Every once in a while it’s worth to take note of our basic assumptions, thought patterns and habits that moves us through life. If you are generally a functional human being these are kind of your friends. After all you can’t sit there pondering every single action and countless small decisions we have to make. Our brain processing power and structure is not designed for that. We do need short cuts in the form of basic assumptions thought patterns etc.
There are 2 major issues with this though. Let’s look into these:
- A lot of people are not functional. People are broken either thoroughly or in certain areas of their lives. Some of us are anxious, others are depressed, paranoid, hooked up on one fun thing or the other, can’t hold down jobs, friends, relationships. You get the picture. As you can imagine what got someone there (i.e being crazy) is clearly not an optimal way of operating. Unconsciously letting life unfold based on our core beliefs, assumptions carry people to the point of hard to return, kind of like swimming against the current, getting tired, saying fuck that, letting yourself get carried by the current and then falling of the waterfall.
- While not as critical as the first one even in somewhat functioning life you have the risk of being stuck in a local maximum. This means your beliefs and world view shaped you to survive and operate efficiently in a certain environment but not outside of it. Since we are into breaking things into bullet points let’s look at the 2 core problems with this.
- If you were to seek to break out of your local maximum to either another and higher local maximum or better a global maximum you might just have a better life. This is the uneasy feeling of realising you are not entirely satisfied but you don’t know why. It’s a slower burn but nevertheless a burn.
- Your local maximum changes in a way that makes you vulnerable. For example if your entire life is based in a specific industry in a certain city you would be highly exposed if that industry in that city were to disappear. Think of all the mining cities that turned into ghost towns after that boom was over.
To avoid these it is worth consciously assessing and challenging your beliefs and habits . At the end of this exercise you might not decide change anything and that’s ok or you do a little course correction. It doesn’t take away the value of the exercise.
As you can imagine, I find books to be a really useful guide in this somewhat rational and structured soul searching exercise. With that long winded introduction and without further ado I give you 3 books that’ll give your brain and soul a gentle slap and get you thinking about this “stuff”.
1- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William B. Irvine
I might have written about this before, I don’t care if I did. It’s a great introduction to Stoicism and I like Stoicism. It’s quite impressive how a couple of ancient guys way of thinking and living can be so effectively implemented at this day and age. William B. Irvine talks about his experiment with Stoicism and how it positively changed his life but as he does that he also introduces the core Stoic ideas and provides a map of the philosophy. It’s both an intellectually stimulating read if you are into that stuff but also highly practical which I hope you are into. There has been a lot of talk about Stoicism in the past couple years and it’s turning into a bit of hype. I don’t care about that either, if it works it’s probably a good thing that it reaches more people through a hype cycle.
2- Courage to be Disliked – Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitage Koga
This is a great little book. It’s set up as a conversation between a young person who is somewhat unhappy with life as well as angry and an old philosopher. In essence it’s a book about the psychological approach of Alfred Adler who is a relatively less known contemporary of Freud. What’s crazy to me is this guy’s approach just feels so much more useful than the “everything is based on a trauma you had as a child” approach of the other guy’s which is still probably taints a lot of people’s view perception of psychotherapy.
I like this book as it contains sentences like: “To get rid of one’s problems, all one can do is live in the universe all alone. But one can’t do such a thing.” and like “Intervening in other people’s task and taking on other other people’s tasks turns one’s life into something heavy and full of hardship.”. It feels smart not to do that then. You might feel like “No Shit Sherlock” at this point, suspend your judgement and give it a go. The book has solid rationale that lands these obvious points in a way that makes them sticky.
3- Ham on Rye – Charles Bukowski
This is admittedly a cheap shot. It’s not an easy read but this autobiographical novel from Bukowski will most likely make you appreciate some aspect of your upbringing and anything that makes you like what you already have is a useful read. By going through Bukowski’s pain you might just realise it’s not that bad after all.
If you like what you read consider a small donation here.