Of politics and turkey

Frank Bruni in the NYT:

Every year around this time, I read about the fraught partnership of politics and turkey. How can a family survive the Thanksgiving meal with a mix of Democrats and Republicans at the table? What if some of the people voted for Trump and others didn’t? What if some continue to defend him even as others quiver in moral horror?


Well, that’s my family. And we manage just fine.


It’s not that we’re reticent, timid types. Um, we’re Italian. And while that primarily means a ridiculous abundance of food […], it also means a ridiculous abundance of opinions, registered in loud and overlapping voices.


Members of the family get worked up. Members of the family get stressed out. Members of the family even, on rare occasions, remove themselves from an overheated conversation and retreat to a different room — probably the kitchen, for seconds. We’re a ravenous lot.


But we’re a grounded one, too. All of us bear in mind that no division of thought, no partisan split, matters a fraction as much as the experiences that we’ve shared with one another, the support that we’ve lent one another and the compact that we’ve made to march together across the unpredictable years and through this messy world.


All of us, in other words, know where to draw the line. That’s key. Perspective. Proportion. I’m immeasurably thankful for relatives who hold on to those, and I hope that you and your relatives hold on to them, too.


And I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Amen!

What makes a fulfilling life

Bertrand Russell on a fulfilling life:

Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.

An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls.

Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

More here.

Make your 300 months genuinely shine for you

 

“Human lifetime is less than 1,000 months long. For only 1/3 of those 1,000 months will you have time for serious thinking, serious loving and serious acting – that gives you only 300 months.” (…)

The rest of the time you’ll spend doing things like sleeping, eating or being stuck in a traffic jam.

via WSJ.

Oliver Sachs reflects on (his) life upon learning he has terminal cancer

This a few months old but it never gets old. Focus, perspective and having no time for the inessential.

It’s never too late to get to clarity. And the earlier, the better.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. (via NYTimes.)

Résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions

Je lis chez Desbiens (Ainsi donc):

L’abondance des notes, en effet, et la dimension de la bibliographie ne m’impressionnent plus. (…) En outre, je suis gouverné depuis longtemps par l’idée qu’il faut résoudre en soi et pour soi les plus grandes questions.

Cette pensée rejoint celle d’Ortega y Gasset: lire moins et penser davantage (leer menos, pensar más).

Au lecteur qui se demande comment reconnaître si cette résolution est faite et est sienne, je propose ceci: demande-toi si tu peux donner raison de tes plus profondes convictions.

The power of one

Since the 1970s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has singlehandedly planted a forest larger than Central Park in New York City.

 

For the movie buffs, pair this story with the Oscar-winning The man who planted trees (L’homme qui plantait des arbres):

 

Stop stressing about stress

Vintage Kellaway:

The most stressful thing about stress is its lack of clarity. It is a scary umbrella term for all sorts of things, some of which aren’t scary at all. When I say I’m stressed I usually mean one of three things:

  1. that I’m too busy, for which the answer is to do less.
  2. Or that I’m too tired, for which the answer is to go to bed.
  3. Or that I’m anxious, for which the answer is to deal directly with the thing that I’m worrying about.

To wipe out stress in one easy step by banning the word, and thus forcing people to identify more precisely what it is that ails them.