth' for instance applies to posts about reality, objectivity and subjectivity, honesty and everything else that has a vague connection to the word. It's interesting to see what it is that I'm writing about though.

One of the main reasons for installing the cloud is that it allows you to easily browse through Silence posts that you might be interested in; virtually all the topics are untied to current (past) affairs and such, so that won't be a problem. Give it a try!

By the way, I don't think I've mentioned that I am now writing at this lovely teamblog about childhood memories. It's a whole new experience, I'm very excited about it.

Monday, March 5

Here be dragons

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. - H. P. Lovecraft (1890 - 1937)

The byproducts of a large, complex brain are the questions it asks - the ones that go beyond the essential questions one needs to ask to survive ("Where can I find food?" "What are the chances that I am about to be ripped to pieces?"). Like a child that keeps asking "Why?" time and again, we can’t help but wonder. In the history of mankind the world never ceased to impress us as a mysterious and often frightful place. Upon not finding a satisfying logical explanation for a number of phenomenons, man started to make up his own answers. Anything is better than to stare right into the deep gorge of the unknown. And so it came that an unusually large snake shook the Earth, and thunder gods never made it to an anger management course. But I guess we were never completely satisfied with our own myths.

So we set out to explore, to find some better answers using philosophy and science. Brave men set out to sail the seas and find the edge of the world – It is somewhat ironical that one of the most important discoveries lay in failing to find it. But the explorers made other discoveries, they found the many fascinating and seemingly endless riches of the world. Places beyond their wildest dreams. The Orient, the New World of America, the cold continent of Terra Incognita in the south. Cartographers gradually filled in the blank spaces on their maps, leaving less and less space in the world for dragons, griffins, chimeras and all the other fantastic but fearsome creatures imagined there.

Today the world is said to be a global village. We can all explore it, but sometimes it feels like there is nothing left to discover. What wonders of the world are yet to be uncovered? Where be the dragons? We might not be able to sail a ship to a coast unknown to civilization. We might look at our globe full of colourful patches and placenames – and the billions of books and webpages filled with a vast amount of knowledge - feeling there is nothing left to discover for us. But we would be mistaken. The world will never cease to surprise, it should make little difference that you are not the first to be surprised by it.

The unknown is a pretty big place, and sometimes it can be a frightening place. But we keep on filling in the blanks – personally and as a species - because it is part of our human identity. It is part of the success story of mankind. It is not our physical strength or toughness, but our craving for knowledge that has increased our survival rate in such an extraordinary way. We slay the dragons whilst uncovering the wonders.