Love is Fascinating

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life: That word is love.”

  • Sophocles, “Oedipus at Colonus” (Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ,)

Love is beautiful, unique, and terrifying. I mean think about it. Today people are so obsessed and occupied with gaining material objects that they place as high priority. Sure, they can make us “happy” but usually it is short termed happiness. But love, that is something remarkable.

One person can impact your life in the biggest way possible and I feel as though we all seem to act as if we can fall in love whenever and with whoever. When I say love is unique I do mean it but I don’t mean “soul mate” unique. Saying that there is only one person out there for you amongst billions is even too cheesy for a romantic like me. But I do believe that we as individuals have preferences and only certain people fall into those preferences which narrows down who you fall in love with. But we still need to cherish the people we love. There are many people out there for us but falling in love isn’t something to take for granted. Appreciate who you have while you have them.

Love is a special feeling and a special tool. We love people who we can benefit from. People who make us laugh, judge us so that we can better ourselves when we are making ridiculous decisions, and encourage us to become better as an individual. The people we love tend to know ourselves better than we do, that is beyond useful. We have trouble seeing who we are and overlooking things which is why someone who loves you and that you trust can help see things a little more clearly.

The terrifying part about love is that it is unpredictable. When you lose the one you love it feels as though the world is falling about. It seems outrageous when people describe it as such but it is just the way it feels. As if part of your soul has gone; feeling lost and left wandering. Love itself enhances every emotion. It is a powerful force that seems as though at times it is unexplainable. Why? I have no idea but that is why Love fascinates me.

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Learning From Unfortunate Situations

“When a raven happens to croak unluckily, don’t allow the appearance hurry you away with it, but immediately make the distinction to yourself, and say, “None of these things are foretold to me; but either to my paltry body, or property, or reputation, or children, or wife. But to me all omens are lucky, if I will. For whichever of these things happens, it is in my control to derive advantage from it.” – Epictetus, The Enchirdion

 The ideas of “good” and “bad” omens have been a part of our lives for years. A few of the famous bad omens that we hear are about walking under ladders, black cats crossing our paths, tipping over salt and even the presence of a raven, as we see in my quote from the Roman philosopher, Epictetus.

We allow ourselves to give into this idea of omens being true; therefore, if we walk under a ladder, anything bad that happens to us after is only happening because of that bad omen. It prevents us from possibly turning an unfortunate event into a learning experience for ourselves.

My thoughts on this specific quote have less to do with omens themselves than the quote’s message. For the sake of my interpretation let us replace “omens” with “situations.” Throughout life we often find ourselves facing tough situations. With tough situations come many contributing emotions such as anger, depression, and sadness. But if one were to find a way to look at the unfortunate situation with a different mindset it would not need to come with those contributing emotions that negatively affect oneself.

Epictetus says, “For whichever of these things happens, it is in my control to derive advantage from it.” The role that your mind plays when it comes to analyzing situations is incredible. If we choose to look at our unfortunate situation with a negative mindset, then that is exactly what it will be. But if we choose to look at it as a learning experience –and therefore achieve a new perspective on the situation –we will come out wiser and happier than we thought possible.

This is not to dismiss that unfortunate situations may come with real burdens. Of course there are some situations that are simply unbearable. But willing ourselves to see any bit of an advantage that we can pull from the situation can go a long way.

Far too often people fall into the idea that unfortunate situations are just simply unfortunate. Our minds control how we perceive many things. A mindset that sees the bigger picture –one that allows us to shed light on difficult events –can alter the outcome from what arises from the alternative pessimistic view.

It Is Worse in Your Mind Than In Reality

 

‘There are more things likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.’ Seneca, “Letters From a Stoic: On Groundless Fears”.

When we are confronted with a tough situation, some quickly assume the worst is to come. We play out in our heads the most horrid outcomes, which can lead to an extreme amount of unease and distress before the situation has even unfolded. Usually, when we allow ourselves to focus on all the negative outcomes, it tends to take up most of our energy and time.

Rather than dwell on what is to come, we should look for other alternatives. If you must calculate in your head all of the awful possible outcomes, then you should also calculate the better outcomes as well. As long as you are acknowledging that there are both outcomes, you can spend the time you are wasting not only on all the bad, but also the good outcomes.

In regards to Seneca’s quote above, those who fabricate too much in their head end up creating bigger problems than are necessary. Of course, there are times when we cannot prevent ourselves from at least thinking of what bad outcomes could arise. This only becomes an issue when we cannot stop thinking about these bad outcomes in such a way that they frighten and soon crush us.

When we start drawing an atrocious conclusion about the future, we lose all the time before anything is concluded. Rather than causing chaos in our heads, we should worry about such things when a problem is actually at hand–as opposed to worrying about it in our imagination.

But Words Will Never Hurt Me

“Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind). Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective.” Adam Grant quoted in, “The Coddling of the American Mind”

A book I am reading, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, focuses on the issues regarding college campuses and the effects of certain speech on them. It raises the question of whether words, which some think to be “dangerous,” can really harm students. This problem then evolves into the need for safe spaces and trigger warnings.

The First Amendment guarantees us the right to exercise the freedom of speech. But how does this play out when people are forced to keep their ideas, perspectives and thoughts to themselves in fear that they will offend someone? Has the First Amendment become an empty phrase in a world where we worry that our speech will harm someone?

The quote by Grant is a great start to being able to speak your mind to others while respecting them and vise versa. When you are having a discussion with someone who has different views than you, there is no reason to preach that you are right and he is wrong. What is that going to solve? Why not offer your reasoning for your ideas and allow the other person to do the same. Keep your mind open and take in what others have to say; you might learn from them. We should not, however, fear that what we are saying will endanger others.

I believe in the importance of keeping the lines of communication open. Being able to converse with one another from different perspectives allows us to better understand each other’s thoughts and their reasoning behind them. Creating safe spaces and trigger warnings on campuses might seem like a good idea to some. But if we allow students to be shielded, how will they learn to respect the diverse opinions of others – when such respect is just what they want for themselves?

Are You Living or Existing?

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist—that is all.” Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism

It has been ingrained in us that we must grow up, get a real job, get married and have a family – all the while continuing to work. This leads us to fall into the same cycle of doing what we are told, rather than what we believe is good for us. Following such a restricted path of growth prevents you from living at all. One merely becomes a robot slugging through her repetitive day to day life. Once she has the realization of what she missed out on by settling into this dull routine, it is often too late.

Wilde believed that his life was a means of self-expression, which I tend to believe is true for everyone. The way one chooses to live, by the paths he takes, the rules he follows and the thoughts he considers all reflect on who he is as a person. Having the courage to decline the pressures of what society assumes is the correct path of living is admirable.

Existing in this world will bring you much more pleasure by choosing the things that make you happy. Perhaps you’ll even begin to live. Set goals and dreams for yourself and stop at nothing to achieve them. Regardless of whether you make it to that end point, you still worked hard towards something that you wanted rather than having worked aimlessly just to simply exist.

Importance of Education

“How then is perfection to be sought? Wherein lies our hope? In education, and in nothing else.”  – Immanuel Kant, Lectures On Ethics

When you hear education you think of school in the aspect of taking classes and learning what we are taught by professors, which has some truth. What I am talking about is the ability to comprehend thoughts and asses them, rationally. The education that we give ourselves based off ethics formed from within oneself, rather than the ones formed by society.

Today when people are having a discussion, for example politically, people become offended and defensive if someone has different views. This is when being educated and allowing yourself to take in the opinion of others, critically think about it, listen to them and produce thought provoking questions becomes vital. Having conversations like these helps build our education. Learning from others is impactful, yet some allow themselves to shut down and refuse to take in others views.

Having an active mind allows us to continue our education building and helps to prevent the animosity people tend to feel towards others based on their different opinions. According to Kant, people are not born with ethics, rather we use wisdom and education to form them. Kant’s education system is based on the importance of freedom, which allows an individual to use their talents as growth.

Human Maturity

“Human maturity: this means rediscovering the seriousness we had towards play when we were children,” Nietzsche.

As people age, the idea of play sometimes becomes distorted, and we lose sight of the joy that we once found while playing as children. When you think of playing as a kid, it was effortless. We grabbed our toys and let our imagination take over.

As time goes on, we tend to let life get in the way; society has a pretty strict viewpoint on how we behave and which activities are appropriate for adults. Because of this, some adults feel uncomfortable or fear that they will look silly playing.  

For example, when students look at their professors they only see them in a certain setting. Usually, the professors have a serious position when they are teaching, but the students wonder if that is how they always behave. How do their professors act when they are out for drinks with their friends? Do they spend their weekends doing nothing but grading or do they make some room for fun things to do? I understand that when you are at school it is, according to society, appropriate for professors to behave professionally but why not enjoy your job and have fun doing it?

Most of us abandon the possibility of ever playing again as we grow older, which is unfortunate. Play gives us a sense of freedom, creativity, and a burst of joy. When you are older you start to limit what you can do because everything needs to have a purposeful motive and can’t be improvised. Everything to adults, for the most part, has to have a goal or a point. We don’t allow for activities that can simply bring us joy.

Life is too short to live without play. Take of step back from your life for a short period of time where you can allow yourself to give in to spur-of-the-moment activities. Instead of only taking work and everyday life so seriously, try looking at play with the same seriousness. Some people look back on their childhood as their better days, so give yourself the brief happiness of playing once again.

The Unknown

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be”, William Shakespeare.

It is easy for some to tell you who they are in this exact moment but ask them who they are going to be and you will receive a very unsure answer.

The journey of life can bring you to places you never thought were possible. Which is why it is important to know that you have the potential to become something more regardless of the uncertainty.

This is extremely common among college students. When you ask what they are planning to do after school their response will be that they have no idea. Everyone can have an idea of what they would like to do but the reality of it is that anything can happen in your life that pushes you down a path you never knew was an option. Allowing yourself the freedom of potential growth within yourself can welcome opportunities.

It is normal to have a theory for who you might become but that is all it is, a concept. Theory,concept and ideas are all things that are not definite. These give us the ability to change and prevent us from guiding ourselves down such strict paths.

Having these theories for where you will end up or who you will become in the future is routine but as long as you remind yourself that none of this is definite. Life events will take place that can change everything about the way you have been “doing” life. As simple as this saying may seem, go with the flow.

The Truth

Over the past year since I started this column I have received a generous amount of compliments on my writing. It seems to be making people happy and that is exactly my goal. A common thing people have been saying to me is “ I love how positive you always are, how do you do it?”, and that is where I need to be honest.

I do not believe for a second that it is possible for someone to be positive 24/7, including myself. To try and have a smile on your face or always expect the outcome in life to be positive is quite unrealistic.

There is going to be many times throughout your life when you go through things that make you feel the complete opposite of positive, but I welcome those days. That is how you form the truest version of yourself. Getting to really know yourself involves real soul searching, which is usually brought on by the conflicts that we face. How you, as an individual, handle those tough conflicts shows a lot about who you are.

There is so much chaos in the world which is why I choose to be happy rather than dwell in it. When you find something you are passionate about, hold onto it. When you meet someone who makes you feel like the only person in the room, hold onto them. Having these things in your life will help you remember the good when nothing seems right.

Forcing yourself to always be happy will most likely create greater unhappiness within yourself. It is okay to not be okay, everyone goes through it. When you become unhappy, ride it like a wave. Don’t ignore it or bury it within. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and grow.

Be Your Own Friend

Recently I have been going through some stuff that has been difficult for me to juggle. A whole bunch of self doubt and bad habits enter my mind and take over. Luckily, I am surrounded by the most supportive and the wisest of people who remind me that I need to be kind to myself through tough decisions.

I am 21 years young and I put so much pressure on myself to feel as if I need to now what exactly I want to do with my life. I just entered my senior year of college and have never felt so uncertain of what I want to do. Which sends my mind into a world wind of crazy thoughts.I start to think of myself as a failure or that I wasted my time in college majoring in the wrong things.

The best advice I have been given during all of this was by someone who has become very special to me. He told me I am majoring in Gillian, and that all the things I am going through in my life are all learning experiences. I am my own friend and that I have to treat myself with kindness and love. If a friend had come to me with the same problem I am having I would be supportive and reassuring to them which is exactly what I have to do with myself.

I have my whole life ahead of me and to put so much pressure on myself to have my life in order just causes too much stress. No one knows what they want to do or at least won’t until they are much older. Not knowing is what life is all about and the best way to deal with the unknown is to take whatever comes your way and roll with it.

When you start unsure or start to second guess what you are after don’t let you mind wonder into the negative self talk. You are exactly where you are meant to be in this exact moment in life. Be your own friend and fill yourself with the love and support that you would give to a friend in need.