Choosing The Object Of Your Devotion

Photo: khrawlings

Whether we realize it or not, at every moment we stand devoted to something—something which we cherish above all others.  It may be money, a job, a person, an ideal, or our own comfort, but whatever it is, it’s the thing to which we orient all our resources, all our interest, and all our hope.

What it is, therefore, matters a great deal, for studies show that what we choose to pursue in life strongly influences our ability to be happy. Pursuing material wealth, for example, actually tends to decrease our happiness in the long run. Pursuing altruistic goals, on the other hand, is one of the few things that actually increases it. Continue reading…

Great Books

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I love to read.  In fact, there are few things I enjoy more.  Though my great passion is fiction, I’ll read almost anything:  non-fiction, comic books, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, poems, candy wrappers, it doesn’t matter—anything with words in it.  Reading is listening to someone else’s thoughts, learning from and about someone else’s mind.  Reading teaches.  Reading entertains.  And reading sometimes changes lives. Continue reading…

How To Ask The Right Questions

Photo: Marco Bellucci

Our minds are simply not to be trusted.  As Daniel Kahneman wrote in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, we’re all at the mercy of a voluminous set of cognitive biases that distort our thinking:  we routinely ignore evidence that contradicts our preexisting beliefs, we think anecdotally rather than statistically, we’re overly influenced by even brief messages that are unrelated to a question we’re asked to consider, and we routinely exaggerate the effect of changed circumstances on our future well-being, to name just a few of the ways our thinking goes wrong.  In short, it’s amazing that we ever get anything right at all. Continue reading…

How To Prevent Procrastination

Photo: kaibara87

I’m among the most disciplined people I know, but when it comes to avoiding procrastination I know one person who’s even better than I:  my wife.  She delays nothing.  Even when it seems like she might be, it’s only because she’s getting a long series of other things done first.  She’s been gifted (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with an inability to leave any open items floating around in her brain.  Continue reading…

Why Raising Children Is So Hard

Photo: limaoscarjuliet

You don’t really know what an experience is like, of course, until you have it yourself.  I remember thinking to myself when my wife and I first began discussing the idea of having children that this was especially true regarding parenthood.  In the past I’d been able to predict with reasonable accuracy a number of novel experiences based on previous similar experiences, but no experience I’d yet had seemed even close to the experience of having a child (sorry, owning a pet doesn’t come close). Continue reading…

Removing A Splinter

Photo: SuperFantastic

Two weeks ago, my son came home from nursery school with a splinter in his palm.  It was so small, though, I wasn’t sure if it was really there.

“It’s there,” my wife said.

She’d tried to squeeze it out before I’d come home but had only succeeded in hurting him terribly.  He’d shrieked and cried and tears had poured down his face. Continue reading…

Why Perfect Is The Enemy Of Good

Photo: stevendepolo

As long as I can remember, I’ve been burdened with a desire for perfection in all my creative endeavors.  No new sentence can be written until the previous one is just right.  No garment painted can be abandoned until its texture seems utterly real, as if touching it wouldn’t yield the sensation of oil paint but of velvet, silk, or cotton.  But my dogged pursuit of this verisimilitude has often proven itself to be the greatest obstacle to my achieving it. Continue reading…

Celebrating Birthdays

Photo: Aih

One week ago, my family and I celebrated my father’s 75th birthday.  Even writing that number I find shocking (probably almost as shocking as my father finds reading it).  Birthdays have always represented the most important of all celebrations in my family—more important certainly than any local or national holidays.  What, after all, could be more important to celebrate for a person and the people who love him or her than the fact of their existence?  For what should any of us be more grateful? Continue reading…

The Joy Of Not Hurrying

Photo: Autistic Psycho

The other day I found myself standing in a long line to buy breakfast in my hospital’s cafeteria when I noticed something that surprised me:  I wasn’t feeling annoyed at having to wait.  In the past, such a delay to the start of my day—to any part of my day, really—would have driven me slightly crazy.  Not because I think I’m so important that others should part before me, but because of an omnipresent feeling I’ve had to get on to the next thing I needed to do—whatever it was. Continue reading…

Boredom

Photo: Shermeee

Nothing in the world is quite so awful as boredom.  Unmitigated pain—physical or emotional—is commonly viewed as giving rise to the worst kind of suffering, but the suffering engendered by true boredom, though qualitatively different, is perhaps in some ways just as terrible.  I’m not talking about being bored for a few hours while waiting in line at Disneyland or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.  I’m talking about finding life itself not only uninteresting but also purposeless.  I’m talking about what I call existential boredom. Continue reading…