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Obituary for a quiet life (2023) (bittersoutherner.com)
1416 points by conanxin 41 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 296 comments



Beautiful writing. It comes at an interesting time for me.

I'm in a full blown mid-life crisis where my state of mind fluctuates between full contentment and wishing I was doing more with life. This article made me think.

On the one hand, I'm content because I come from an unprivileged background. My family was abusive. Me and my brothers struggled with mental health. We ran away from home as soon as we could. Where I was born there were not any decent jobs, so the future was bleak.

Today, I have a decently-paid job in tech, good life/work balance, a nice clean house, and self-caring habits. I have a great mental and physical health, good relationships and a decent financial position. I traveled the world and had incredible experiences. I've got everything I dreamed about when I struggled mentally, physically and financially.

On the other hand, achieving all my dreams took me to a place where my mind says "I've done it all, let's just enjoy what I've got. Let's enjoy life". And that works for a while but then one day I resent being too complacent. I want to do more. Launch projects, earn more money, live more experiences. The voice of ambition says: "you're 45 years old, stop thinking like a 80 year old, move your ass and live more life"

Still working to find that fine balance between contentment and ambition. As a human I'm skeptic I will find the right answer. We tend to work in cycles/moods...


I’ve achieved everything I set out to in life, at least everything I have control over and set out to do when I was in my 20s.

I’ve added a new ambition after some thought, not sure if I’ll manage to squeeze it in.

But I see the second half of my life now as predominantly about “service”. I think it’s important for everyone to have a life, to do the things they love, to follow some ambition or passion and take care of themselves. But we then need to ensure we help others do the same.

So my focus now is on my parents, family members, my partner, and society. I’m very grateful I had the health and opportunity to build and see what I wanted. Now it’s payback. I still do selfish things - I have to in order to stay sane - but the focus is on service.


I feel the same. I spent the first 15 years of my career climbing out of poverty. Now, I've got stability, so the last few years I'm focusing on service towards others.

I've been volunteering for the last two years as a firefighter, and yesterday just finished the required ride alongs to complete my EMT. It feels good to deeply integrate with my local community, caring for neighbors when they need help. Between emergency response and a software engineer apprenticeship program I run I am spending a significant amount of time each week on community service. I feel safer and more connected to my community than ever before. It's been amazing for my anxiety.


Very interesting. I just finished my EMT and starting OEC for ski patrol Monday. And interviews for volunteer EMT early may. Even though my grandfather was a firefighter but died early. I'm more interested in EMT. My dad did the climbing out of poverty but also died early so I don't know what he would have done "of service", maybe just left it to my mom who was a court child advocate.

So far just the ride alongs (you can help a little) at fire, EMT, ski patrol have been great. And the training as well. Much more interesting and fulfilling than just vegging out on Netflix after a week in tech.


> I spent the first 15 years of my career climbing out of poverty.

I am at this stage of life's journey where I understand that just a little bit more and I will be able to enjoy my existence...


Same. Still climbing out. It’s been a decade for me, but that’s counting college where I was working to keep my family okay alongside school. Been a full time software engineer since 2020, still wading through debt and helping my family stay afloat. Reading this thread has done some good for my soul.


Don't most people spend their whole lives there?


>I see the second half of my life now as predominantly about “service”.

David Brooks articulates this sentiment well in his book “The Second Mountain.”


Learn, then earn, then return.


I for one would like to see you write more about this.


What would you like to know?


> I want to do more. Launch projects, earn more money, live more experiences.

The only thing you need is to stop this idea that living a richer life means earning/spending a lot of money / reaources. There's so much personal development you can do without participating in the materialistic rat race.


> There's so much personal development you can do without participating in the materialistic rat race.

That takes money, although in a different form: time. I can only enjoy those experiences if I have time for them (and I’m not talking about enjoying them after working 8h during the day, because I end up exhausted and cannot enjoy anything at all). So, in order to enjoy things I need to work less, which means less money. That’s the price. It’s always money


This exactly. I’d love to not have to work for a living so I could spend my days tinkering on projects, drawing, learning an instrument, etc. There’s so much to learn and resources to do so have never been more abundant or readily available. There’s enough to keep a person busy for several lifetimes.

But that requires money. A lot of it, if that’s what I want to do from today in my mid-30s onward.

I’m already doing some of this in my spare time and I’m grateful for the ability and opportunity to do so — having come from a poor background it’s absolutely not taken for granted — but having to work to live means everything else is pushed off into the margins with whatever energy and passion is leftover. I want to be able to get obsessed with and lost in whatever I’m pursuing like I did as a teenager, and that’s not feasible as long as a job is commanding most of my waking productive hours.


This is true for almost all of us though? Nearly everyone has to work at least 5x 8 hour days a week - some much more. Some have complex family needs that must be attended to before any personal time can even be considered.

There is always some time though, it just needs to be made and scheduled and worked on. We can choose to veg out in front of Netflix, or doom scroll, or peruse hacker news, but we can also choose to do something else possibly more fulfilling.

Of course not as good as having more disposable money and fewer work commitments but painting it as an all or nothing situation feels very defeatist.


Staring at screens all day is weirdly taxing.

My wife used to have a much harder job than mine. Social, active, moving around, thinking on her feet, lots of prep, high stakes sometimes, somewhat abusive environment. She left it for WFH and a non-programming computer-heavy office job.

After a couple weeks, one day she said to me, “Now I understand why you’re so worn-out after work hours”

I’ve felt a lot more refreshed and ready to do stuff after working physical jobs or (especially) lightly-physical jobs that involve little or no computer use, than after a day of cushy office work.

It’s not the sitting. Standing desks and walking breaks don’t help much. Computer work is just bizarrely draining.


I spent many years feeling guilty about this. Particularly during covid when, on paper, there wasn't a lot else going on.

Anecdotally, the thing to remember is that you brain is an organ - Even professional trainers can't do their workouts more then 3-4 hours a day. Why would one expect that the brain can magically work 8-10 hours at max intensity?

If you observe any job, workers have downtime - in the office, this would happen organically. Teams would get bored and chit chat, hallway conversations would go on too long etc.

With WFH - it's entirely possible to work 8-12 hours a day. This is the mental equivalent of endurance racing, burnout is inevitable at this pace - just like injury would be for athletes trying to train at that schedule.


That's the exact opposite of my experience. I grew up on a farm, and as you might imagine it involved hard physical labor daily. I would 100x rather do my current job as a systems engineer. It's so much easier than working on the farm that I feel guilty sometimes, because I know that I work 1/10 as hard as people making 1/5 of what I do.


They're not saying it's harder, just that it leaves you not wanting to do other things when you're done, and in a way that doesn't map to traditional physical fatigue, which is why it's "weirdly" taxing and not just taxing.

Mental and emotional fatigue accrue and exhibit themselves differently sometimes, but often matter quite a bit in the end. Plenty of people choose to leave well paid office jobs for more physical jobs that pay less. Unless you think they have a mental illness or are stupid, presumably they did it for a good reason.


I realize what they're saying. I'm saying I don't have the same experience.


I just paid to get my lawn cleared for a new patio. A guy single handedly shovelled 8 tonnes of clay soil into a skip over two days.

He charged much less than I earned in the same two days configuring AWS lambda functions. It's hard to imagine I had the more exhausting job.


I used to be a high school teacher and, though not as physically taxing as working on a farm, I feel the same about how much easier my current tech job is.

Teaching is just sooooo exhausting.


It depends upon the person and the exact situation, but it's a fundamentally different kind of tired. My students marvel at this.

They can tinker with mechanical things for a 12 hour crunch session before a robotics competition, and end up achy, hangry, and physically tired. But it might not be as exhausting as as an intense 1.5 hour math class or chasing a bug staring at screens for a couple of hours.


Computer work is so far outside the realm of what we as humans have been doing as “work” since the dawn of time. I wonder how significant that is? Could we be evolutionarily or culturally ill-suited to working this way?


Yes


I wonder if it's to do with always focusing on the same distance. When doing a job where you're walking, your eyes are constantly focusing at different distances and taking in lots of information that's more rich than any website can give you.

Maybe constant screen time just tells your body "hey you can relax, nothing is around to attack you"


Why would "hey you can relax, nothing is around to attack you" wear you out?


It signals to your body that you can sleep? So you stop producing whatever it is that makes you alert, attentive, energized.


Sure, but if I slept or rested during working hours, I'd be more energetic in after working hours, not less.


I've noticed that too. Its an unnatural thing for the body to do, interacting with a computer or other digital device for that length of time. I've never walked away from using the computer feeling charged and rejuvenated, even when working on something I enjoy. Not mentally, I am referring to a whole body feeling.

I believe the vibrations emanating from digital devices is partly incompatible with human biology, so the body spends significant energy trying to maintain its default "state" so to speak, which is why it feels draining to use computer for long stretches of time. If you read a book for hours on end, it would not have the same effect so its not purely the sedentary nature of it.

In qi-gong practice, there is a concept known as "drawing" where you can increase your strength and vitality from being in proximity to different objects. For example, if I put you in a room full of plants and natural sunlight, you WILL become physically stronger instantly. If I put you in a server computer room, you will become physically weaker instantly. The body is constantly adjusting its "aura".

I don't know the science behind it, but it is easy to experiment with. Have someone resist a push while in a wide stance while holding in their left hand

1. a phone in their hand turned on

2. hold a living plant

3. glass of water

4. a battery

See if you can feel the difference in your ability to resist the push. It will change based on the object in your hand.

There is some challenges:

1. the pusher has to have correct form and measured strength. By correct form, it means you know how to correctly use your body to create an effective push (standing too close to not engage your legs, only using your arms to push, etc) Measured strength means similar force each time to have a base to compare to.

2. the pushee has to maintain a "neutral" state and provide the same amount of resistance on every push, to maintain the "control" group.

3. enough sensitivity as the pusher to feel the different levels of resistance provided by the pushee. On some pushes, the pushee might feel "heavier" or "lighter"

4. Patience. Whatever object you are holding has an effect on your body and most people cannot feel it initially. In fact, it takes years to cultivate enough sensitivity to feel subtle changes.

I think there has been some research on this topic in regards to wearing synthetic clothing made of nylon or polyester.


This is absolute nonsense.

Plants, nature, etc. will for sure make people feel better compared to sitting in front of a computer. They will not make you instantly stronger or weaker... I guarantee that no double-blind experiment will ever show such effects.


Well, not entirely. What you hold subtly affects your response to a push, and the effect can be dramatic. The pusher, with eyes closed, will notice the difference.


It kind of comes down to money, but...

My wife and I work as teachers now after successful paths in tech. I do some consulting, choosing the most interesting problems instead of money.

We seek fulfillment and meaning and personal growth instead of papering over suck buying nice things.

Of course, having a big pile of capital as a backup makes this a lot safer to do.


In 1999, I started my first job out of college with a salary of $30,000 per year. I spent most of the day coding in a cubicle. It was analytically satisfying but not what I truly wanted to do. It was also quite stressful, and the hours were long. I had chosen computer science because I was moderately good at it, and I hoped it would help me pay off my $50,000 in college loans.

In my first week of work, I realized I needed to find a way out. I had a hunch that the path I was on would not end well. I found an online group of people with similar thoughts. They were into "simple living," inspired by a book called "Your Money or Your Life." After reading it, I created a spreadsheet and started plotting numbers. I calculated that by continuously reducing my expenses and saving everything beyond a minimal lifestyle, and investing it in index funds, I could reach a point where my investments matched my spending.

For the next 25 years, I kept reducing my spending and invested the surplus into the S&P 500. At the time, that was considered a very aggressive move, as a more conservative strategy was recommended. But, I decided to give it a try. I forwent a consumer lifestyle. I didn't travel much and spent most of my free time reading. When I eventually started a family, I devoted time to them. I had to put on blinders, though. The cars, houses, lavish vacations, fancy dining, clothes, gadgets—I ignored all that. I bought houses in the poorest neighborhoods and fixed them up. I drove the cheapest cars that were reliable. I adopted a simple wardrobe. I bought second hand. I figured out how to make nutritious, delicious meals from the least expensive ingredients. Often, I felt like I was missing out compared to my peers, especially as wages in the industry grew. But, I endured and stuck to the plan.

These days, this movement seems to have evolved into FI/RE. Although it's not quite the same, it probably has similar goals.

I saw a few people make huge payoffs from startups and IPOs, so I tried that too. But it was terrible for my mental health, and I quickly learned that the board and the CEO were not on the side of the common worker—they had no intention of sharing their payouts. I worked for four failed startups with some more steady work in between. In hindsight, I don't recommend it. It wasn't worth it. I made less money than my peers, and I put too much of myself into the products I helped build. In the end, only those with money made more money. The rest of us got shafted.

But the moral of the story is, if you have 25 years, you might also be able to do it. Times have changed, though. But there's still probably an intersection point. The opportunities are greater than they ever have been. Given today's wages, I could have probably reached my goals 10 years earlier.

The transition to retiring early wasn't without its pains. I hadn't fully envisioned a future, and when I finally met my goals, I realized time had changed. In the years that followed, I experienced significant anguish because the dreams I once had (becoming an artist, going into academia) were no longer realistic. I needed over two years just to recover from burnout. But now, I'm finally somewhat satisfied but still quite lost and with anxiety. But, I feel the best I've felt since my 20s, and things get better every day.


> it would help me pay off my $50,000 in college loans

If you have teenagers who want to go to university, consider encouraging them to learn German and then study in Germany. In 2021, the average monthly spendings of a student at a German public university were between 783 - 1.896 €, depending on the location.[1] (University fees are included in this number and range between 14 and 136 € per month. Sometimes there apply moderate additional fees for non-EU students, depending on their nationality.) Non-EU students are at least eledgible for working at the university as research assistants and thus, if they are clever, can earn an income to cover some of these costs.

[1] Source: https://www.studis-online.de/studienkosten/ (in German)


German schools also ruthlessly cull students beginning in grade 4 or 5. Only a small number ever get the opportunity to go to university at all, let alone at those fees.

German universities are relatively cheap because they keep the eligibility pool small. That reduces the cost to the state.


> Only a small number ever get the opportunity to go to university at all

In 2022, 56.4% of people living in Germany of a yearly cohort started university (including universities of higher education/Fachhochschule). 51.7% of males, 61.5% of females. 473,665 people (this number includes some foreign students, though) out of a population of aprox. 84 million. All in all, 2,915,700 people studied in Germany. I would not call that number "small".

The student quotient for the US is somewhat higher, but German and foreign systems are often not well comparable, because there are a lot of advanced vocational training programs in Germany outside of university that are equivalent or even better than many university programs in other countries.

[1] Source: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Bildun...


Here's the stats for California (population 39 million):

California has the highest number of college students in the United States, with 2.58 million enrolled in 2023.


GDP/Student is higher in California so they could provide similar aid per student.

Obviously such a program should be run nationwide, but that’s a different question.


> That takes money, although in a different form: time

> That’s the price. It’s always money

Tell that to unemployed people. To children. To retired people. To people with serious sickness.

Time is not money.


It isn’t, but it has similar uses.

With more money you have more time.

not needing to wait in line at a check cashing or payday loan office, not needing to wait in the ER because you can’t afford primary care, not needing to get your car fixed every year because you can afford one with fewer miles.

There’s a lot of hidden time costs if you’re not well off.


Hell just the time sink of using a laundromat with defective machines vs filling up your own machine and moving over loads when it’s convenient for you


Wow yes exactly this. Didn’t even think about laundromats


> There’s a lot of hidden time costs if you’re not well off.

Of course and that's my point.


> The only thing you need is to stop this idea that living a richer life means earning/spending a lot of money / reaources. There's so much personal development you can do without participating in the materialistic rat race.

If you launch projects to gain fame, sure it is materialistic. But you can work on projects that help you understand things better, or to build the personality you want to have, both of which are the opposite of materialism.

They aren't egoistic as well, because you can then share your solutions with others, which are also going to benefit from it.


> But you can work on projects that help you understand things better

Sure. Although it seemed OP mentioned this in a different context since it was immediately followed by "earn more money".

I think the real distinction whether these projects are outwards oriented or inwards. How do you measure the success? Is it by the adoption numbers or by the things you've learned and the time you enjoyed?


This is my focus. Though admittedly selfish, I'm spending time learning more songs on the guitar, improving my cooking skills, mastering a new language, etc. Once our children are out of the house, I plan to also become more involved in supporting our community.

It took time to understand that my time is better spent supporting our kids' activities and maintaining an organized home than chasing another promotion.


As a young cs students where even the uni professors tell us there's more about it than just money, what would you say is something regarding personal development to do?


Learning things for fun and not just for profit. Physical development, learning a new sport. Spiritual development, meditating, observing. Engaging in arts, creating, exploring. Helping the less fortunate, volunteering, teaching. Traveling, learning about different cultures, different languages. Cooking. Spending time in nature, watching animals, birds, mushrooms, sunsets. Photography. These are just some examples, the list is endless :-)

Personally I’ve grown a lot from gardening and weightlifting. Having children made me more human.


During my late 20s I realised I was very good at my programming job but not much use at anything else. It was quite a disappointing realisation.

I started to do less and eventually no programming outside of office hours and instead invest my spare time in different hobbies and experiences.

I found gaining these new skills really helped build my confidence. 15 years later I'm not just a programmer, I'm a also a motorcyclist, experienced carpenter, been a member of certain meet up groups for over a decade, travelled to a few exotic locations, flown upside down in a plane, the list goes on.

None of these things are exceptional but doing this extra stuff has given me enough dimensions that I kind of feel comfortable with the way I've done the last 15 years. This along with starting a relationship and building a family is enough for me now.

Sure, I could have done more but compared to the corporate quagmire of my 20s things are very different.


I can relate to this pretty strongly, although on a slightly earlier timeline. Went through a similar period of focusing entirely on coding in my teens and early 20s, always occupied by personal projects when not studying etc. Realized how much of myself I had cut off for that (and how little value it'd hold on its own) and started diversifying what I did in downtime, and now I seldom code outside of work.

I haven't outright dropped coding for personal projects, rather just that the singular task of coding doesn't define my down time. Instead I've picked up tinkering with electronics, building and playing with 3d printers, learning languages and drawing. I feel like as a result I've become closer to my idea of the kind of person I'd find interesting and attractive, someone who has a variety of aspects to themselves rather than just being defined by being a 'rockstar' at their job.

Initially I had worried that this would cause me to fall behind professionally, but so far that hasn't really been an issue, I still typically end up having tinkered with some new technology well before it becomes relevant professionally.


Programmers and wood. Best friends forever.


Indeed, it's almost a cliche.

I believe it satisfies some sort of primeval urge magnified by sitting in front of a screen for decades.


Get a hobby that you can do outdoors with other people. Hiking, hunting, paddling, sailing, bouldering, volunteering, playing sports, LARPing, reenacting...

Embed yourself into the local community, become a pillar of it.

Start a family and support your children, don't try to mould them into what you wish you could have been.


[flagged]


No distractions like friends? No awareness that Max has headlines like "forged by his father's beatings and humiliation?" You should probably seek a less results driven focus on life, perhaps with a therapist, unless just trolling in which case carry on. But regardless, there's an article called "Why we stopped making Einsteins" that you may find interesting.


I'm not trolling. I have been against having children in the past, doing the whole beta bucks provider role thing for a family, basically just other people living off me , well that seemed ridiculous to me. However when I reframed the situation as being able to respawn myself and achieve my dreams through my kid it makes it very interesting. Many other men have done this. Some may disagree but it's not illegal to do it. I had a quick look at "Why we stopped making Einsteins". Some good ideas there thanks.


That only works if you get lucky.

It's all nature, no nurture. If the dice spit out a kid who hates football, that plan is a massive, painful waste of time.


A lot of footballers are only in the game for the money. I will manipulate the kid into being extremely materialistic and build his entire ego and self image around the football.


I would disagree. If you think only about yourself - yes, it's not about the money. But if you want make life of your children, grandchildren, etc better, the only answer is money, building generational wealth.


You can work a whole life for generation wealth only to have your kid spend it all in one month as soon as you die. Or to waste away not doing anything while receiving monthly from a trust fund.

Everyone decides what their life to be about, but I'd reflect on leaving too much of your life's meaning to "kick in" only when you're dead. If your whole purpose is to "set your family up forever", a lot of that is out of your control. Whereas if your purpose is to hang out have fun and support each other's goals, usually you can do that right away


Absolutely not. Children and grandchildren are their own persons. The world is full of people who got rich through heritage and who live miserable lives - even when being materially fulfilled.

I would add that this state of mind denotes a characteristic control anguish.

When you're dead, you're dead. You need to let go.


Of course it doesn't guarantee the success, but it helps a lot.


Depends on the definition of “success”. If it’s about raising good people, with decent values and a drive to make the world better, a fat inheritance is probably not a good predictor.


Very nearly without exception children who come from backgrounds of generational wealth are terrible people, in my experience.


The single most impactful thing for making your children's life better is being a present parent. Be part of their life, be there when they have fun and when they have worries. Listen to them, help them navigate life. I've seen many parents chasing wealth, leaving their kids lonely and psychologically marked.


The obituary does not show Ray had any modern obsession with money - the article does allude to a couple of Ray's jobs.

  “We’ve had a good life,” he said to me nearly every time I visited in his final year, and I knew it to be true even if it might have seemed odd from a distance. On paper, this small life above Clear Creek should have left a long list of regrets, of what ifs. But this life was the life, the very thing he and my grandmother Grace set out to make when they married in the little church up the road in 1954.

  The best time of his life was when his girls were little, Ray said as he neared the end. He and Grace raised two daughters: Joy (pictured left) and Debbie.
The modern disease of setting money as a primary goal is missing the point of life. We use money for the things we want. Concentrate on the wants and consider why you want those things. Keep your eye on the ball.

> generational wealth.

What do your kids want that means they need your money? To go to university and join the same treadmill as you? Personally I wanted to earn my own way in life - I didn't want to live off my parents (although I probably could have). Independence is another modern goal. I have retired early, but money in itself brings many many unobvious problems. It doesn't magically give me an obviously better life than my friends (who are on a very wide range of incomes).

We are all given approximately 70 years - be very very careful how you spend yours. Perhaps listen to a few good people that have spent more of their 70 years than you have, and learn what they have learned over time.


“A young boy became a monk. He dreamed of enlightenment and of learning great things. When he got to the monastery he was told that each morning he had to chop wood for the monks fires and then carry water up to the monastery for ablutions and the kitchen. He attended prayers and meditation, but the teaching he was given was rather sparse.

One day he was told to take some tea to the Abbot in his chambers. He did so and the Abbot saw he looked sad and asked him why.

He replied every day all I do is chop wood and carry water. I want to learn. I want to understand things. I want to be great one day, like you.

The Abbot gestured to the scrolls on shelves lining the walls. He said, ‘When I started I was like you. Every day I would chop wood and carry water. Like you I understood that someone had to do these things, but like you I wanted to move forward. Eventually I did. I read all of the scrolls, I met with Kings and and gave council. I became the Abbot. Now, I understand that the key to everything is that everything is chopping wood and carrying water, and that if one does everything mindfully then it is all the same.'” [1]

Keep chopping wood and carrying water.

[1] - https://www.sloww.co/enlightenment-chop-wood-carry-water/


I’m not an expert on Buddhism but this anecdote/story has never been particularly insightful to me. One criticism I have is that it treats Enlightenment/knowledge etc. as a single transferable piece of knowledge, and seems to not notice the impact of process and undergoing the ritual. “The journey is the destination” and so forth.

Chopping wood and carrying water may be the answer, but you might not realize the significance of that answer without deeply probing the question.


The word "mindfully" at the end carries too much meaning that can't be unpacked without reading a bunch of books. This story looks identical to many stories told in the dzogchen branch of buddhism. The basic idea is that normal life is full of earthly activities: chopping woods and carrying water. An average mind gets distracted by those activities and is dragged passively from one distraction to another. An enlightened mind watches these earthly activities with full attention, like you would watch colorful butterflies, but is not carried away from deep realisation that these butterflies come and go as simple decorations of the neutral state of mind, which is often called "emptiness". When these two qualities meet - emptiness and clarity of perception - the mind enters the natural state and if you can stay in that state while chopping woods and carrying water, you're enlightened. If chopping woods carries you away from that natural state, you're said to be "distracted".


This was a very approachable explanation, thank you. Do you have any particular resources you'd recommend for learning more about this?


"The Essence of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet"


Right - in that story that requisite process has slunk into the background - that "everything is chopping wood" means something quite different to someone who has read all the scrolls, and counseled all the kings, and attained the role of Abbot.

The fact about wood-chopping is the product of enlightenment, not the cause of it.


It is because any task you have mastered is going through the motions. On one hand I agree that the Abbott is being trite, because the boy wants more variety. On the other hand, the Abbott's point is that each variety becomes stale as part of the experience. I think the boy should be given more variety earlier and the story is dumb.


... and with that the young monk became enlightened. The next day they chopped a little less wood and carried a little less water.


I completely relate to this. At 41 years old, I met my life's goal, a goal I never thought I would attain (and it's not wealth). Rather than be empowering and celebratory, that turned out to be debilitating, taking me years, until I found a new path. I'm still starting down that path, but at least now I have a goal that will take me 20-25 more years.

People will tell you to focus on you. People will tell you to focus on money. People will tell you to focus on neither. The reality is that what motivates you, gives you meaning, and continues to propel you might change. There's no right answer, and that's healthy. The process, I think is the important part, no matter how painful that may be.


what’s the new goal?


I used to struggle with this too, until I started studying Stoicism. Here's a quote from Marcus Aurelius’ meditations 6.15 that I think about often:

“Ambition means tying your well being to what other people say or do. Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you. Sanity means tying it to your own actions."


Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your achievements (especially considering your beginnings).

You and I are of similar age, and have a similar backstory, so if I may, I’d like to suggest the following:

Help others.

For me my midlife crisis was quickly eradicated when I turned my surplus time and resources to assisting the needy through volunteer work.

I hope this resonates with you - it was a significantly positive turning point in my life, which gave me a great deal of perspective and gratitude.


>On the other hand, achieving all my dreams took me to a place where my mind says "I've done it all, let's just enjoy what I've got. Let's enjoy life". And that works for a while but then one day I resent being too complacent. I want to do more. Launch projects, earn more money, live more experiences. The voice of ambition says: "you're 45 years old, stop thinking like a 80 year old, move your ass and live more life"

Is that "voice of ambition" your voice, or just what society or peers or media influencers (like grind vloggers) conditioned you to want?


Im kinda in the same boat. Recently got a dog and have been finding absolute bliss in literally just sitting in the grass with him for like 30 mins at a time. Really is the highlight of my life at this juncture and im totally cool with that.


Have you considered getting into art? I find art projects to be big motivator and fills me with ambition. The great thing is I do it for myself so I can feel content knowing I don't need to fulfill the needs of an audience. You can be ambitious as you want. Making concrete sculptures, woodworking,oil painting, restoring old furniture, developing a game (physical or digital), writing short stories, researching and writing a book or zine on a random niche subject. I find that making art fills that hole that exists when I'm not doing much in life.


I tried getting into some forms of art (mostly drawing) many times, but in the end I always find it contrived and pointless. Basically a more taxing version of playing bingo to pass the time.


There is a discontent that is fundamental to creation. After all, if what exists was enough, then why create anything? The wide variety of human personalities (on a long timescale) and moods (short timescale) is nothing less than Nature performing a great Search. What She is searching for is unknown, past mere survival. It makes sense to me to place that discontent in the context of a broader survival, the survival of the species, long-term. Something that other life cannot contemplate or work towards, but we can. And insofar as we are embedded in an ecosystem, it means protecting Life on Earth, and also spreading it beyond Earth. Lives well lived, quietly, like this man's, are both a triumph and a dead-end, simultaneously. It seems reasonable that a wide diversity of lives are needed and wanted by nature, or we wouldn't have them, and all of them are useful in their way.


Everyone I’ve ever known who struggled in this manner has narrowed it down to lack of purpose.

If you have a reason to live, it’s not ambition that keeps you going, nor contentment. It’s a reason to do something. My buddy finds purpose in personal improvement (working out a couple hours a day), I find it in shaping the future and being with my little ones.

Traveling, luxury, comfort is not a purpose. It’s fine; but it’s not food for your soul, so to speak. One easy thing to do is join a community and contribute in someone (that breeds purpose as people rely on each other).


What is the reason you want to do more?

For me, struggling and learning is what I enjoy. Within that framework, it’s not about payout or fame, only the worthy challenge. As I begin to realize this about myself, I have become less worried about measuring achievement, which removes a good deal of the pressure.


I'm not the person you asked, but for me it's that I'm interested in solving problems. Not for money or recognition, but because I don't want to tolerate the problem anymore. If seeing it solved means doing more, then I have to do more.


It's hard to live wothout a framework of payouts..


Listen to the call to do. Many great ideas and new business models came from those in their 40s. The other tack is to do some kind of giving back, not so much money but something for love not profit. You have perspective from arising from suboptimal conditions.


I took me a long time to realize it, but the "right" answer here is to focus on living one day at a time, regardless how far or close you're currently setting your aim towards.


Live your life feeling the moment


I am also 45 and on a similar current situation as you (although I luckily come from a privileged background). One thing that is working a lot for me is trying to become a professional fiction writer.

There is a lot a of ambition and uncertainty in it. I always enjoyed writing (whatever the context, not only fiction) and now I enjoy getting better at writing fiction. I enjoy being part of a group of other wanna-be writers with the same goals and challenges. I made real friends this way. I enjoy listening podcasts, videos, interviews from experienced authors. I am even enjoying more working on some software side-projects that are related to literature (in general or my own).

At the same, there is very little chance that this endeavor will have any financial return. In Brazil, where I live, you can count in the dozens the number of writers that live solely from the income of book royalties and in the hundreds the number of writers that live from literature (royalties + workshops, online courses, literary services, etc).

So, even some successful authors that have decent number of readers (for Brazil's context) and some awards, have a day job.

This, interestingly for me, who has a well-paid job, removes the pressure of this project of mine. Since it is an art project, to not have the pressure of needing to earn money, actually makes my art better, I have more patience and time to reflect upon it (ironically, increasing my chances to earn money through my art).

But I still have the pressure to earn readers. It's not like I am painting paintings that I am happy enough to complete and leave them on my house studio. I am not doing art for myself, but for others. That's where the ambition part come from. Which I like.

I don't think this comes from a mid-life crisis, as I write short stories since my twenties. It's only now that I have the time, money, and, I might say, wisdom to be able to do it seriously. Writing is one form of art that benefits a lot from like experience.

Just to share what worked for me, and maybe you can find something for you that fits the bill of being an ambitious project that you hope to achieve something meaningful from, but that it's not necessarily attached to financial outcomes. The privilege of being able to be professional about something that might not return more money, even if successful, is something that I treasure a lot.


> Launch projects, earn more money, live more experiences.

Pick one.

The "grind" mindset about money for the sake of money is the opposite of personal growth.


You've managed to move on from a situation where you were deprived of security, both with respect to love and money, to a new situation where you are secure at a relatively young age. That's a huge achievement. I would suggest first contemplating what you have achieved. You sound like an ambitious individual, and you should recognise how much you have done from a poor start.

It's natural that the things you once craved were things that would lead you to achieve your goal of security. It's also natural that now you are secure, you no longer need money etc. If you're still ambitious, then you are now in the lucky position where you can be a bit more playful. You have bought yourself the opportunity to try new things, to explore your values. To think about what really excites you.

Don't feel bad that you don't know what those are yet. You've gone from meeting existential needs to now thinking about fulfilment. What an exciting time of your life!


It's at this point that you may discover you have something you want to give, to your family, community, yourself. Your prosperity is the beginning of freedom. Very lucky position. Also very painful when you come into contact with others suffering, but this must be faced. You have something to give, which is full of meaning.


1) change your environment temporarily

2) let new perspective come to you

3) implement what your own introspection tells you

I've seen successful people become addicted to drugs because they let their minds idle and they lost perspective.

Remember the devil doesn't come with bulls and horns. It comes bearing gifts to hook you in.


It sounds like you need a hobby, or some kind of activity that isn't work or to make money. Others suggested volunteer work, but it could be joining a hobby community or developing a hobby for that matter. I have colleagues that train for big sporting events, know nerds that organize get-togethers for their nerdy activities and work on outfits, and perhaps a previous generation, but people would go to the pub after work to chat shit and watch sports. A third place, as it's also called.

The article mentions a lot of family, I believe that's one thing my grandparents did as well; with seven kids, most of which who have kids of their own, that's a lot of birthday parties to attend.



> I want to […] earn more money

Why? Money is a means to an end. What would that buy you, given that you said you achieved your goals and got everything you need.

Do you think you will look back on your life and wish you had made more money? I do not.


I just got a new book on this subject: Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, by Kieran Setiya (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Midlife-Philosophical-Guide-Kieran-...). Not got too far into it, but I like it so far.


Check out the movie "Perfect Days"


I've never heard of the film, but the trailer looks great. Thanks for sharing!


Thank you for recommendation! That's what I was needing


I know what you are saying and the best I can come up with is to keep the ambition but give up on the result. I find this keeps me actively involved in things but with no expectation on outcome. When things do come to fruition I find I'm pleasently surprised that everything came together.


I agree. Very similar situation; I can't help but feel like I am the middle-aged trope in movies; best of luck finding the answer; if you do, please share!


If that itch might be saying "do more to shape the future", one way to scratch it is by working with young people. Mentor a robotics team or something.


I just try to remember that it's okay to strive for more while also taking the time to appreciate where you are and what you've accomplished


I would encourage you to be ambitious, in the ways that count. (Not necessarily just financial)

Joy is in accomplishment and responsibility.


The biological purpose of life is to have children. Try that.


Do you have children?


Get a child.


He is not wrong.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same” - R. Kipling

Media riles up those who have been limited or deprived by circumstances. It waves flags and triggers emotions and creates envy and conjures social ladders to political influence, or financial gains, or popularity and public attention, or peaks of history. The reality though is that those apply to the people who don’t know better - the new grads, the hungry and ambitious, the midlife-crisis sufferers, the naive who haven’t encountered bad people or circumstances. If you’ve seen a lot or you know evil, you don’t need a public life where you may attract it. When you know what you have and value it, a quiet life is the best way to protect it. People value privacy when they have something to lose. If you know what you want to do and can do it without attention, you are much better off doing than dealing with collateral damage from unpredictable attention.

The media today is becoming incredibly propaganda filled and charged. This is a highly combustible environment. Big geopolitical risks are coming and publicity risks making you a target.

When low interest rates paid for VC-subsidized press the world was filled with startup success stories and drums up for startups and their potential gains. That meant many promising entrepreneurs took money at unsustainable expected ROI and lost years of their life working for a promise. Another word for that is lottery. When the dust settled having a quiet business and chugging along profitably proved to be like the little mice who survived underground after the asteroid hit.

If you are a cat who just caught a mouse, would you go to a hill to advertise to all local predators that you are about to enjoy fresh meat?


> If you know what you want to do and can do it without attention, you are much better off doing than dealing with collateral damage from unpredictable attention.

To achieve this state where one can operative effectively without external validation often requires them to initially engage with the public sphere. This exposure is important to getting opportunities, especially when starting out with no resources. The purpose of working is to be able to transcend this phase and do more autonomous and focused work...


> If you’ve seen a lot or you know evil, you don’t need a public life where you may attract it. When you know what you have and value it, a quiet life is the best way to protect it. People value privacy when they have something to lose.

That's a wonderful way of framing it. No one is intent on violating my privacy to give me anything, only to take.


This comes down to perspective. For example, the state would argue they're violating your privacy to give you safety.


The counterpoint to this is that having “internet status” begets a number of benefits.

For example, when you email support at $bigco you’re more likely to be taken seriously. When you contact a random founder for a meeting, they’re more likely to meet you. You forget to take out the trash from your Airbnb and nobody complains, etc. Basically everything in your life gets a bit easier, because people are more scared to piss off someone with a lot of twitter followers.


> Basically everything in your life gets a bit easier, because people are more scared to piss off someone with a lot of twitter followers

This is terrifying. Status online shouldn't bleed on all those other domains. Using your influence online to get things (or else I will tweet about you and the sky will fall on your head) is petty, and one more bad thing that social media has brought to our lives. Now we have to aim to please those who have amassed followers?


I don’t know, try to explain your point of view to people like Trump or Musk.


Maybe the world would have been a better and friendlier place if the two people you mentioned, and others like them, had an attitude a bit more muted and humble.


If their attitude had been either, they would not have become what they have become. Humble men do not, by and large, take the throne or become captains of industry.


This suggests what they’ve become is desirable - it’s not.


Are you saying that achieving what these two men have achieved is not desirable? Becoming the most powerful or the richest person in the world? I’d say that’s very much desirable, to most people.


Maybe in abstract. I doubt the majority of people have considered those positions in more detail than "wouldn't it be nice if no one could tell me what to do?", or "wouldn't it be nice to never worry about money ever again?".

Close proximity to a bunch of tech executives very quickly cured me of any illusion that I wanted to belong to that in-group. Most already with more money than they knew how to spend, and still pulling 100-hour work weeks in service of the grind... shudders


Well, you write code for a living, right? I’m guessing the vast majority of humans would shudder at the thought of doing that 40 hours a week. It would be a similar attitude to what you expressed towards executives. Executives are sexier than coders, at least for general population. And it’s not clear which one would become more attractive to an average Joe after personally experiencing both professions.

I’ve read the piece. It’s well written. But, no, that’s not how I would like to live my life, and that’s not the life I want for my kids. Too simple, too boring, not for me. But, to each its own, right?


I go home at the end of my 40 hours (at least now I'm the far side of 30), which I think makes my deal qualatatively better than the exec who barely sees his wife and kids in the first place, and then calls into every SEV from family vacation.

Like... I don't know how evident it is to folks who haven't been on the receiving end of the round-the-clock exec communiques, but those people just don't have an off switch. It's like working with a coked-up energizer bunny


It's not evident. I've had a fairly long career in tech (both as an IC and as a manager) and many execs I worked with didn't do much of really impactful work. Sure, they attended a lot of meetings, created spreadsheets and slides (while they were attending the meetings). They left work at 6pm, with the rest of us, and came back to office at 9am the following morning with the rest of us. I don't remember ever feeling the pressure to respond to an email or Slack message sent after 6pm, and the overall number of times I received those was not large. Typically founders worked more than the rest, but that's not surprising. I'm talking about execs below C level.

Execs probably have a higher ratio of BS artists, and SWEs have a higher ratio of slackers, but overall the fraction of workaholics is about the same.


> Well, you write code for a living, right? I’m guessing the vast majority of humans would shudder at the thought of doing that 40 hours a week.

Yeah, right. The vast number of subsistence farmers in the Third World, and the (tens of?) millions of single parents holding down three jobs (at least one of which full-time) and eking out a subsistence based on constantly increasing their debts to pay-day loansharks in the USA, they all "shudder at the thought" of doing a mere 40 hours a week of a plush sit-down job like tapping code into a computer.

You need to seriously recalibrate your perspective.


In the same way accomplishing what Scrooge McDuck or Dr Evil would be desirable.


> Humble men do not, by and large, take the throne or become captains of industry.

Citation needed. Other than Musk and Trump, how many throne-sitters and captains-of-industry do you know that blow their own propaganda trumpets as hard as those two? (Something which, incidentally, they both only started doing after they had money anyway, not as a means to obtain it, as far as I know.)


The world has many more people like them than you think. The reason for that is the media’s propensity to raise people on pedestal over the smallest things and crash and burn that made-up image. Some people find new tools in that kind of experience. Some people have learned how to raise anyone by crafting a narrative for them with money. And some people become addicted to it and the attention they never got as a child.


But what for?

People like them are not a point of reference to relate everything, you know


It'd be easier to explain Shakespeare to a fish. Sociopaths aren't generally much for outside counsel.


[flagged]


This opinion is the reason that cancel culture exists today, and why academics are increasingly finding it difficult to have intelligent debates about taboo subjects.

Have an example: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/apr/12/this-isnt-ho...


Absolutely wonderful article that says things I have noticed and haven’t been able to properly explain to people. Many people weaponize science as a tool to defend their moral beliefs, arguing that anyone who disagrees with them is “literally against the facts”. They fail to realize we’ve reached a stage where the only research studies seeing the light of day are those conforming to the popular opinion. Anything else is killed and discredited as nonsense, not based on truth, but based on emotion.

Reminds me of those days where every scientist told us cigarettes are totally safe. If you said otherwise you were an anti science fool, clearly an idiot. Look at us now. What a world we live in. Modern science is closer to religion than anyone would like to admit.


For anyone who cares to read a balanced perspective on Kipling I highly recommend Orwell's. He criticizes Kipling fiercely where criticism is called for without falling into the maddened and equally ignorant invectives of OP. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's the conclusion:

> One reason for Kipling's power as a good bad poet I have already suggested — his sense of responsibility, which made it possible for him to have a world-view, even though it happened to be a false one. Although he had no direct connexion with any political party, Kipling was a Conservative, a thing that does not exist nowadays. Those who now call themselves Conservatives are either Liberals, Fascists or the accomplices of Fascists. He identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition. In a gifted writer this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality. The ruling power is always faced with the question, ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions. Where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly. ... Kipling sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like. It is a great thing in his favour that he is not witty, not ‘daring’, has no wish to épater les bourgeois. He dealt largely in platitudes, and since we live in a world of platitudes, much of what he said sticks.

https://orwell.ru/library/reviews/kipling/english/e_rkip


> All around us are these lives — heads down and arms open — that ignore the siren call of flashy American individualism, of bright lights and center stage. I’m fine right here is the response from the edge of the room, and that contentment is downright subversive. How could you want only that? the world demands. There’s more to have, always more.

Beautiful writing, and I feel this part especially elevates it.

Going forward, we collectively need to recognize and celebrate these people who know when they have enough for a good life. Who can stop craving more fame, wealth and possession, and just appreciate what they have. Because only by doing so, can we leave enough resources for others, near or far, now and in the future, to have the same.


That part caught my attention as well. There's a danger in the seductive whisper of "you need more". Whether it's material goods, power, fame, or whatever else, pursuing external things like these is a hole which can never be filled. It seems to me that true happiness is to be found inward. If you can learn to find happiness where you are right now, then you can have a good life regardless of your external circumstances.

I had two really powerful insights when I was a teenager. The first was when I got a Christmas gift I really wanted (a walkman iirc), and it struck me that actually having it didn't fulfill me nearly as much as I had thought it would. The other was when my grandpa died, and I would have given anything to have him back (and I still would). These two experiences made me realize that stuff is hollow and unimportant, and what truly matters in this world are people. Being with the people you love is the greatest thing we can have, and unlike material possessions can never be replaced once it's gone.

I think that a simple life is far underrated. If all I ever do is spend time with my family and friends, and make the world around me just a bit better in some small way, I feel like that's enough.


That is a key lesson of many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism etc that the state of contentment comes from within. They have been telling everyone this for decades with mixed results.

Suffering is what happens when expectations do not match with reality. You can still have pain but suffering is that gap.

You hear folks that say "it is the journey that matters" but that implys a destination. I think it is all just one big ’happening'.

If life is a race it is a 100n stroll. And yet many people have convinced themselves that it is a marathon and that everyone else needs to be doing that race otherwise they would be the fool. The joke being that there is no other finish line and that many will go to the grave thinking they havent run the race enough.


This made me think of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "What is success": To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To give of one's self; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - This is to have succeeded.


When I was a college student some 30 years ago, this poem was in my physics textbook. I made a hand-written copy of it to carry in my wallet because I loved it so much. I always thought that the book's author wrote it. This brought back the same feelings I had then after reading the poem. Thanks...


> To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition

Damn, that reminds me of the last part of the movie Living... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2L8CP31-14



That was beautiful and inspiring.


> Going forward, we collectively need to recognize and celebrate these people who know when they have enough for a good life.

I see where you are coming from, but that's exactly missing the point. The article is about somebody who wouldn't have wanted to be celebrated by you. Who just wanted to live his life, out of the spotlight. By elevating him and his live to celebration status, that's the oppposite of what he would have wanted. Recognize, sure. A nod in passing, then move on.


Telling though, isn't it.

The collective addiction to celebrity shows up even in a context like this one.


Indeed, this is a vexing problem.

Role models influence so much of peoples' behavior, that I fear they are needed to change what is considered success. But the people suited to be role models rarely want to be.

I don't know the answer, but hope some of these kinds of people would allow themselves to be (reluctantly) also celebrated.


> the world demands. There’s more to have, always more.

is it really the world? or is it the ad industry? the social media algorithms?

bet if we shutdown the ad industry and accept only sorted by date for social media the world will quiet down tremendously


Dunno, I don't use social media, neither see ads (adblock), but the older I get, the more I want to explore, learn about history, travel to places.

I agree with the sentiment (social media / ad algorithms influencing the... influenceables), but I have also met people who are outside these bubbles. Granted they are the bit older folks, pre-smarthpone people, mostly retirees.


Ads and social media are not the reason that humans have climbed mountains or sailed unmapped seas for centuries. They are not the reason captain Scott died on a polar expedition.

Seeking fame and fortune is baked into the human condition, all the way back to hierarchy in tribes.


> > the world demands. There’s more to have, always more.

> is it really the world? or is it the ad industry? the social media algorithms?

Those have so much influence nowadays that they pretty much are "the world".

Or at the very least, they're the means for it -- they're how "the world demands".


It wasn't really that different in that regard before social media, you know.


The uptick in teenage self-harm and suicides says otherwise.

Of course it was different, people in 1940 and 1950 were not doomscrolling endlessly throughout the day while algorithms enmeshed them in self-contained bubbles and bombard them with personalized ads, no, they were listening to radio, read newspapers, talked in person more. Social media is a new and never seen before phenomenon, with its own advantages and disadvantages.


I think there's a bif citation needed on whether social media influences anxiety and depression in younger people. It's a nice scapegoat, but the world is harder and more competitive than it's ever been. I can't work in a textile mill and become a union president and support a family. The job doesn't exist anymore, and even if it did it wouldn't pay enough to achieve those coveted milestones of a "quiet life."


The discussion on the impact of social media rages on: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=39983233

Is the world harder? Or we're relentlessly told that's harder? And can we actual tell the difference?


Nobody is saying that social media hasn't had any effect on the world, just that the human desire for more worldly things wasn't caused by it. The expression "keeping up with the Joneses" far, far predates social media.


The difference is that before social media, the Jones were your neighbors -- your immediate, face to face, irl tribe. Social media makes everyone on planet Earth the Jones (more or less). And, let's not forget, there were no algorithms in old times, there were no bubbles created by those algorithms, there was no 24/7 constant scrolling (more or less)... These all matter, they all have an effect on the brain and on the mind.


I agree that's a difference, I simply don't agree with your original hypothesis. The constant hunger for more and more worldly things isn't going to go away, or even get significantly better, if we erase advertising and social media from the world.


If advertising doesn't induce demand, then what does it do?


I'm of the firm opinion that advertising is snake oil. But even if you do believe that advertising causes demand, it doesn't follow that we would see a significant decrease in demand if advertising was gone. If advertising hypothetically increases demand by 5%, that's not going to make that much of a difference when it's gone.


There can be other reasons too coinciding in time.


The world is driven by Envy, not Greed. Everyone needs something to look forward to. The stoic find it in the act of showing their kids something new, or the joy of planting a plant and waiting to see how it comes out. But if you think you’ve been deprived of something (money, attention, novelty, experiences, career progression) then you can be wound up like a spring in childhood / early career and overcompensate. You find out eventually, when you’ve burned your time, heart, energy, money, what truly matters to you. And then you may hopefully get more of it to look forward to. Have you noticed that after having 7 kids even Elon Musk started spending more time with at least one of them - by being more of a caregiver than an absentee famous father.


Beautiful indeed. It still baffles me how some people have a such gift with words. They can tell stories and make you have feelings, just magical. I know it's a lot of hard work to write like this.

I can write code alright, but I couldn't write words like the author, even if I practice for 100 years.

It has to be a gift.


There’s a charm to treating talent as some elusive gift bestowed on others. It elevates the mystery and power of what’s written; you can really get lost in the flow of words. But rest assured, you too given enough reading, writing, and collaboration can write just the same as the author. It’s not magic.


This is nice story.

That said, I feel like the people praising "the quiet life" are missing that this man found a companion at ~20yrs old and with that companion had a family and kids and grand kids.

Plenty of people never find that anchor/base/partner

https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2021/10/05/rising-...

It's arguably easy to be content when you have good support around you. Bad or no support and it's much harder.


I have to agree, it’s unusual the way the writer described this man as living a “quiet life”. He was the head of the union in what was likely a major employer and had a large family along with probably a large extended family.

He didn’t seek fame but I wouldn’t describe this man as a quiet one, he probably lived in a rich social network full of visitors, work colleagues, veterans, friends etc. There are very few people aside from egotists who seek large scale recognition for their work etc.


Sometimes contentment is followed by a good partner, not caused by one. To reach that state of contentment usually requires some mix of effort and satisfaction with the outcomes of that effort and ultimately your confidence in your ability to maintain and grow the things you value in life. If you worked hard but the outcome isn’t good - why? If you achieved a good outcome (like a solid degree, a good job, and/or home ownership) but are particularly unsatisfied - why? If you’re not confident in your future - why? It’s not a requirement to settle these questions before finding companionship, but it helps.

No doubt a good partner multiplies contentment, but they shouldn’t be facing a void of it either. Lastly, if you find that your contentment is being pulled and pushed and stomped on by external factors, then do what is needed to gain control of it again - anyone can achieve this, and if someone in a land of possibility thinks they’re the exception, that the world really is getting in their way, they’re holding themselves back with that very thought.


I was watching a video about Stanford long term happiness study https://youtu.be/IULhd1UuicA?si=6YezvfwZ5NE5ile6

The takeaway being what you mentioned. Having a long term loving caring relationship is the biggest indicator.


You make a not uninteresting point, but your choice of user id detracts considerably from it.


I’ve met and seen a lot of people in life and while it’s nearly impossible for a life to be stress-free, the content and successful people I’ve seen — poor, rich, whatever — seem to share one commonality: they found their passions in life, whether be it running a successful company, working with charity, hanging with neighborhood inline skate friends or raising cattle in the country side, and they get to do it nearly everyday.

Everyone else is just packing for an inevitable trip that they know they are going on but they don’t yet have destination. They try to bag all the milestones and pocket all the supplies that they may need, but without a goal, it is an endless journey without a chance of satisfaction.

Unfortunately, the difficulty is finding your passion. There is no way to discover it without somehow stumbling across it, which takes a lot of time and money and only becomes more difficult with age and increased responsibilities.


> the content and successful people I’ve seen — poor, rich, whatever — seem to share one commonality: they found their passions in life

> Everyone else is just packing for [...] an endless journey without a chance of satisfaction.

With no offence to you and all the fine people whom you know/have known, I think it's clear that there is no regret in living a good, kind, caring life without seeking a "passion" or consumerist distortion. Many millions more people have lived the former than have lived the latter.


Living a good, kind, caring life is a passion to me. You have to discover it.


This feels like circular logic, assuming “your passion” means a pastime that will make you happy.


Not quite, passion here is something that gives you purpose. Something that you look forward to when doing something you don't want to do (work, chores, etc). A reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Something you think about all the time


This is a great analogy.


Very moving. Often, this is called a "quiet, simple life". I like that this obituary does not do that. Being there for your family, acting in accordance with your values and standing up for yourself, being content with what you have - this is not "simple" at all. Someone to look up to.


What you describe is simple, especially in a wealthy nation during peace. What doesn't sound so simple was leading union politics or rapidly rising through the ranks while deployed abroad. This person was certainly not quiet.


Simple, not easy


Above items seem to be neither, and it bothers me because it betrays the thesis by insinuating that a simple life can only be had after having a complicated one. True or not, one has to wonder if this too becomes another act of propaganda of erasure against the population among us who truly do live quietly-- in other words, loud people playing quiet people on tv.


what is a complex life to you?


Appreciate you posting this. For what it's worth, I'm in the same boat.

I basically achieved my goals in life and am now very comfortable. I could just continue to work and keep up-to-date and find myself old and tired in short time.

I'm poignantly aware of this window of opportunity which is closing. I'm still young(ish), and still have some physical and mental energy... The question is what will I use it for? What would bring me happiness when I am old, sitting in a wheelchair, recounting my life?

As someone who has struggled with mental health most of their life I have vowed to never have kids. For many, children are the answer to this existential question. For myself it will need to be something else and I'm not sure yet what that is. To be honest, I'm worried I may never find it. I was lucky enough to find my first passion (software) but after so many years, the mind yearns for new experiences and to produce something of meaning, something I can be proud of.


For what it's worth, you can still have an impact on youth without being a parent yourself. There's gradations from adoption and fostering to teaching and mentoring. Empathetic inter-generational experiences are beautiful for everyone involved in them. As you age, it literally keeps you young.


Just work on a side project, artistic longing, hobby, craft skill, church, new language, charity, ... And if those are ill-formed for you, or lacking a pull, just go travelling...

Give yourself a deadline. Not a deadline to achieve, but a deadline to decide.

Stay in your country, explore the east and the west, the loud and the quiet, the beautiful and the ugly. And pay complete attention to every person in front of you, at all times, in attentive and generous detail.

Travel a continent, or the world. Start somewhere you have curiosity to be satisfied: proximity, historical knowledge, smattering of the language, distant family history, old friend, current networked contact... Then just go.

Don't be instagram-deluded and selfie-stick blind. Commit to not taking any photos, it's a liberation. Let loved-ones know you are safe, but no reporting back to a once-before and never-again esteemed group of fake friends. Yet always look at everything with a photographer's eye - still and moving. Look. See. Be still. Be moved.

Focus on something concrete, but unimportant, where the journey will be the objective. A pilgrimage, the museums of Europe, a long distance trail, the temples of Asia, a minimal beach, a bustling third world city. Become a short-time expert in the music scene, enjoy a local festival, work on a local farm or fishing boat. Understand tea or tea tree oil, spinning or spinakkers, avocadoes or cocoa, crab fishing or craps tables.

Put quiet aquisition of wisdom above loud narrow achievement.

Stay, linger, go.

Watch, wait, listen, decide.

I promise you will soon have some important personal decisions to make.


“ after a day driving a laundry truck. His bride, Grace, snapped the photo outside their first house.”

Driving a laundry truck.. first house..

Life was so much better a few decades ago.


But then, he also had to serve in war. Medical care was not that advanced, you couldn't read about any niche topic you want online. Easy to see things through rose tinted glasses.


I wonder how many people would happily trade access to the web for a world where a laundry truck driver can afford a house. I imagine it's quite a lot.


I think the more interesting question would be, who is willing to trade peace for that? I think that it would be far harder to accept being shot at on the warfront than a world with no Internet.


Given how things are going, I think it's quite likely that many humans living today in developed countries will get to experience that part as well.


Not me.

Buying a house comes with a lot of responsibility and you basically give up any freedoms to be able to pay your mortgage, saved up for any repairs, and hope that a natural disaster doesn't wipe out your largest investment.

Comparatively, we're at the best time to be alive in history. I don't even know where the person I'm replying to lives, but I don't they will receive this message almost instantly.

I can learn about anything I want to, whenever I want.

I can travel almost anywhere without fear of getting lost.

I can order exotic things that I'd never see sticked on local shelves at the click of a mouse.

Life is pretty convenient and amazing and I'm okay sacrificing stress-filled homeownership for other luxuries.

(Not that we should have to, mind you, but that wasn't the question posed.)


And no philosophy worth anything would put any of the things you listed on the path to happiness. In fact, generally speaking, they are the opposite.

An infinite supply of anything to satisfy all of your desires does not lead to a fulfilling life -- just one with enough distractions to get you through the next day.


> Buying a house comes with a lot of responsibility and you basically give up any freedoms to be able to pay your mortgage, saved up for any repairs, and hope that a natural disaster doesn't wipe out your largest investment.

I think you kind of missed the point. The GP was talking about the days when a laundry truck driver could afford a house, i.e. a time when owning a house wasn't that big of a deal. If you could afford it as a laundry truck driver in your twenties, then you cold also afford to totally lose it, live as a renter for a few years, and buy another house in your thirties or forties. The entire point was, it didn't take such a crippling anmount of debt back then.


I certainly would. And I'm on my second house.


Not to be a downer but in the 1950s did they let anyone drive a truck, or did you have to be a guy or be white?

It's a confounding factor.


He had to serve in Germany during the Korean war. Still he got called up and posted away from his home, so you still have a point. I think it was people born in 1950 that had it easier, especially in the UK, since we didn't go to Vietnam.


In the US, the people that were born in the 1950s got to spend their teenage years not knowing if the Soviet Union is going to start World War III (the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 was definitely a forming event for many teenage minds), then got to go through the 70s with an energy crisis and the potential draft to Vietnam, and then another energy crisis, and then got to experience the Chernobyl disaster in the 80s, wondering if they should re-watch "Duck and cover" and wonder why that hole in the ozone layer gets bigger and bigger.

Every generation has its ups and downs. For my generation, I have to deal with sky-high real estate prices, but I also have access to an unprecedented amount of free entertainment, free knowledge, the cheap supercomputer in my pocket allows me to stay in touch with anyone that I want, and when I go to the doctor, I probably won't see people in iron lungs anymore. I can travel to anywhere in the world for ridiculously low prices, and if I don't speak the language, a live translation app will do the work for me.

No, it's not all sunshine and roses, and people are right to call out issues with the current state of the world because things are NOT alright. But it's not like things were sunshine and roses for our grandparents generation either.


the point is that what you see as the roses and sunshine of your generation is increasingly seen as the "missile crisis" of our generation.

on top of that you have skyrocketing real estate prices.


> I also have access to an unprecedented amount of free entertainment, free knowledge, the cheap supercomputer in my pocket allows me to stay in touch with anyone that I want, and when I go to the doctor, I probably won't see people in iron lungs anymore. I can travel to anywhere in the world for ridiculously low prices, and if I don't speak the language, a live translation app will do the work for me.

All built on a global underclass that will never experience these things. All built on processes with unsustainable emissions that will cause horrible calamities in the future (and even now). This isn't good.


He wasn't serving in war, he was deployed in Germany in 49.


True, I misremembered that, but it's also not the main point.


That's besides the point. Their dialogue is about how for all our efforts, the rich have only gotten richer and future generations are left in the dirt.

If medical care and peacetime and technology has progressed so much, why hasn't general living circumstances and wealth equity?


General living circumstances have improved a lot for a lot of countries though. Just look at some of the charts on: https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-condit...


> Medical care was not that advanced

My great grandfather served in both world wars and went to the hospital exactly once in his life, when he died in his 80s.


Do you think if he would've needed to go to the hospital he would've preferred today's status or the one at the time?


det think you'd be able to drive a truck and buy your first house today also.

No, that house is not going to be in Palo alto, and it is not going to be newly renovated.

His house probably wasn't either.

i think this sentiment stems from an at core inflated expectation to life.

I know of plenty of out if the city places where housing prices hasn't changed over the previous 15 years and where you probably would be able to find subsistence to pay you mortgage and get food on the table.


Fruitland, North Carolina has population of about 2000. Something tells me you too can buy a house while driving a laundry truck if you're willing to move to Fruitland.


You’re very wrong. Do a search before you pop off in such a self righteous manner.

https://www.redfin.com/city/32644/NC/Fruitland


Near Fruitland NC for 365k. Not too bad at all https://redf.in/tmYs3p


Only triple the price of what it sold for in 2017 (126k)


And worldwide wages have stagnated over time. Older generations only see that we get paid double or triple "what they earned" but ignore that cost of living has exploded many times more than that. Because they're the ones happy to sell houses for a healthy profit.


Don't blame the home owners for taking advantage of state sponsored real estate speculation. The only reason they are able to sell at 3x is because someone cut a speculator an easy loan. This is a feature of any system that allows loans against real estate.


Given the age and location of that house, are you confident it had indoor plumbing?


I think the land is what's important, not the house


Lmao at everyone else coping about how the housing crisis is really not that bad


You might have missed that the story is about a man that owned a house in rural North Carolina, where, like many rural areas in the US, it's still possible to purchase houses for 200-300k.

Living in a dense, urban environment close to all the expensive 'luxuries' is exactly the type of life eschewed by the subject of the story.


Did you reply to the right comment? Im not really sure where i said anything advocating living in a dense, urban environment close to all the luxuries


This is beautiful. Thank you.

I think people don’t understand how important just being there for your family actually is. Sometimes it’s enough just to be reliable, stand for good and just be present. Sounds like he really knew it.


A Rick Roderick quote comes to mind;

  "" Now, I hate the movie The Big Chill, let me make that clear, and
     I hope I can’t be sued for hating a movie, I hate The Big Chill,
     because it’s about members of my generation, all of whom have
     become swine. The only person in the movie I like is dead when
     the movie starts, and they are having his funeral, and the old
     preacher says something quite profound. He asks the crowd of
     young yuppies, he goes "Isn’t our common life together and just
     being a good man enough to sustain us anymore?" And the answer to
     that is 'No, it’s not'.  ""


Interesting. I recently rewatched "The Big Chill" and wrote a reflection about the movie vs the internet age:

https://amontalenti.com/2023/12/28/the-blog-chill


Enjoyed that very much, as I do all small blog pieces written with heart. Good to read your contrast of Big Chill with Roderick's take. (He's a serious joker, for me a kinda Bill Hicks who took the job title philosopher instead of stand-up comedian)

> they are only honest with themselves about this in the private setting

I'm sure you're aware of the phase "social cooling" [0] TBH I am astonished by the extreme difference between the thoughts I hear expressed in real life, and those "safe" ones people put online now. Things have completely flipped. 20 years ago we put our edgy personas online and kept IRL reserved and acceptable. Other than on 4chan etc, which are performance dramas, people have it the other way about now. So you're right; there is a "big chill" in blogging, but a counter out there in the streets and bars.

> I feel a chill coming over my desire to write and publish freely on the internet

Seriously, don't let the bastards get you down :) Don't get me wrong I love code (python too :) and I love writing about my own corner of comp.sci (DSP), but in 50 years if anyone's still here to read, which are the essays they will still care about? That thought only gives me more courage, in a way what I'm writing [1] is for "the survivors", not the audience out there now.

[0] https://www.socialcooling.com/

[1] https://cybershow.uk


Well said.


I am struggling a bit with this right now. Being a provider in the modern age means less than it used to. It feels like paying all the bills and being reliable isn’t valued much.


Your feelings are correct. The role of provider and protector has been largely taken over by the state. And fathers are much maligned at this point in most popular media.


Being content is like a drug.

The fire reduces, but does go out, you feel warmth in the familiar rather than the new, and you find yourself beset, wondering whatever you did to deserve this joy.

I hope to sone day some can say the same about me.


The Bible speaks about this:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” — 1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV


Here is the King James version, which I find it much more beautiful (from a literary point of view):

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.


Maybe but it makes much less sense to me. The meaning of “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” is very different to “the love of money is the root of all evil”. The former seems like a reasonable claim. The latter is surely untrue? I know of lots of evil acts NOT motivated by money or the love of money.


Here are a few key paragraphs from a sermon that has the most compelling explanation of that sentence that I've heard:

> When Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all evils,” what did he mean? He didn’t mean that there’s a connection between every sinful attitude and money — that money is always in your mind when you sin. I think he meant that all the evils in the world come from a certain kind of heart, namely, the kind of heart that loves money.

> Now what does it mean to love money? It doesn’t mean to admire the green paper or the brown coins. To know what it means to love money, you have to ask: What is money? I would answer that question like this: Money is simply a symbol that stands for human resources. Money stands for what you can get from man, not from God! (“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. He who has no money come buy and eat!” Isaiah 55:1.) Money is the currency of human resources.

> So the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer. So the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money — belief (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy.

> Therefore the love of money, or belief in money, is the flip side of unbelief in the promises of God. Just like Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 — you cannot serve God and money. You can’t trust or believe in God and money. Belief in one is unbelief in the other. A heart that loves money — banks on money for happiness, believes in money — is at the same time not banking on the promises of God for happiness.

> So when Paul says that the love of money is the root of all evils, he implies that unbelief in the promises of God is the taproot of every sinful attitude in our heart.

From: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/battling-unbelief-at-be...


I get what you're saying, but as someone completely unfamiliar with the Bible but familiar with the common phrase, "Money is the root of all evil", I agree that the GP's original statement is much clearer.

> For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.

This reads not that money itself is the root of evils, or even that a desire for money ensures you live a sinful life.

To me this reads that money, as a motivator, can be a catalyst to dip into immoral practice. If someone wants riches but cares not about how they acquire it, they may steal, they may start wars, they may con others, etc. But someone who uses their desire of money as a catalyst for bringing world change via a new product, service, knowledge, is well found in their desires and implementation, as they are making the world better while achieving their goals.

The contrast in translations completely alters the takeaway for me.


> But someone who uses their desire of money as a catalyst for bringing world change via a new product, service, knowledge, is well found in their desires and implementation, as they are making the world better while achieving their goals.

For what it's worth – and I think it is a worthwhile thing to note – I do not believe that Jesus would condone this.

To Christ, the root of "well-founded" behavior is the golden rule – treat others as you would want yourself to be treated. This comes from the Sermon on the Mount.

Capturing value (a requirement to satisfy the desire for money) from exchange with your customers is not how you would want to be treated, as a customer. If you become wealthy from this exchange, you are violating the Golden Rule.

This sentiment is corroborated elsewhere, with another a famous saying of his that's often "explained away" but should probably be taken seriously.

> It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Martin Luther (of Lutheranism) has some interesting writings/interpretations on this subject [1], if you're interested.

[0]: https://biblehub.com/mark/10-25.htm, the larger story has more interesting context https://biblehub.com/bsb/mark/10.htm#17.

[1]: https://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=501...

Edit just to make it clear in a TLDR; the severity of the "money is the root of all evil" translation is warranted. I'd interpret the "all kinds of evil" translation as "every kind of evil", rather than "many kinds of evil" (which is how we colloquially interpret 'all kinds' in contemporary english).


Thank you for the response and the links. It's an interesting perspective on life, but I'm not sure I'm totally sold.

> 17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Here we do see the commandment for this rich man to rid himself of his possessions, but the command instructs him to take the proceeds and give it to the poor.

In selling his goods, does the man not capture value from his customers? He does so, and then is able to transfer the value freely to those who have none.

IMO, capturing value through voluntary transactions isn't robbing the counterparty. In fact, you may be treating them exactly as they wish to be treated. For example, I am quite happy to buy a phone for $700. It would take me far more than $700 to make my own phone, so the trade is really quite good for me. And I don't mind that some of the $700 goes to paying the people that did create the phone. Both parties are left better off.

Assumingly my employer feels the same about me, and we trade time for money. With the money, I can support myself and use the surplus to give freely to others.

I don't see any of this as a bad thing. But if I did rent out a house that was mold infested, knowingly, and refused willfully that fix it, that would be a violation of the golden rule.


> In selling his goods, does the man not capture value from his customers?

No, because selling goods is not the same thing as capturing value. Jesus is not asking for the man to first accrue wealth and then distribute it, he's asking the man to liquidate his wealth and distribute them. The implication is that the man developed his wealth through value capture.

> I don't mind that some of the $700 goes to paying the people that did create the phone. Both parties are left better off.

This unfortunately omits the many other parties involved in the supply chain, who are exploited and whose exploitation is carefully elided or hand-waved away by the phone vendor.

You're not exploiting them, though. Even the vendor has plausible deniability – because local governments have "different norms" around worker safety. And hey, they have money now that they didn't have before! So don't look too closely, OK?

You're a point of negative pressure (demand) in the system, that collectively keeps the whole system in balance. It's difficult to wrap our brains around and difficult to accept, which (IMO) makes its informed maintainers worse than a petty criminal.

Of course, capturing value through voluntary transactions does not necessarily rob the counterparty. But in today's complicated global economy, it's unfortunately insufficient to look at your transactions in isolation to know that you're not robbing somebody by proxy, or becoming an accessory to a robbery.

To put it in relief: is money laundering a violation of the golden rule, even if you capture no value from said laundering?


I don't think it was possible to investigate the entire supply chain even before the modern era. I go to a farmer and buy some crops, or barter with them. Who's to say they don't have slaves, or don't have good working conditions, etc.?

How does an economy work under your system? I must create demand somewhere. I need food. I need clothes. I need shelter. Amd I want things. Eventually I'll need to trade, and that trade will benefit both parties by making them both better off. But by becoming better off, some value was captured: I value what I purchase equal to or more that what I gave up. The concepts of marginal costs and revenue come into play here. Under your system, do I have to abstain from all trade if my marginal revenue exceeds my marginal cost? How do I scale?


> Who's to say they don't have slaves, or don't have good working conditions, etc.?

This is what social norms are for, and we have done it forever. The modern era has made this exponentially more difficult.

> Eventually I'll need to trade, and that trade will benefit both parties by making them both better off.

Yep yep, totally fine if you're not exploiting anybody.

> But by becoming better off, some value was captured: I value what I purchase equal to or more that what I gave up.

As long as you're creating value throughout the chain, you're doing just fine.

> Do I have to abstain from all trade if my marginal revenue exceeds my marginal cost?

This is actually an interesting question! The Luther piece touches on this a lot (where is the line between "Usury" and "Commerce"?). The answer he arrives on is no, you don't need to abstain, and that division of labor is not Usury.

The point is not to avoid profit, it's to avoid breaking the golden rule – there's no hard cutoff around how much profit is "too much" profit, but a rule of thumb that's often quoted (for whatever reason) is around 30% – i.e. if you see a gross profit that's consistently at or above that number, there's usually exploitation happening somewhere.

> How do I scale?

The answer depends on what we mean by scale. Revenues? Profits? Headcount? Volume of throughput?


Very interesting perspective. Thank you


I am giddy seeing a link to Desiring God on HN. John Piper, good stuff.


HN and Desiring God are my two favorite websites.


Recently introduced a friend to Desiring God. Changed their whole perspective on Christianity. Took things back to basics for them, here’s what Jesus actually said, here’s what the Bible actually teaches, no sensationalism, let’s calm down and dive deep.

Here are some favorites of mine, bookmarked and ready to reread whenever I feel the urge.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-be-spiritually-mi...

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-humility

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-one-must-read-this-y...


If you're looking for clear, unambiguous moral guidance, then sure, you have a point. For me it's more about how it sounds, the poetry of it all, and less about guiding my life, my spiritual life or my morality.


I find these two things to be inextricably bound together in my own life.


Far more overwrought prose in my opinio; like a Baroque cheateu, all the beauty is lost in the noise of the embellishments.


Please don’t do this, there are many people and stories that speak to this. Now it looks like you’re claiming this for one particular religion, when it’s completely unrelated to religion.


Your comment is downright petty and silly.

Wisdom/Insight/Life Advice wherever it comes from is always valuable. It is up to you to tease out the kernel of knowledge from the chaff of religiosity.

I am no Christian, but i found Robert Alter's The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes quite interesting and would advice you to a study of the same.


> Your comment is downright petty and silly.

And contains some irony.


He is sharing a quote from a religious book, it makes sense to cite it, no? If they quoted the Qur'an, a Buddhist Sutra, a piece by Kahlil Gibran, or a quote by Adam Smith, I would all expect a citation to be honest.

A few comments around we see a quote by Rick Roderick, and one by the Beatles. I don't see why this is fundamentally different and deserves critique.


Quoting a religious/ideologist book is inherently different to quoting an individual author or a non-religious/spiritual text, because the act of quoting itself is part of a tradition of (in this case evangelical) propagation of the religion/ideology.

We can pretend to see contemporary bible-quoting as a secular thing, but in these cases history matters.

For instance, in the above quote in the part "It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." it is obvious that the quoted passage goes beyond a non-religious moral text and veers into religious moral judgement.

Furthermore, quoting a passage does not isolate you from the whole of the work, as you would probably take offense to me quoting WWII dictators even if the quote makes sense for the topic in isolation.

What I'm saying is all quite obvious and on the nose behavior by religious (or ideologist) people, who absolutely view quoting as a religious/ideologist act as described above.


I'm confused at what you are trying to say. As far as I can tell, it appears you are saying something like "don't quote religious texts in a way that makes them look like they have any claim on moral authority". And it appears to me that you are saying "moral authority", in this case, is a-religious and should not be related to any particular religion.

Am I getting this right?


Well, fundamentally moral authority is a misguided idea, morals don't flow from an authority, morals are constructed and transformed over time by society. Taking your morals from an authority directly is itself immoral, as they don't have a foundation of human rights or empathy but rather are based on arbitrary ancient writing of arbitrary ancient writers.

I'm saying quoting religious texts without religious context (like you say, morals are not inherently religious) is not a secular act and can not be separated from the religion because of the history around quoting religious texts. Quoting religion in a moral discussion introduces religion into a discussion where religion is not necessary, and could even be harmful.

That's not to say you should never do it, but doing it is not the same as quoting any other text or other author. Again I'm not sure why this is controversial, regardless of the other comments quoting Hitler or Mao's red book in a moral discussion would very much be very weird if there is no reason to introduce any of his writing.

Somehow religion gets a pass, it shouldn't.


> Taking your morals from an authority directly is itself immoral, as they don't have a foundation of human rights or empathy but rather are based on arbitrary ancient writing of arbitrary ancient writers.

Where do you think should morals come from? A more precise question would be "where does human morality arise from?" Or even more fundamental, "why is it wrong to do one thing and not another?".

Given what you've said about religion and moral authority, I am genuinely curious to know your answers to these questions.


As already mentioned, empathy.

You are referencing the age old argument of moral origins, you can simply google to find out many sides of the argument (example: https://www.quora.com/If-not-for-religion-where-do-morals-an...).

However, its quite simple to resolve. The gist of it is: if you need a deity holding judgement over you to distinguish right from wrong, you are probably a psychopath.


> as you would probably take offense to me quoting WWII dictators even if the quote makes sense for the topic in isolation.

Of course I wouldn't take offense to that. I will accept wisdom wherever it is to be found, even if it's from Hitler himself. I care about the merit of ideas, not the merits of their sources.


This text sits at the wellspring of Western culture, such as it is. You don't need to accept any metaphysical claims that it makes in order to appreciate its wisdom.


There is nothing wrong with drawing on the values that a text carries without necessarily agreeing with it in its entirety. This quote captures the point of the post above quite well.


You should work on your very warped perception.


Being content is not about lack of goals or striving. It’s about enjoying the journey, appreciating what you have, being OK psychologically even if your grand plans don’t come to fruition.

I am always working towards multiple goals in parallel, from short to long to ultra long term. But the cadence of regular life - the routines we do daily and weekly and yearly - are the things that sustain existence. My children, wife, extended family, friends, acquaintances, the holidays, the laughs and stories and memories. I like exercising, I like coffee, I like learning. I can make all the money in the world but the real mass of life is not changed, and money is unnecessary to live a fulfilling life.


For me at least, it means I'm striving a little less hard, I think is the best way to put it.

I'm still searching for good things, and the next thing, but I'm also enjoying today for today.


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