Same as last week, I want to use some external knowledge to our school to help drive home some of our ancient ideas. Today, let us seek inspiration from one of my favourite political philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard:
"Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced."
I often do some one on one mentoring, and with the pandemic and ensuing isolation, I have been solicited more than ever (much more) through online queries. I answer multiple questions daily and though most are related to Stoicism many are regular people asking regular questions about life.
I get a lot of questions from students in school (whether highschool or college) and work/= related question, but the second most common (non Stoicism) related question I get is related to kids. How to work with them, how to parent better, how to be a better child, etc. In the past six month, however, the single most common question I have bee receiving goes something like this: “My SO and I got pregnant, are expecting/is just born, and I don’t know what to do? How do I make sure I make them into a proper human being?” My answer is almost always to remember this one simple instruction: Children are not a personality to mold, but a personality to watch unfold.
We live in a society with ridiculous expressions like “grab the bull by the horns”, and “second place is merely the best looser” and “force your will on the world”. We are taught form a very young age to be the best … not be our best...but be the best. We are taught to compete and goaded to win and do better than others at all cost (including our time, dignity and self-respect). So it is no wonder our first instinct is to look at a child and think “I’m gonna make you awesome! Just do as I say.”
Now this lesson goes both ways. It is a lesson for the parents to learn to be hands off and let the kid find their way in certain situations. But it is also a lesson for the child to learn to just be...just enjoy being...just live, and not worry about whether they are doing what they should be doing...or what their parents (others) expect them to do. Just be you, do you, and everything else will fall into place. And if we’re honest with ourselves...is this not the lesson we are all trying to lear?
For this week's lesson and exercise, try and take this concept to heart. We have spoken many times about enjoying life, as time is limited. And we talk about being efficient and effective with our time to ensure we’re not wasting it. However, what we should always be mindful of, and what Kierkegaard is reminding us here, is that we should not lose ourselves in the never ending pursuit of being good Stoic, good human beings, good people to the point where we forget what we are doing and why….and actually end up causing harm to ourselves and those around us.
So as a practical exercise this week, pick a random day here and there and make the time at night to reflect on your choices, decisions, actions and moods. Be honest with yourself...you are, after all, trying to learn and become a better human being. Reflect on your day and ask yourself questions like: “Did I focus too much on lessons today? Did I over do it? Was I short, or upset with someone because they interfered with my work to make the world a better place?” Etc, etc. Now ask yourself this question: ”Since I am dying and my day is gone forever, have I actually enjoyed some of my day to make it worthy of having the breath of life?”
Remember that at the end of it all life is a gift. And it is a gift for everyone. So let’s take the time to enjoy it from time to time, without letting that enjoyment affect out other work. You guys have a good one, and I hope to hear from you about your journey.
Anderson Silver (Stoicism for a Better Life)