The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
…that’s how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy. End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you. – Ted Hughes
There are few things more delightful than being guided from one good book to another. In The Craftsman author Richard Sennett quotes extensively from 19th-century English artist, critic, and social philosopher John Ruskin. Curious, I downloaded Ruskin’s Two Paths (free on Kindle) which is the source of this beautiful advice:
Above all, see that your work is easily and happily done, else it will never make anybody else happy; but while you thus give the rein to all your impulses, see that those impulses be headed and centred by one noble impulse; and let that be Love – triple love – for the art which you practice, the creation in which you move, and the creatures to whom you minister.
There is an incredibly poignant piece in the Guardian on the top five regrets of the dying. It is so easy to get caught up in busy-ness and think: “I’ll be happy tomorrow, I’ll talk to my friend tomorrow, I’ll make time for myself tomorrow, I’ll start following my dream tomorrow.” No, no, no. Think about what you want, who you love, and where you want to go in life and act NOW. No regrets.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
Just do the things you love. Do what turns you on, say what you wish somebody else would say, and show me something nobody else has, that’s of interest to you. I think sometimes part of the problem is this whole thing becomes so complex… it seems like a mountain range and it’s really just a bunch of idiots up there trying to figure out how to keep alive for the next day.
— Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy on getting ahead in advertising, or life.
After a month of festive food programmes, fairy lights and glossy perfume ads Christmas is finally here. According to collective fantasy we should pass the day in a booze-haze, flinging mince pies into our faces while the Queen mumbles on the telly. Every sentient being knows there is a chasm between Christmas Fact and Christmas Fiction, though, even for those of us fortunate enough to be spending the day in a warm house, with pleasant company and plenty to eat.
Family tension, memories of loss, or disappointment can tarnish holiday cheer, if we let them. It is vital to remember, as Ursula LeGuin said:
In honour of Lincoln’s birthday, a quote I misread at first
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
I thought it said: when I feel good, I do good. When I feel bad, I do bad. That version makes a lot of sense. There is a streak of mean in Western culture born, I think, of too little attention to Jesus’ admonition to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19) and too much reverence for blessing them that curse you (Matthew 5:44). Somewhere along the line the Church embraced the notion we should love everyone better than ourselves. After all, easy wins no brownie points with a fearsome God. To curry favour you have to suffer. Flagellation and hairshirts have gone out of style, but the self-abasing ideology of treating others better than we treat ourselves still has currency.
Which is idiotic. It isn’t just difficult to care about other peoples’ problems when neck-deep in your own, it is literally impossible. You might be able to feign interest, or force yourself to perform your social duties, but there won’t be a hole deep enough to bury your resentment. Anyway, how if you’re hurt, or struggling, how can you soothe pain or offer succor? Two drowners clinging together only sink faster.