Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dårlige spådommer er verre enn ingen spådommer

Kjetil Johansen skriver om spådommer for the 21te århundre:
"Å spå om framtiden er risky business, men like forbannet en nødvendig aktivitet."
Nei. Absolutt ikke. Dårlige spådommer er verre enn ingen spådommer. Dårlige spådommer gir deg illusjonen av kontroll, de setter deg fast i et spor og gjør deg mindre oppmerksom på uventete og ukjente faktorer. Og alle spådommer som går 100 år - eller 5 år - frem i tid er dårlige spådommer.

Spådommer ekskluderer, en spådom er den "mest sannsynlige" av alle scenarier, derfor lander man på én og slutter å lete. Hvilken du lander på sier mye om deg, lite om framtiden. Let heller etter muligheter. Muligheter akkumulerer. Desto mer du observerer, desto flere muligheter ser du.

Kuren for spådomstrang er å møte hver dag med tre erkjennelser:

1) Jeg kan ikke ta noe av det som finnes nå for gitt.
2) De viktigste hendelsene som skjer i dag får jeg ikke får høre om.
3) Jeg aner ikke hva som kommer til å skje videre.

Dette gir deg ingen kunnskap om fremtiden, men det gir deg et forsprang på alle andre ved at du ikke tar beslutninger basert på verdiløse spådommer.

Å spå er som å se med øyne som nesten aldri gir riktig informasjon. Da er det bedre å lukke dem, og trene opp de andre sansene dine.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to be happy

Psychiatrist Raj Persaud talks about the secret of happiness:

Or as Lin Yutang wrote in The Importance of Living:

All questions of living in heaven must be brushed aside. Let not the spirit take wings and soar to the abode of the gods and forget the earth. Are we not mortals, condemned to die? The span of life vouchsafed us, threescore and ten, is short enough, if the spirit gets too haughty and wants to live forever, but on the other hand, it is also long enough, if the spirit is a little humble. One can learn such a lot and enjoy such a lot in seventy years, and three generations is a long time to see human follies and acquire human wisdom. Anyone who is wise and has lived long enough to witness the changes of fashion and morals and politics through the rise and fall of three generations should be perfectly satisfied to rise from his seat and go away saying, "It was a good show" when the curtain falls.

For we are of the earth, earth-born and earth-bound. There is nothing to be unhappy about the fact that we are, as it were, delivered upon this beautiful earth as its transient guests. Even if it were a dark dungeon, we still would have to make the best of it; it would be ungrateful of us not to do so when we have, instead of a dungeon, such a beautiful earth to live on for a good part of a century.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

An idea about the internet

The internet is to the city as the city is to the small town, and the small town to the countryside.

In functionality: It's larger, faster, more anonymous, more specialized, more complex. Some new things become possible, some old things difficult.

In scariness: Isolation, predators, freaks, Angry Internet People. Uncaring and lawless. Too large, too fast.

In attitude: A mixture of arrogance and nostalgia towards the simpler life. In response, resentment and envy. "How quaint and charming!" vs "Who do they think they are?"

A city person goes out in the country to relax, and dream of leaving it all behind for a more authentic and natural life. An internet person finds the same quiet in the city when their gadgets are turned off. They dream of leaving them off forever, to live the authentic urban life.

Attempts to live these dreams will probably lead to boredom, possibly to happiness.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

You will do your part, and I mine

The only self-help book I need: The Discourses of Epictetus. Stoicism has been out of favor for a while. It's seen as emotionless and puritanical, which is true, but avoidable. You're allowed to pick the parts you like. The Stoics wouldn't approve, but they're dead. The parts I like in Stoicism deal with the power of choice, the one thing nobody can take away from you. Place your happiness and self-worth in things that are within your sphere of choice, and you will never be anxious or bitter. Doing your best is up to you, being rewarded for it isn't. It's not up to you to avoid illness, but it is up to you how you deal with it. It's an ideal: Not possible, but something to aim for.

The greatest flaw of the Stoics was fatalism. Changing the world was not an option to them, so they turned inward. They would have mocked the last 200 years of political and social progress. Again you can pick the parts you like.

Epictetus imagines himself before the emperor and says: "Chain me if you like, but my will is free!" This is a posture, but an inspiring one. Epictetus is not for everyone. Some may find him cold, others depressing. For me he's a safety net. I'm an Epicurean when things go well, a Stoic when things go wrong. The Stoics wouldn't approve, but again, they're dead. All that is left of them is a handful of fine ideas that lie forgotten in a ditch.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tainted matter unfit to eat

Those who have learned precepts as mere theory want to vomit them up immediately, just as people with weak stomachs do with their food. Digest your precepts first, and you will not vomit them up in this way; otherwise they really do turn to vomit, tainted matter unfit to eat. Then show us some change that results from those precepts in your own ruling faculty, just as athletes can show their shoulders as the results of their training and diet, or those who have learned various arts can show the result of their learning.

A builder does not come up and say, "Listen to me lecturing on the builder's art", but acquires a contract to build a house and shows by building it that he knows the art. And you should do likewise; eat as a man, drink as a man, adorn yourself, marry, sire children, play your part as a citizen; put up with abuse, bear with an inconsiderate brother, bear with a father, bear with a son, neighbour, fellow-traveller.

Show us these things so we can see that you have in truth learnt something from the philosophers. No; but "Come and listen to me reading out my commentaries." Away with you! Look for someone else to vomit over.
- Epictetus, The Discourses

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

A spectator of himself and of his works

But god has introduced man into the world as a spectator of himself and of his works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end where the irrational creatures do. He ought rather to begin there, but to end where nature itself has fixed our end; and that is in contemplation and understanding and a way of life in harmony with nature. Take care, then, not to die without ever being spectators of these things.
- Epictetus, The Discourses
But you are wretched and discontented, and if you are alone, you call it desolation, but if you are with men, you call them cheats and robbers and you find fault with even your parents and children and brothers and neighbours. Whereas you ought, when you live alone, to call that peace and freedom, and compare yourself to the gods; and when you are in company, not to call it a crowd and a tumult and a vexation, but a feast and a festival, and thus accept all things with contentment. What, then, is the punishment of those who do not? To be just as they are. Is a person discontented at being alone? Let him be in desolation. Discontented with his parents? Let him be a bad son, and let him grieve. Discontented with his children? Let him be a bad father. 'Throw him into prison.' What kind of prison? Where he already is.
- Epictetus, The Discourses

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