The Monument of Your Existence
From Viktor Frankl's 'Man’s Search for Meaning'
Steve Jobs once said, “We all have a short period of time on this earth. We probably only have the opportunity to do a few things really great and do them well.”
Hello, and welcome to the Abandoned Curiosities newsletter. As you reflect upon another passing year, consider these words from Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who is most famous for his 1946 memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning — one of the quintessential books to read in a lifetime:
“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.”
But how do you make sure that the full volume turns out to be a good one?
According to Frankl, “The transitoriness of our existence” — the shortness of life — “constitutes our responsibleness.” “Man constantly makes his choices among the mass of present potentialities. At any moment, he must decide, for better or for worse, what will be the monument of his existence.”
You’re constantly building a monument of your existence. And your present choices represent the quality of the building material. So make responsible choices, and your monument, notebook, photo album, or whatever, will turn out alright.
This emphasis on responsibleness is also reflected in the maxim: “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!” In other words, imagine you messed up and this is your chance to make amends — to rewrite history, to do good deeds, to make good art.
I’m currently reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. Actually, re-reading it. Like I do with most good books. Anyway, in the past, we did an issue on Plato’s cave and how it’s the ideal representation of our current society — where people have accepted ignorance and just don’t want to think critically. Now, what if there was one book that could bring all these people to their senses? Sagan’s book is that definite manual on critical thinking. So stay tuned for another interesting issue next week.
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Also this week: I shared a few excerpts from The Network State on fake news, misinformation, and information distortion at large by the media.
I also enjoyed and retweeted this stunning thread from The Cultural Tutor, one of my favorite Twitter accounts lately:
And that’s all. As always, thanks for subscribing to Abandoned Curiosities.
Until next time,