SIJRT #4 – The good life

The thread

So I just read “Stillness is the key” by Ryan Holiday. The book is about the knowledge of self and the pursuit of happiness. Because what’s the point of having a head full of knowledge if you are not at peace with yourself ?

Nobody realizes just how much they love someone while they’re booking back-to back-to-back meetings.

Should you read it ?

Not mandatory

To summarize the book in a few words : life is like a chocolate bar. You can’t run and enjoy it at the same time. There needs to be stillness to savor it.

Easy to read (+), interesting ideas (+), lots of anecdotes (-)

Let’s talk about life and chocolate bars a bit : two facts then onto the good life.

Fact 1 : you should not be alive in the first place

You being alive is against the odds.

The universe is filled with dead planets, void, dust and stars. There are billions of planets and we still have not seen life yet in any of them. We are the one chance in billions. Life is an incredibly unlikely event. Life’s against the odds.

For millions of years since life appeared, living organisms competed with each others to survive in a ruthless competition. You are the fruit of millions of life and death struggles. If any of your grand-…-grand-grand mother had failed finding food for too long, you would not be there. Your birth is against the odds.

Every single day of your life, your body is working relentlessly to keep you alive. 24/7 with perfect precision, blood goes where it must and nutrients feed your every cells. For that to work, all you need to do is get some food, get some sleep and get some heat. This is a gift. Your health is against the odds.

Life is not “normal”. It’s a constant ballet of billions of cells and atoms. The whole universe must be in a very precise state for life to even exist. Every single second. Life is crazy and 100% against the odds. That’s why we die ultimately.

And yet we just wake up every morning like everything was normal.

You are the black swan.

– Nassim Taleb

Fact 2 : you live in an everlasting present

We will always live in the present moment. There is no way to feel anything in any other moment than the present moment. This moment is not static and shifts in time but you only live when you live and it’s always now.

We tend to live our present moment thinking about other moments, the past or the future. However we will never live in the past nor will we live in that future we imagine. Yes of course you can have a pretty good idea of where you’ll be in 5 minutes and you can imagine how you will react but this film in your head is not how you will actually live it.

Imagine you project the conversation you’ll have with your boss tomorrow.

Well when you have the actual conversation, did you picture the whole scene perfectly ? Did you picture the set of the room ? The temperature ? The distance between you two ? Your appetite ? Your sleepiness ? etc. The actual experience of your discussion is not what you pictured. Simply, there are way to much variables to imagine them all. What you have in your head will not be the reality. It will never be. The only reality is the present state of the universe. This is where you live. Not in the world you created in your head.

We always live in the present and we tend to forget it. That’s normal we need to plan for the future and study our past to learn from our mistakes. Memory and imagination are powerful tools. But they’re just that, tools.

If you’re always thinking about the future, when do you reap the fruits of your meticulous planning and learning ? If you spend all your actual time (the one in the present) using tools, when do you actually live ?

So we have a gift defying every odds and it’s underused. What to do ?

The good life

If you were to die tomorrow what would you do ?

After the initial shock, whatever you’ll set yourself to do, you’ll want to make every second count right ? To me that’s the good life.

It’s a life where every second is delicious and is lived to its full extent. It’s the one where you relearn to live in the present moment and honor the gift of life. It’s the one where you can face death with a smile because you know you lived fully and could not have lived better. No time was wasted in anger, resentment or regrets.

Now why wait for a death sentence to start making every day matter ?

Death and life are big questions in everyone’s life. They are worth digging. We are lucky to have access to the knowledge from other people. We don’t need to repeat their mistakes. Let’s listen to old people’s regrets [link]. Let’s listen to what those who faced death have to say [link]. Let’s understand how little time we have with the ones we love [link].

Let’s start tomorrow with the intent to live the good life.

Hopefully, this reading put some good energy in your hearth. But beware, we are talking about a lifetime’s journey here. We need patience, humility and kindness towards ourselves. We live in a performance oriented society and we like to set objectives and measure performance. Walking towards the good life requires another approach. You won’t get results by forcing and pushing. It takes time, self-reflection and practice. I can’t show you the way. You have to walk it yourself. I just hope we’ll meet somewhere along the path.

Peace on you dear reader.

I wish you the good life.


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Some thoughts about time

straight from the podcast linked above

Ask a 60 year old if he would trade his seat with a 90 year old and a trillion dollars. Most will say no. Now ask yourself the same question : would you be 90 year old and have a trillion dollars ?

Ask children if they would sell their arm for 1M$? If they would sell their legs for 5M$ ? If they would sell an eye, an arm and a leg for 10M$?

Your time and your health are immensely worth. If you answered “no” to the first question, you’re already rich of about a trillion dollars. That’s a lot. Don’t waste that.

Some trails you may want to explore

Those readings were great tools for my personal advancement on the journey: “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle, “Sit like a buddha” by Lodro Rinzler.

The first one leads you to rethink this particular relationship we have with the present moment. The second one helps you setting an habit of meditation.

I highly recommend you give a try to meditation. It’s a life quality enhancer. It’s like going to the gym but for the mind. First it makes no difference but after a few months you feel that you changed for the better. For me this means more clarity, more self awareness, a higher base level of happiness. The activity is fascinating when you get used to it. Try it. There is nothing to lose, everything to gain. Plus, and most importantly, if you can’t find 5-10 minutes each day to improve your life quality, you’re in a bad, very bad environment. Remember you can’t run and enjoy the chocolate bar at the same time.

Highlights from the book

“All of humanity’s problems,” Blaise Pascal said in 1654, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

If Zeno and Buddha needed teachers to advance, then we will definitely need help. And the ability to admit that is evidence of not a small bit of wisdom!

Most of us would be seized with fear if our bodies went numb, and would do everything possible to avoid it, yet we take no interest at all in the numbing of our souls. —EPICTETUS

“When you realize there is nothing lacking,” Lao Tzu says, “the whole world belongs to you.”

The less we are convinced of our exceptionalism, the greater ability we have to understand and contribute to our environment, the less blindly driven we are by our own needs, the more clearly we can appreciate the needs of those around us, the more we can appreciate the larger ecosystem of which we are a part.

Nobody realizes just how much they love someone while they’re booking back-to back-to-back meetings.

It was Cicero who said that to study philosophy is to learn how to die.

Published by Emmanuel Omoruyi

Avid reader and writer

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