Friday, 31 July 2009

The most important factor in happiness


There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. Each new song provides us a pleasant melody for a day, each new fashion entertains our spirits for a week. Time seems to be always insufficient for those who are busy chasing the latest novelty. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale an hour later.

We lie ourselves pretending that it has always been like this. We take pride in being the first to adopt the latest change. Faster, quicker, we push forward in unison. If only we could get ourselves to forget the essential questions that superficiality will never address. Acceleration is sugar-coated sedation that can never still our hunger for happiness, but what is the alternative?

In the year 24 B.C., Titus Livius turned 35 years old. He looked back at his life and saw that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling and also a little writing. In other words, he had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing.

His life lacked purpose and ambition, but that was not something which bothered any of his friends. Stoicism and hedonism, the prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, led most men to live for the pleasures of the day and to regard strenuous effort as a burden to be carried only by servants and slaves.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a project so difficult and wide-ranging that he knew that it would take him decades to accomplish.

A few months later, he had already formulated in detail how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome as it had never been told before. He would speak not only of facts, but also about individuals. He would recount not only past events, but also the values that had inspired them.

The plan designed by Titus Livius comprised researching hundreds of documents and the actual writing of 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would occupy several university departments. Titus Livius did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such demanding undertaking, even if that entailed doing away with other distractions. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is an essential element of happiness. When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project before, since he only managed to complete 142 books.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Chiara Marra under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

The most important factor in happiness


There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. Each new song provides us a pleasant melody for a day, each new fashion entertains our spirits for a week. Time seems to be always insufficient for those who are busy chasing the latest novelty. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale an hour later.

We lie ourselves pretending that it has always been like this. We take pride in being the first to adopt the latest change. Faster, quicker, we push forward in unison. If only we could get ourselves to forget the essential questions that superficiality will never address. Acceleration is sugar-coated sedation that can never still our hunger for happiness, but what is the alternative?

In the year 24 B.C., Titus Livius turned 35 years old. He looked back at his life and saw that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling and also a little writing. In other words, he had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing.

His life lacked purpose and ambition, but that was not something which bothered any of his friends. Stoicism and hedonism, the prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, led most men to live for the pleasures of the day and to regard strenuous effort as a burden to be carried only by servants and slaves.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a project so difficult and wide-ranging that he knew that it would take him decades to accomplish.

A few months later, he had already formulated in detail how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome as it had never been told before. He would speak not only of facts, but also about individuals. He would recount not only past events, but also the values that had inspired them.

The plan designed by Titus Livius comprised researching hundreds of documents and the actual writing of 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would occupy several university departments. Titus Livius did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such demanding undertaking, even if that entailed doing away with other distractions. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is an essential element of happiness. When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project before, since he only managed to complete 142 books.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Chiara Marra under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]