Destiny is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you.
There’s this story about Winston Churchill who, after the Japanese bombed Hong Kong and Singapore, forcing Great Britain to declare war, he signed off with the following words, “I have the honour to be, with high consideration, Sir, Your obedient servant.”
On the 14th of February 1990, just as the Voyager 1 probe was leaving the Solar System, some 3.7 billion miles away from Earth, Carl Sagan asked NASA to turn it around to snap a photograph of our home.
The resulting photograph showed the Earth as a pale blue dot, less than a pixel in size. A speck of dust in a seemingly infinite universe.
There’s a fascinating story about the biblical King Solomon. It is said that he was searching for a cure against depression. He assembled his wise men together, which gave him the following advice: to craft himself a ring engraved with the words ‘This too will pass.’
They say we are capable of experiencing millions of different mental states, yet we waste most of our life cycling through the same five or six of them.
There are around 200 countries in the world, yet one in five people never travel to another country. They also tend to die within a fifty-mile radius of where they were born.
The average person spends eight hours per day sleeping, six hours watching television, and more hours than I’d care to count rewatching the same movies and TV shows, reading the same books over and over again.
The average woman will kiss 15 men, enjoy two long-term relationships, and have her heartbroken twice before she finds someone she can settle with. The average woman will have seven sexual partners, while the average man ten.
I have wasted three years of my life wishing for someone who didn’t love me to come back.
I only ever traveled to England for a total of ten days. Once.
I, too, have rewatched the same movies, over and over again, with different people or all by myself.
And I, too, have been reading The Great Gatsby once a year ever for the past decade or so.
But more tragically than all of that, I have wasted an awful lot of time vacationing on Someday Island.
“Someday I’ll be a published author. Someday I’ll find the love of my life. Someday I’ll be financially free.”
And you know what makes someday such a perverse word? We often couple it with “if only.”
We lose hope before we even embark on the journey.
And that’s how we waste our time.
The truth is that life’s a beautiful thing. Yeah, life’s pain. But it’s the kind of pain that reminds you that you are alive.
It would be quite terrible to live forever because then we’d all be kings and queens of procrastination.
You’re going to die. And I don’t say this to make you panic or anything. The panic will grow inside you, as your time runs out, as you grow tired and weary and unable to do what you’ve always wanted to do but postponed.
In AD 65, Seneca the Younger was ordered to take his own life by the Roman Emperor Nero. Seneca followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death, while also ingesting poison.
This order was a response to Seneca’s supposed involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Nero. Former consul and advisor to the emperor and one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome, Seneca decided to embody his philosophy to the very end. He accepted his fate with calm, even though those around him urged him to plea for his life.
While Seneca’s words of wisdom touched on countless aspects of life, he is perhaps best remembered for his piercing thoughts on the value of time.
This wisdom is relevant to this day, or maybe even more so, as we live in a world that makes it easy to lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in countless micro-distractions.
Carpe diem, as the Romans used to say, is an art that needs tinkering with as we do our best to seize time, rather than waste it.
“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” — Seneca
The oldest tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon, has been held at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London, since 1877. Just above the players’ entrance to the Centre Court, the tournament’s main arena, inscribed are two lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “If:”
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same
Nine years ago, just as my father declared bankruptcy, I went through a sort of mid-mid-life crisis; the kind you often have to fight against when you’re twenty-something and lost.
Nothing made sense. I struggled with depression and feelings of insecurity. I was a bunch of good intentions held back by a set of limiting self-beliefs, anxieties, addictions, all stitched together with a lot of hope.
I was so desperate for a way out of hell that I couldn’t see the fact that hell was something I had built for myself, hell was something I was carrying with me wherever I went.
During these years, as I slowly descended into darkness, I’d often stumble upon quotes that I’d deeply resonate with. They’d offer a bit of comfort, a bit of clarity, and I’d ponder and ponder about them.
The ones I never forgot about are the ones that defined my mindset and allowed me to escape the hell of my existence.
Here are five quotes that defined my mindset and allowed me to fight for my dreams.
In 336 B.C., a brash 20-year-old prince visited the Greek city-state of Corinth. During his stay, the prince visited the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, one of the founders of the Cynic philosophy.
The philosopher was quite a controversial character, infamous for his open criticism of Plato and for his rather shocking lifestyle; he begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar, or pithos, near the gymnasium in Corinth.
The young prince decided to meet this eccentric character. He found the philosopher lying in the sun. The prince addressed him and asked if he wanted anything at all from him, to which Diogenes replied, “Yes, I just want you not to stand in the sun.”
The young prince was so impressed by the philosopher’s nonchalant demeanor that he stated, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.”
Two years later, now a king in his own right, Alexander set out to conquer his way to the edge of the known world.
During the following decade, nothing stopped him. Nothing. Huge armies with elephants, impregnable fortresses, vast distances over mountains and rivers and deserts, hunger, thirst, the sea itself, the uttermost extremes of physical hardship and war. His body was littered with scars; everywhere that is, except his back. He never retreated, and he never lost a battle.
Most of his portraits, sculptures, and coins reflect a kind of upward gaze as if he were staring into the very heavens, yearning for something unreachable.
At the age of 33, the one who would forever be known as Alexander the Great, died, leaving behind the myth of one who dared to conquer the world.
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
Loneliness, defined as an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. The key word here is perceived.
Loneliness, defined as social pain — a simple mechanism that forces us to seek others. The key word here is pain.
A perceived pain, for even one who is surrounded by others might end up feeling lonely. Some might say that’s what real loneliness actually is: feeling alone when you are, in fact, surrounded by others.
Today, when we’re all connected via invisible waves of technology, there are but two great tragedies: one is to be lonely alone, the other is to be lonely among others.
I often wonder which is the selfish option of the two?
“In the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” — David Foster Wallace
In his famous commencement speech given at Kenyon College in 2005, David Foster Wallace shared with us a few simple, yet valuable insights that could very well form the foundation of someone’s daily philosophy on life.
Near the end of his speech, however, Wallace makes his most daring claim: we all worship. He talks about money, power, beauty, and intellect as false idols worshiped by our unconscious collective obsession with making sense of what we don’t understand.
In a way, we are all inclined to worship what we can’t quite define.
We don’t understand why someone’s beautiful, or why someone’s amassed incredible wealth. We call those who are intelligent as, gifted.
Who offered them this gift and why?
Worshiping is our way of trying to find order in an inherently chaotic universe.