#Idea – Nobody else’s definition of success applies to you / 19.07.17

Success is being able to spend your life doing what you want to do. That’s it.

And, because what you want to do is not exactly the same as what others want to do, success is entirely subjective.

Success is like happiness. Other people’s subjective feelings or definitions of happiness cannot make you happy. Other people’s definitions of success cannot make you successful. It’s deeply personal and unique.

Which means that, actually finding out what you really want to do may be the harder part.

It’s also worth noting that, if what it takes for you to feel successful is harder, then it will be harder for you to be successful. This is neither good nor bad – it just is.

Photo by Anne Worner

#Idea – Memento Iuvenalis / Remember Your Youth / 12.01.17

When you see an elderly person
Or anyone struggling with (…or against?) the inevitable march of time
You could see an opportunity to remember your common humanity
And to share the burden of the human condition.

You could see as a chance to remember that,
As carbon based life – we were given these amazing but fragile bodies
Prone to errors in repair and replication
And quickly breaking down

This is neither good, nor bad – it just is.

And so, this person in front of you is an opportunity
To remember that we are all dying together
…although this particular person is probably closer to the end point than you are
And probably feeling the pull more than you are.

And, no matter how well he’s taking it
(…we do hope he’s taking it well)
Maybe he can teach you something by his example
Perhaps to treasure your youth whilst you have it
No matter how old you are.

elderly black and white photo
Photo by Anne Worner

When I look at an ‘old person’
Dealing with what appears to be this slow catastrophe
This thing we call ageing
I can’t help but feel some admiration.

I watch him weathering the storm;
Unwinding telomeres
Failing strength
Fading memory.
But there he is
Still going
And I can’t help thinking;
That’ll be me one day, if something else doesn’t get me first
Maybe I can learn something through his example

‘Youth’ as an idea is slippery slope
Such a relative concept
I remember some acquaintances from when I was 11
(…those a little too old to be properly called my friends)
Men, I suppose, in their early 20s who seemed so old, strong, distinguished, unknowable
Now I am 29, these fresh faced 22 year olds
Worry me with their youth and their inexperience
They affect me with the things they have already done with their short lives
What they might yet do.

I look at them with a sense of loss that I can’t help but feel
I lament the hours I feel that I wasted when I was their age
They too, in their own and very unintentional way, are a memento:
I’m 29 – not old exactly ‘old’,
But there they are all the same
Being many years my junior

And with them is a sense of the abrasive nature of time
Wearing away at my body and my psyche
A little voice in my head
Telling me that I need to ‘get on with it’.

young people black and white photo

Problem is, I don’t really know what ‘it’ is
And so I suppose this age gap
Reminds me to examine the trajectory my life is taking
By looking at back at how I got here
What I was doing then.

It’s more than a little neurotic, no doubt about it.

Maybe when I’m 80,
I’ll be looking back on those spry 60 year olds in much the same way
Or maybe I’ll be dead
Who knows.

‘Age’, is almost a synonym for ‘youth’
And just prone to the same amount of relativity
Someone once proclaimed that ‘you are as old as you feel’
That person was probably not a decade older than 70
(…though I may be wrong).

What is age but a reminder?
Whether you look forward or backwards
In this way everybody; older or younger, could be seen as a memento mori
A memento of life;
What you had
What’s left of it
No matter how much is left of it.

elderly laughing black and white photo
Photo by .through my eyes.

We should cherish the elderly
Living, breathing
(…sometimes barely breathing at that )

“Memento Iuvenalis”:
Remember your youth
No matter how old you are

Cover image credit: KasunChamara

#Idea – The Epiphany Usually Comes Later / 03.03.17

Whatever you are currently experiencing
(…no matter how good, or how bad)
May be the basis of a future epiphany.
(…or it may not).

Put another way, everything is valuable because when you later reflect upon it, it could change your life.
You only get to find out later.

As in everything; your future is unknowable.
And this too will pass.

#ThoughtExperiment – Your assumptions and how to use them

First, it helps to be aware that you have assumptions
(…we all do, I assume?)
And probably that you make more assumptions than you think you do
(…we all do, I assume?)

Next – to consider the importance of your assumptions:
They are necessary to simplify
This particularly complex universe in which we all find ourselves

Think about it –
Imagine not being sure that gravity will work today
Or that night will follow day
Or that you need food to survive
It’d be difficult.

So, there are certain things that it helps to think you’re ‘sure’ of
(…I assume)

But, remember:
There are probably less things to be sure of than you think
(…like we said: complex universe, complex world, right?)
Such assumptions often get in the way….
Of learning something new
Or examining something deeply
Seeing more of what something is
(…and not what you think something is)

Assumptions can get in the way of your thinking through things
And certain assumptions lead you to bad places
Bad thinking and what comes with it
Closed minds in places of power
Closing doors on other people,
Which, by extension, holds us all back

suffering photo
Photo by Björn Bechstein

More terrible examples include prejudice and hatred: racism, homophobia, sexism, war, genocide – the list goes on
From assumptions about ‘other’ people being ‘bad’
Or consider the various idiotic decisions that you didn’t ‘think through’ at the time
Things you just assumed would work, or happen
…and didn’t
And that ended up costing you in one way or another
(…and we’ve all been there, I assume?)

Yeah, assumptions can be bad.
But, like everything, it’s not all bad – and usually a matter of degree
Like we said, maybe not best to doubt the sunrise.

Moderation is a mostly recurrent theme in our universe.

So, what follows?
Perhaps try to notice where you apply your assumptions
(…it is certainly not always obvious)
Think of it as ‘epistemological troubleshooting’
A way to make better informed decisions about everything
And by extension, live a better life

Enquire more
Question more
Question others
Most especially: question yourself

Every now and then, ask yourself:
“How possible is it that this thing that I think is true
And consider:
What makes you so sure that you’re right about anything, anyway?
(…or everything?)
Do you like to be ‘right’ about things?
If so, why?

shouting photo
Photo by cotaro70s

If in doubt of your ‘wrongness’,
Remember how complex this universe is
And that many human assumptions are, and have been

Remember that you have been wrong before
And you will be wrong again
(…even if selective memory has erased many such instances from your recall)

Perhaps remember that old cliche: most all of us assumed that the earth was once flat
Until it wasn’t

Consider what to ‘save’ your assumptions for
Start to doubt the nature of certain things and you will perhaps become a little insane. Or a lot insane.

You can also verify stuff:
“how much evidence do I have…
…for this thing that I believe to be right
…actually being right?”

Perhaps try to catch some of those assumptions when you make them
…even though you’re always making them
(and that’s OK)

Someone once said
”When you assume you make an ass out of u and me”

And, do remember
No matter how hard you try
(…assuming you try)
You will never be free of your assumptions


Notice where you make assumptions
Challenge them
Perhaps see things differently…

smiling dog photo
Photo by csaba peterdi