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An Ode To Death, Inspired By Bertrand Russell

That we are not perfect is widely accepted. Why else do we need to work towards the betterment of ourselves? Not that we all do it as much as we ought to, and in this busy world where there are a million things to do, it just gets harder.

I came about this quote from Bertrand Russell, a part of his essay “On History”. A very worthwhile, if arduous, read.

The past alone is truly real: the present is but a painful, struggling birth into the immutable being of what is no longer. Only the dead exist fully. The lives of the living are fragmentary, doubtful, and subject to change; but the lives of the dead are complete, free from the sway of Time, the all-but omnipotent lord of the world. Their failures and successes, their hopes and fears, their joys and pains, have become eternal – our efforts cannot now abate one jot of them. Sorrows long buried in the grave, tragedies of which only a fading memory remains, loves immortalized by Death’s hallowing touch – these have a power, a magic, an untroubled calm, to which no present can attain.

It simultaneously accepts death, and gives us – the living – a reason to rejoice in our imperfections. We can be perfect when we are dead. Now, is the time to become better, for we are not perfect now.

It is an ode to the transience of life. That life can be miserable for some people is well known, and for some others, life is a party, a festival to enjoy the fruits of the billions of years of evolution.

In either case, there will come a time, in each of our lives, when these won’t matter. Perhaps this sounds emo, on the surface. But, it is one additional reason for us to accept what we have, what we can do about the time we are given, because in the end, our time will end – and when it does, we will take to our grave what we’ve left behind as the living.

Reading and the Three Golden Rules of Wisdom

Reading and the Three Golden Rules of Wisdom

Every person that I meet wants to read more. Two problems face us when it comes to reading. First, we don’t have enough time to read at all and second, when we do – there is so much to read and so little time.

Conversely, We don’t spend as much time reading as we used to. This story is conducted in the US, but the decline in reading is probably global.

Rule #1: Context Matters. It’s not just about what you’re reading, but also about how and why it relates to the real world.

There are people who don’t read books at all – and this was surprising to me. Until I heard someone on TV say that we read just as much as we used to. Blogs and tweets have replaced books.

While you can gleam peripheral and superficial knowledge about something in 140 characters or from a quote – what you don’t get is context. 

So here’s the first golden rule: You choose what to read. And that either you can give yourself context as to why and how that book (or phrase, or chapter, or tweet) relates to the real world, or the author can give you context.

Context is important because it’s not about the what but also about why this book matters to your existence as a human being 

Rule #2: No book is bad. That’s like someone saying I’m a bad person. why? Is it because of my ethics or morals? My lack of people skills? My dressing sense? Be specific as to why a book is bad.

Saying a book is bad is an unnecessarily vague statement. Why is it bad? What’s so bad about it?

Is it:

  • written incoherently?
  • Has no point?
  • Grammar and/or language is unsuitable?
  • Author is otherwise a bore?

Whether or not you like a book is subjective to your own tastes of course. A history buff would love to read something about East Germany while someone into fantasy would think that same topic is oh-em-gee-so-boringggg!

So, no book is bad in it’s entirety. Coherently structure what is so “bad” about a book and try to look past it to get the ideas out. Concepts and ideas improve our understanding of the world.

Which leads me to the third point:

Rule #3: Your time is your own. If you can’t get past page 42 of a certain book – chuck it out.

Invest time where your returns are more guaranteed. It’s your time. It is possible that one is not enlightened enough to understand the book – either unenlightened because the language is too elegant or unenlightened because the concepts don’t make sense.

Conversely, it is possible that a book is “bad”. Give the book a benefit of the doubt and see, if, perhaps it’s not the book but one’s understanding of the world due to which the book is unable to teach us.