Sometimes I feel that critics, epicures, and experts of all kinds must lead such depressing lives. It’s their innate characteristic to look for perfection; but I suppose they hardly find it on a regular basis. And that must be such a constant let-down.
I, on the other hand, could never be accused of having discerning taste in anything, and feel much the happier for it. I’ve had seconds–and thirds–of food that others have called ‘passable’, I’ve enjoyed watching movies that others have labelled ‘a waste of time and money’, I’ve gladly worn hand-me-downs when others told me I looked ‘so last century’. And loved doing it all.
Experts must be such pessimists.
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I’ve lost count of the things that have been labelled ‘overrated’ in recent times. Sleep is overrated, life is overrated, blogging, taste, friendship are overrated. So now I’m officially sick and tired of the system of overrating.
Of course sleeping is not ‘overrated’ (which means ‘not worth it’ or ‘ given more importance than it deserves’); ask an insomniac if you think otherwise. Life is not overrated, and if you think it is, it means you are emotionally imbalanced and should take steps to get over your current life situation. In fact, I’ll oppose everyone who calls anything overrated; it’s such a pessimistic attitude! I believe every emotion, relationship, experience, and thing, is worthwhile. It might have a different level of importance for different people, but by itself, it is probably more underrated than the other.
Have people lost interest and faith in everything that is good; in themselves, the world? That they coolly demean everything from energy bars to existence? Or is this phrase just a mindless, meaningless fad, and will fade with passing seasons?
I fervently hope it’s the latter; because even if it implies that the masses are prone to mob behaviour, at least it also promises that sanity will return in future generations.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
A few days back I enrolled in another free online course provided by Coursera. This one is called ‘Know Thyself‘, and the instructor is Prof. Mitchell Green, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. ‘Know Thyself’ is a ten-week journey towards self-knowledge: understanding what it means, how to work towards it, and its importance in our lives.
In one of the first few video lectures, Prof. Green talks about this very famous quote from Plato’s ‘Apology’, attributed to Socrates when he was just about to be given the death sentence. I’ve always thought it showed great courage on Socrates’ part to say, as I understood, that he’d rather die than stop philosophizing. And I never thought any more about it, never thought to apply it in my life, because I’d rather live silently than die because of my convictions. (Wow, that sounded more cowardly in black-and-white than it does in my mind. Just to be clear–I won’t die for my convictions because I might be wrong! Okay, that just makes it worse. Moving on.)
But the professor explains that the phrase doesn’t mean that if you don’t analyze your own life, you’re better dead. He quotes another well-known philosopher who has written that a better translation for what Socrates said would be, “The unexamined life is not to be lived”. That is to say, your life may be worthwhile even if you don’t spend time introspecting, but it would be enriched further if you did actually ‘know thyself’. “Not to be lived” as in ‘should not be lived, so examine your life’ and not ‘should not be lived, so die’.
And that makes so much more sense. Not only because I don’t have to die in this scenario, but also because the quote has now become meaningful and useful to me, and isn’t just some great thing someone said once.
It now tells me to work towards self-awareness.
During one of my day dreams today, I started wondering about the things I’d save in case of a fire. Sherlock and the other living beings of my house were safe, of course. And this is what I came up with, in descending order of importance:
1. My laptop
2. My jewelry box
3. My purse (which already has cash and all my IDs.. Yeah yeah, I might be cheating, but it’s my day-dream!)
It got me thinking; am I a materialist just because I want to save my old and battered laptop and some ear rings? It’s true that I haven’t named my laptop (I’m not that attached to it yet) but I’ll be saving it because of my movies and ebooks and professional software and not because of its monetary worth. Those are all replaceable, but the fact that I still want it in my survival kit must mean something more than plain greed. Then there’s my jewelry box, which I’ll save not because it has a few expensive pieces, but because I’ve selected all of them–even the cheap imitation ones–with lots of care, and I love all of them. Again, they’re replaceable but I’ll miss them all terribly if I lose them. The purse containing cash and IDs was an afterthought I suppose, and could be fairly counted as a symptom of my materialistic nature.
Yes, I love all my physical comforts, and I love shopping, and I love acquiring new things. But the material things that I love most–as apparent by the fact that I’d want to save those in a disaster-type situation–I love not because I’m motivated by financial profit, but because I become understandably attached to them.
So I ask again, is it materialism if I’m emotionally attached to the material things? I’d like to think it’s actually proof of my affectionate and accepting nature!
NO! An astounding no, all in capitals.
Being a pessimist is no way to live my life! After all, a little hurt and pain–or even a lot more than a little–is part of being, period.
Sure, I may never get sad that things didn’t work out, because I’ll never expect them to work out in the first place. But I won’t get to dream either. And I won’t get to work towards trying to make my dream come true. I won’t get to plan out things in advance, and I won’t get the thrill of anticipation. Is that any way to spend one’s precious time on Earth, I ask you?
No it isn’t. I believe that my future happiness depends absolutely on my present state of mind. Only I have the power over my life. Of course there will be curve balls and unpleasantness, but the way I react to them will determine their effect on me. If I choose to take them in stride and not let them bother me, only then will I be happy.
Moreover, I truly believe in the power of our own subconscious. Which is actually the title of a book a friend recommended to me. Although I haven’t finished reading it yet, the title itself speaks amply. The cliché ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’ is actually a truism as well: you have to believe in yourself and in your goals in order to achieve them.
Having the courage of your convictions–that’s all it takes.