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.)

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An elementary school teacher who teaches her students to focus on living a life that matters -video

A moment with a good teacher can give a lifetime of hope.

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.

 

How far should you live from work?

or why commutes tend to average 20-30 minutes.

It’s not just limited to the United States, either. In the Netherlands, the average commute time in the early 2000s was about 28 minutes. Many European nations average about 35 minutes. What makes a half-hour so universal in terms of commuting?

Excellent discussion of the research at Per Square Mile.

Life as narrative

We do not really know someone unless or until we know their story.

We might know their history or their pedigree, but do we know their story? We might have heard their stories and anecdotes, but do we know their story?

And we know that we know their story when we can tell it. In fact, many deep conversations consist in telling a person’s narrative back to him/her.

*  *  *

 NYTimes.com:

A life is not an unrelated series of actions or projects or states of being.  A life has, we might say, a trajectory. It is lived in a temporal thickness.  Even if my life’s trajectory seems disjointed or to lack continuity, it is my life that is disconnected in its unfolding, not elements of several different lives.

If a life has a trajectory, then it can be conceived narratively.  A human life can be seen as a story, or as a series of stories that are more or less related.  This does not mean that the person whose life it is must conceive it or live it narratively.  I needn’t say to myself, “Here’s the story I want construct,” or, “This is the story so far.” What it means rather is that, if one reflected on one’s life, one could reasonably see it in terms of various story lines, whether parallel or intersecting or distinct.  This idea can be traced back to Aristotle’s “Ethics,” but has made a reappearance with some recent narrative conceptions of what a self is.

RIP Steve Jobs – “There is no reason not to follow your heart”

Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Parting words to graduating students

my advice to you is simple:

find out what you are meant to do and do it,

and find out who you really are, under all the junk that has been attached to you by those who would make you everybody else, and be that.

(…)

what you are meant to do and who you really are are not the same thing:

what you’re meant to do is learned, discovered,

but who you really are has always been there — it is a matter of unlearning who you have been told to be, or told you are, or should be,

until all that is left is the knowledge of who you are and always were: nobody but yourself.

via How to Save the World.