Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Chekhov: “Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions” (medium.com)
358 points by _chu on Mar 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 209 comments

I am an American living in Russia. When I was studying Russian I read a number of Chekhov's short stories and got a feel for who he was.

I later came across one of his quotes: "В человеке должно быть все прекрасно: и лицо, и одежда, и душа, и мысли" (Everything in a person should be excellent: his face, his clothes, his soul and his ideas). I sometimes discussed this phrase with Russians, eventually coming to be believe that "face" in this context meant that you should do all you can to appear clean and groomed, not necessarily that you need to be beautiful. I liked this quote and it can be a starting point of interesting discussion when I talk to Russians about Chekhov.

There's a funny story about when Chekhov went to Tomsk (now a town of about 500,000 people in Siberia.) In a letter, he wrote "Tomsk is a very dull town. To judge from the drunkards whose acquaintance I have made, and from the intellectual people who have come to the hotel to pay their respects to me, the inhabitants are very dull, too." In recent history, the inhabitants of Tomsk erected a bronze caricature statute [1] of Chekhov which makes him look funny. The local residents consider that touching his nose is good luck, so the statue has a really shiny bronze nose. I personally saw it and even touched his nose.

[1] https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g665310-d35959...

The statue's proportions are somewhat like what you would see if you look at a person from below. As actual drunkard lying on the floor could see Chechov. Source: indigenous Tomsker. We like to joke about Checkov's words about Tomsk.

That's a beautiful idea—like you must view Chekhov from the perspective of a drunk person (a near substitution for 'you are a drunk person') even when you're sober and standing up rather than lying down, because of his strange proportioning, therefore he is the 'cause of seeing his peers as like drunkards.

Characterizing a town's inhabitants as being "drunkards" and "dull" doesn't really sound much in keeping with his own first rule...

No man is perfect, even Checkhov. From the article: "These eight conditions are not a checklist, but a guideline—a “true north” of sorts that reveals to us the direction we must go…"


  What is needed is constant work, day and night,
  constant reading, study, will ... Every hour
  is precious for it …

In Russia, that's not considered as an insult.

Out of curiosity, how long did you have to study Russian before you could enjoy Chekhov's stories?

I read a bunch of them (in English) when I was a university student: that's where my first exposure came from.

When I started to study Russian, I read one or two of his stories in this book [1], which was great because it has English and Russian versions on opposite pages. I got to enjoy reading in Russian because I didn't constantly have to look up every tenth word in a dictionary.

Russian is a hard language but there are some still harder. To understand magazine articles and carry on simple conversations on arbitrary topics is a time investment of about 600 hours. To read Chekhov and speak really well on advanced topics is about double that, or 1200 hours. Chekhov's style is close to modern Russian and his style of writing is more straightforward than earlier writers. To read Dostoyevsky... well, hell if I know, I can barely make it through the first page of Crime and Punishment even with a dictionary even after all this time investment and living in Russia for a few years! It's like a different language.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Russian-Stories-Dual-Language-Book-En...

Chekhov was very popular in Russian schools up until early 90s because of his writing style. You're absolutely spot on that he writes in very plain Russian. Dostoevsky has some mindfuck-inducing way or getting across to the reader. His writing is difficult even for a lot of native Russian speakers. L.N. Tolstoy also has some easy reading ( Детство. Отрочество. Юность / Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth is my favorite)

What happened after the early 90s?

All readers of the site have graduated secondary schools.

Chekhov is still tout in Russian school : https://ru.wikisource.org/wiki/%D0%92%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%8...

I can only comment about the years I spent in school there. I think Soviet era of education pretty much ended with my generation when the old school staff reached retirement years. I have no idea where Russian schools rank nowadays. I heard pretty low.

The Soviet Union fell, among other things.

Presumably, in this context meaning that there was much more literature available for reading?

Probably that people had a much harder time surviving to read as much...

I don't think so. I'm sure reading was encouraged in USSR. Just not reading the wrong books. But overall, people got good education to culture there. It was one of the ideals of the soviet state that actually worked.

Only in the later stages of decline, when economy was tanking and people spent half their time queuing for things, they probably had less time to read...

>Only in the later stages of decline, when economy was tanking and people spent half their time queuing for things, they probably had less time to read...

That's what I meant: in the turmoil of 1991 and beyond, people would have less time to read...

Or you could say that post-1991 they had other things to do (to survive, or to entertain themselves: Western movies etc became available.)

However I was thinking already 1980's: probably the dysfunction of the economy had an impact on people people's reading (like, do you typically read a book while you are at the meat shop queue or shoe shop queue?)

After 1991 they have a lot of other entertainments to spend a time on - pirated videos, more than 3 state-approved TV channels, spread of BBS, FIDO and Internet...

Thanks for sharing, never realised that Dostoyevskiy is so hard, being kind-of-native-speaker.

He's not, it's just that the average reading comprehension level is low.

Out of curiosity, can you read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in Russian too? Does that feel different than reading them in English?

Do sentences last for 1/3 of a page in English version as well? Such as when you get to the end of the sentence you have already forgotten what was at the beginning? If it is like that then English version is similar to Russian.

Yeah, at least the versions in English that I've read had sentences that last at least a third of the page.

> Everything in a person should be excellent

Probably nitpicking, but I'd translate "прекрасно" as "beautiful" here.

Russian here. "Excellent" is better.

"Прекрасно" is "good in every way", "perfect", it is something that cause wonder and delight or feeling of exaltation. So it's not about beauty. It's about what beauty of something do to you.

I think "exellent" is an excellent choice of the word (beautiful ≈ красиво).

I don't know russian, but in croatian which is somewhat similar adding pre to infront of the word makes it stronger, does not change meaning. Like too beautiful or as beautiful as it could get. Though in russian it could be different. (edit or even more beautiful than it is allowed/expected/needed)

Well, if you remove "pre" from "прекрасно", you get "red-colored", so it doesn't quite work here. (Actually, it would make the first part of the sentence a bit too literal.)

"прекрасно" consists of two parts : "пре" ("very" here) and "краса" ("beauty") in Russian so it is pretty close etymologically to English beautiful. Slightly different connotation in this particular case but still close enough.

As our workshop teacher in USSR's school said once to us: "всё что технически-совершенно то прекрасно" - "everything that is technically perfect / harmonious is beautiful".

I would say that "прекрасно" is "harmonious and so beautiful" in this context.

"excellent" makes it sound like Bill & Ted doing the translation, though. 'first-rate' is a common choice for that quote which is also unsatisfying - without the unwanted English connotations but also without any of the desirable Russian ones.

It must be a very small subset of English speakers for whom the word "excellent" can only be read in a Bill & Ted accent, so I suggest this is bogus argument.

Yes, it must be and yet 'excellent' is a really poor translation for this.

Perhaps "superlative".

Yep, that's (roughly) in the same vein as 'first-rate'. What makes the translation tricky (if you speak Russian, apologies for explaining the obvious) is that while the word has uses other than literal 'beautiful' it is composed of a superlative prefix and the root for 'beauty'. The line itself is spoken by character in a play, a high-minded, provincial county doctor as Chekhov himself once was. 'must be excellent¹' is strained and clunky in English to begin with and none of the more natural-sounding replacements evoke the connotations of the original.

¹ Moreover, nobody ever translated the name of the Russian fairy tale Василиса Прекрасная as Vasilisa the Excellent.

I often translate "красивый" as "nice" or "pretty" or something similar, depending on the context.

I think "beautiful" is more subtle (less banal, if you will) than "красивый". And so is "прекрасный".

Agreed, the English "beautiful" often doesn't seem to capture прекрасно. I always took them to have some overlapping meaning, rather than being a direct translation.

> the English "beautiful" often doesn't seem to capture прекрасно

I agree, but I'd say "excellent" is even further away in meaning. Translating between such distant languages is always an exercise in compromise, unless you're willing to take great liberties at interpretation (when translating poetry, for example).

Being Russian I suggest "прекрасно" means "perfect" or "excellent" in this context.

Not really.

Excellent is closer to идеально. Both imply relative comparison (to others). Beautiful is an absolute characteristic, same as красиво, so it's a better fit here.

'идеально' suggests perfection, 'excellent' just quality.

I'd translate it as "wonderful".

I second this translation.

I thought excellent was a strange choice as well


At least in Soviet times this quote was taught and discussed in schools and I'd dare to argue that for some it is the only quote by Chekhov's they remember.

Modern Russian [street] variation of "Everything in a person ..." sounds as : "В человеке всё должно быть прекрасно - и душа и джинсы" - "Everything in a human should be perfect, as his soul as his jeans".

That's why Russians are paying so much attention to their education/reading and what they wear :) This stuff is taught in school.

> I personally saw it and even touched his nose.

Did it work?

Well, there's no possiblity of doing A/B testing. I can't go back and live an alternate life where I didn't touch his nose. So there's no way to know. But I'm enjoying my life, and I'm happy with the life in which I did touch his nose.

There definitely is a way, that's how all research is done. You send three groups there, one that doesn't touch anything, one that touches his nose, and another one that touches nose of the fake statue, without knowing that it is fake. If second group appears to have more luck than the other two over time, then it works.

This unfortunately does not account for different groups having different starting luck. I suppose you can in part handle that by having very large groups but since luck is luck simply the process of selection, even if random, is biased which gives you another problem.

Which is why units should be randomly selected into each groups to avoid confounding factors like the one you mention.

Ah, but a person with preëxisting good luck might be preferentially randomly selected into the nose-touching group, amplifying the effect and making it hard to measure its size.

You throw out min/max results anyway before analyzis.

I agree. A single person -- and who better than siberianbear? -- can experiment with taking risks and carefully noting if he touched Chekov's nose or not that day.

Your alternative life's imago invented a multiverse wormhole machine and freakily landed up in my backyard and told me that their life had gone pretty badly wormhole machine notwithstanding. So now you know.

What's the thing about russians and noses? The naval academy also has a statute with a lucky nose. In other cultures people want to touch the hands or feet of statues, but in russia it seems to be the nose.

> What's the thing about russians and noses?

Well. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/gogol/nikolai/g61n/

I'd always had an impression of classical Russian writing as being impenetrable, but this was delightful. Thank you!

I wonder how much of that has to do with it having been translated by people of that period into a classical style of that period. For recent history, maybe that yields "official" translations that are into an older English form that is harder for modern people to read.

For example, is a 19th century translation of an ancient Greek text also somewhat impenetrable compared to a more contemporary translation? How much of the problem is that the translation may not target English as we expect it in its current common form?

Is it common (possible?) to find "from scratch" translations from the last 30-40 years of classical Russian literature?

Apparently https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pevear_and_Larissa_Vol... have made translations of Dostoyevsky which are eminently more readable than the rest. I've started reading their translation of The Master and Margarita and I'm enjoying it a lot.

> I've started reading their translation of The Master and Margarita and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I'll have to check that out - I enjoyed their War & Peace. I found Ginsburg's translation of The Master and Margarita to be unreadably bad. There was just no joy in it whatsoever, to the point where I was wondering why it was such a famous book. It's been a while, but I recall the adjective use being terribly wooden. So many sentences with the basic structure "X walked down the long broad beautiful street. He spoke with the tall bespectacled bearded man" etc. It was quite tiresome.

It has a ton of footnotes explaining the background and in-jokes on the specific names and characters invoked. They really enrich the novel in ways that a non-religiously educated person like me would miss. The preface is really excellent too.

Well, there for sure are rows over the best translation of, say, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Hays for the enthusiasts, Long for the classicists.

There are different ones, and Gogol is IMHO one of the best ones and probably easiest ones too. His works are still widely enjoyed and quoted, which is not exactly the case with many other "classical" works, which are studied in schools but often fail to connect with a modern reader. His humor and satire is arguably as relevant now as it was back when it was written. I have no idea how it translates (it'd be a hard work indeed to properly represent his style, no idea whether even possible) but if there's a good translation that's the one I'd recommend to somebody who finds other classics impenetrable.

Check out Daniil Kharms too - http://www.sevaj.dk/kharms/stories/noteb10.htm

Gogol, Kharms and Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita, Heart of a Dog) are my three defaults for Russian literature. There’s that feeling of teetering on the edge of chaos that I love.

I don't think it's a uniquely Russian thing. I think it has more to do with the scale of bronze statuary. Busts have accessible noses, but feet are easier to reach on full figures. My university in the United States had a bust of Abraham Lincoln with a lucky nose.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find any bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln without a shiny lucky nose, at least in Illinois. The state capitol of Springfield has several.

It probably doesn't help that he's on the penny as well, which is considered lucky if you find one and pick it up.

There may also be a bias tied to medicine. Noses are paticular indicators of some diseases (smallpox and syphalis) that may have created an association with luck.

Edinburgh's Greyfriars Bobby (a dog) has a nose people touch for luck. Nearby John Hume has an enlightened toe: http://www.scotsman.com/news/hume-giant-of-the-enligh-toe-nm...

you should do all you can to appear clean and groomed

Ah yes, unlike that Einstein. That disheveled example of a someone who could have been so much more, had he just reached for a comb. /s

Was Einstein actually considered and describes by his peers/comrades as disheveled? Or is that just a cultural archetype we tell ourselves?

You're joking right? Are you asking if everyone looked like that back then?

>I personally saw it and even touched his nose.

And? Any luck?

One needn't click on affiliate links to buy Chekhov's works. Project Gutenberg has them: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=chekhov

Shameless plug, Chekhov's complete short fiction for free, at Standard Ebooks: https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/anton-chekhov/short-fictio...

We took the Gutenberg transcriptions, compiled them into one ebook, ordered by publication date, lightly modernized, edited, corrected, and completely proofread them. Check out the Github repo to see the changes (which are a lot, since it's a huge amount of writing): https://github.com/standardebooks/anton-chekhov_short-fictio...

While I don't speak Russian, I've found Garnett's translations to be extremely readable. A lot of her contemporaries seem to have agreed.

Standard Ebooks looks to be a very interesting project. Is there a story behind the project that details how you got started and who are the main contributors?

A 'Show HN' [0] or a write-up on indiehackers.com [1] would be awesome and could you more contributors.

I subscribed to your RSS feed [2] that announces your new publications but it lacks a URL for me to download the Ebook right away.

Also, is there a way for omnivoracious readers like me to download all your Ebooks in a mega .zip file at one go?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/show

[1] https://www.indiehackers.com/

[2] https://standardebooks.org/opds/all

Thanks for the suggestions! The project is very small, not for profit so indiehackers.com would probably not be interested. It's all volunteer-based so if you're interested in contributing work somehow then drop me a line.

The OPDS feed is mainly for reading systems and libraries, not for human consumption. However it does actually include direct links to epub files, but you typically have to view the feed source--i.e. the raw XML--to see them. Humans should subscribe to our mailing list,[0] where we do actual release announcements as they occur.

[0] https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/standardebooks

> The OPDS feed is mainly for reading systems and libraries, not for human consumption.

Understood. I was using a standard RSS reader to parse the feed.

I added the OPDS feed to my FBReader app on Android [0] via its Network Catalog feature [1]. Et voila, I have your entire catalog at my fingertips. Thanks. :-)

> It's all volunteer-based so if you're interested in contributing work somehow then drop me a line.

I can definitely see myself volunteering. Thanks for the invite. :-)

[0] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.geometerpl...

[1] https://fbreader.org/content/documentation/own-opds

Great project! I grabbed the book; look forward to reading it.

A small tip - I note the files don't automatically trigger a file download in my browser (Chrome), instead trying to display inline in the browser. Look into the following headers you need to send to force a download:

  Content-Type: application/octet-stream
  Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="thebook.epub"

Fixed, thanks for catching that!

Happy to change the URL above if someone finds the text itself.

I notice this theme again and again in every "change yourself" book, show, class, lecture. Be it weight loss, improving mental health, curing addiction, becoming a better writer/photographer/programmer, the theme all comes down to a battle against yourself. Fighting the desire to snack, fighting the desire to lay on the couch instead of going to the gym, fighting the desire to veg and watch netflix instead of watching another lecture in the MOOC you're taking.

You'd think it'd be easier to control ourselves. I have trouble understanding how we can want something, but some other part of us can seem to not want that thing, or just be extremely short sighted to the point of being an obstacle to our "long-sighted self."

> the theme all comes down to a battle against yourself

Perhaps "control" and "battle" are the wrong model. Some broad, general suggestions based on what experts have said:

Respect yourself: If you are doing something over and over again despite not wanting to, there probably is a good reason for it, a legitimate healthy need, even if the expression of that need is unhealthy. Respect that need and its priority as legitimate and serious. Find a healthy, productive way to address it. It should be no surprise that the response is unhealthy: Imagine if someone else had a real need and your response was to ignore it and abuse them constantly for acting on it; how would that person behave?

Know yourself: Know your strengths and limits; don't put yourself in position to fail and then abuse yourself for failing. Again, imagine you were someone else's manager, you knew their limitations, and yet you kept putting them in position to fail and then abused them over the results. That would be a horrible failure of management, not of the employee.

Have compassion for yourself. Like every human ever to live, you also will live your whole life with serious flaws.

Nurture yourself: Work together (so to speak) for change. That's how real change happens; that's how good parents, good teachers and mentors, and good managers accomplish things. Fighting with people just entrenches the problem.


That feels a little too ... bullsh*tty to post - loose, imprecise ideas with little serious foundation included; my apologies. But I'm not sure how to tighten it up, don't have links at my fingertips, and posting it seems better than not.

I like this. Very well put.

However, I can't seem to be able to make a connection with the examples your parent comment mentioned. For example, if you want to lose weight but keep eating fast food despite that---what is the healthy need manifesting through that, and how do you address it in some other, good way? Same with being addicted to e.g. alcohol or smoking.

> if you want to lose weight but keep eating fast food despite that---what is the healthy need manifesting through that, and how do you address it in some other, good way?

That really depends on the individual; if you'd like to sit on my couch for a couple years ... (I'd have no idea what to do).

But as examples, if your body doesn't need something nutritionally (e.g., more energy), perhaps the junk food is a source of comfort and relief from stress (i.e., 'comfort food'); there are healthier ways to obtain relief from and to otherwise deal with stress. Perhaps the buzz from the sugar and fat is an escape or makes the person feel energized; again, there are healthier solutions.

Again, I don't pretend to be an expert and what I wrote in the GP isn't the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Part of nurturing yourself is pushing yourself at times and training, but IMHO without battling and abusing yourself - again, like a good coach, teacher or manager.

> Same with being addicted to e.g. alcohol or smoking

I would think that physical (i.e., chemical) addictions are different; your body requires that chemical. Alcoholism is a disease, AFAIK.

>I would think that physical (i.e., chemical) addictions are different; your body requires that chemical. Alcoholism is a disease, AFAIK.

I'd argue that this is not completely true, as in, there's a significant psychological component as well. I can give a personal example. I'm trying to quit smoking by gradually lowering my nicotine intake, or "cut down to quit". Currently, I've reduced the amount I smoke by several orders of magnitude, and I no longer feel any kind of physical need. Still, I procrastinate with actually making the leap to non-smoker, and I find that my desire to smoke is now driven by purely psychological impulses that I have a lot more trouble controlling than merely ignoring physical withdrawal symptoms.

I'm trying to come up with a good explanation of all that, and you offered a compelling view on the subject―that's the only reason I'm so curious in debating this topic.

I agree that those things can be due to both a 'chemical requirement' and the type of need I was describing above. What distinguishes them is the chemical requirement; once that is gone, the need fits in the other category - that's all I meant.

Personally, I figured out that I was going to engage in some kind of habitual 'escape' periodically (I would guess that is true of everyone). It didn't matter what it was; if I stopped one, then I'd start another. As a result, I try to purposely choose things that are as healthy as possible, or at least harmless, and maybe even a little productive. Hobbies can be good for that, though they aren't exactly the same thing.

EDIT: Some clarifying edits

> I would think that physical (i.e., chemical) addictions are different; your body requires that chemical. Alcoholism is a disease, AFAIK.

The interesting thing is I believe I can make a convincing argument that "life" is a disease that can be overcome - for example, a highly trained monk can meditate himself to death, ignoring the body's desire for food or water. When it comes to us, "require" can, with training, be nullified. We can even, apparently, out-think our most basic pain responses (see: the burning monk).

> For example, if you want to lose weight but keep eating fast food despite that---what is the healthy need manifesting through that, and how do you address it in some other, good way?

If it's not a nutritional deficiency, then perhaps it's a snacking habit, so maybe switch to nuts, sunflower seeds or fruit. The habit starts losing its power when you're no longer flooding yourself with high doses of sugar and/or salt, which is where the habit's positive reinforcement comes from.

Another extremely difficult aspect of that "battle" or self-improvement mindset: our mental state depends a great deal on body chemistry. Sure it's hard to start lifting, but if you've been lifting for a year and have a lot of fun dopamine floating around as a result and have had time to associate lifting with those dopamine rushes, it's actually harder to not lift. It's almost unfair, really, that our mental state is kind of "out of our control." If you're 2 days without food, being a "good person" and maintaining your values becomes extremely difficult. After 5, forget about it, your humanity will have almost completely slipped away, and there's almost nothing you can do about it.

The more I think about it and learn about the functioning of the brain, the less I believe in the unitary 'self'. I once read the suggestion that what we think of as the 'self' is really just the brain's public relations department.

You might enjoy a book called Quantum Psychology (Robert Anton Wilson).

He lays out some interesting concepts about the way we think and one thought experiment in particular, observing all the 'thinkers' within and how they can multiply at will i.e consider the following innocuous statement:

"I observe that I am happy"

Who is happy and who is the observer?

Eckhart Tolle may say the observer is your conscience and who is happy is your mind. That's a guess though. :)

I picked that idea up from Greg Egan's short story 'Mister Volition':


Apologies for the unrelated comment, but I saw one of yours from three months ago:

> Is it 'Into Darkness' that has the idea of a space where you can only move forwards, not sideways? This sounds like that mixed with the rigorous alternative physics of the Clockwork Rocket series.

...and that sounds like my kind of book, but googling only gives Star Trek links. Can you tell me the author?

Found it...

I call it the "executive summary", basically we "are" a PowerPoint presentation of our brains.

I agree. I find it amazing how unfocused the human mind can be, but at the same time am not really surprised given how we evolved.

I also have somewhat of a pragmatic view of solving this problem.

Anecdotal, but since I started taking the antidepressant Valdoxan (aka Agolmelatine, sadly illegal in the US) I've found that I feel it's easier to win that battle. When I say I'm going to do or not do something, I'm more likely to stick to that.

I've finally, for example, gone to my parent's house and not binge eaten on my mum's generous cooking. I went to the bar and actually had two drinks instead of six.

I haven't taken them, but I also understand that there may be some other medications such as AHDH or concentration drugs that have a similar effect, possibly with different time scales and mechanisms.

I'm still a total coffee addict - haven't kicked that one yet - and I'm by no means perfect. But my self control was pretty much non existent before, and in the last two months I've made alot of progress.

I hope that we continue to find better ways of managing the brain's chemistry (and the side effects of doing so), but just as much that the methods we have now become more widely available, and less illegal and stigmatized.

"The Master said, 'The prosecution of learning may be compared to what may happen in raising a mound. If there want but one basket of earth to complete the work and I stop, the stopping is my own work. It may be compared to throwing down the earth on the level ground. Though but one basketful is thrown at a time, the advancing with it is my own going forward.'" (The Analects, translated by Legge)

>Be it weight loss, improving mental health, curing addiction, becoming a better writer/photographer/programmer, the theme all comes down to a battle against yourself.

Most of them say that, but a few say the wiser thing: Prevention is king. If you don't get addicted to something, it causes fewer problems. This applies to both physical and mental addictions. Don't let your body get used to fatty foods, and there will be nothing to fight. Same goes for alcohol. Or tobacco. Or TV binging: I've been relatively cable-free for well over a decade.

>fighting the desire to veg and watch netflix instead of watching another lecture in the MOOC you're taking.

Amusingly, I have to fight the desire to take yet another MOOC. I'm addicted to information/knowledge. I absorb it easily. Retaining the information, and actually utilizing it takes a lot of work. For me, taking another MOOC is just a way of slacking off to avoid putting in the effort to apply those skills I keep "learning".

It's the animal side vs you, the consciousness.

The animal side is happy with eating, shitting, sleeping, fucking, pointing and laughing at funny stuff, punching other people and things.

You, on the other hand, are trapped inside this animal and want quite different things.

It's a constant struggle.

I think of it like this: I want to lay on the couch, not go to the gym, but I want to want to go to the gym, or I want to have gone to the gym. I want to have gone to the gym because I hate to be at the gym. Realizing that, I have a choice: is going to the gym a chore, like flossing my teeth to avoid tooth pain or taking out the garbage so I'm not living in garbage? that is, is going to the gym something I do even though I don't want to, and which I needn't pretend to like? or should I just admit that i hate the gym and find something else to do?

But you don't need the gym, for losing weight or getting healthier. The only thing you need the gym for is getting big muscles, now you can reframe the question. Is my goal to be more healthy or getting ripped?

If the goal is health then you can stop going to the gym. Start running, start swimming, try bicycle, outdoor gyms, join a hike group, join a martial art club. Start doing excersices at home with your body weight. If you are so weak or big that you can't do many bodyweight drills, then you don't need a gym anyway. Better served with a small 10$ dumbar package at home.

The only thing that can be good with a gym is a Personal Trainer that can give you a good plan. It will be hard to replace that service to the same level.

If your goal truly is to be more muscular, then and only then does it really become a question of motivation. Do i want this enough do go to the gym, even on the days that i don't feel for it?

For some places, not having a car is already a free health increase. Walking regularly is free "healthcare".

That's the nice thing about chaotic wild life. Your life depends on every day gymnastic and it's often quite a pleasure to feel alive and full. We distorded the game too much it seems. Unless the VR trend provides a healthy dose of entertaining physical activity.

Speaking about battling ourselves: I recently started questioning whether we're truly free – as in, do we have complete control over the decisions we're making.

There are certain things about ourselves we simply can't control, such as our parents, where we were born/raised, our genetic makeup, the structure of our brains, etc, and these things highly influence our decision making.

So it looks like there is constant battle between who we want to be and who we truly are.

There's a whole eastern philosophy around this sort of sentiment. The idea being that things aren't inherently 'anything' but we do attach emotions or ideas to those things. You can take a 'meta' step back and notice this.

Vipassana meditation has helped me to increase discipline and self-control. Since taking a 10-day course, I finally got control of my snacking urges and my emotional health has drastically improved.


I agree, and similarly long to simply think myself to where (I think) I'd like to be.

Learning though, by it's very nature, means fixing what's wrong or implanting knowledge in place where one is "not even wrong".

If it were easier it would be of less value. The supply is more limited than the demand.

> I have trouble understanding how we can want something, but some other part of us can seem to not want that thing

Humans typically associate themselves (ie 'you'), as a distinct thing in reality, rather than a group of competing agents.

takes will + effort to fight entropy. "your self" in this case is just a manifestation of a physical entropy-prone world that you are dealing with.

some of that is pre-programmed or instilled by the circumstance, anything above and beyond that requires additional effort that might seem like it's applied at "fighting yourself".

I suspect a subtle mistranslation here. Chekhov seems to be talking about decent people, or maybe good people, not cultured ones.

In English, it is quite possible to be cultured but bad. You know all kinds of stuff about literature, music, art, history and science (and therefore you are cultured) but you cheat on your wife and your taxes (and are therefore bad).

I think I agree. To be некультурным implies more than just not having refined tastes, or an education, or manners.

I think it depends on your definition of cultured as well. Depending on the dictionary it also means enlightened and good mannered. I consider cheating pretty bad mannered.

Agreed with treve, what does culture really mean? If you read ALL the literature, listen to ALL the music, view ALL the art, can recite ALL the history and do ALL the science... and still conclude it's OK to cheat on your wife and taxes, the argument can be made that none of this culture was internalized, and hence you are not cultured.

Of course things are rarely so black-and-white, but that's the gist of it.

You can understand something and possess the qualities of it and still choose to ignore them

Or that "culture" approves (or at least does not disapprove) of such activity.

This translation is great but I think it's still interesting to read into the connotations of Chekhov's original words:


>you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis

>тебя тянет от нее, и тебе приходится балансировать между культурной публикой и жильцами vis-а-vis.

Here "cultured people" are originally "культурная публика", literally "cultured public".

>Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

>Воспитанные люди, по моему мнению, должны удовлетворять след<ующим> условиям:

Here "Cultured people" are originally "Воспитанные люди". More like well-brought-up.

In English people used to say 'well-bred' but I can't quite squeeze that into the title above.

IMHO well-bred has a meaning of specific ancestry, of aristocracy of one sort or another, of which the Russian "воспитанный" has none - it's rather well brought-up, well-behaved, conforming to the norms and customs of the polite society.

Here's a lovely little article about Chekhov that has been languishing on my "post this someday when HN is slow" list.


I'm struck by how much this echoes Confucius and the Analects and how they define the so-called gentleman or noble man (not to be confused with nobleman, and translation is hard). Given how unlikely it is that Chekhov had exposure to either, it's incredible to observe the universality of these qualities considered admirable.

If people haven't, do recommend checking out The Analects! Caveat: there are quite a few excerpts that need to be taken in historical perspective, or can be easily misinterpreted (e.g. advice to be slow to embrace new that was in context of centuries of chaos and warring, or statements on women that interpreted naïvely clearly contradict other statements on mothers).

Can you give some examples of those "statements on women that interpreted naïvely clearly contradict other statements on mothers?"

I've read bits and pieces of Analects, thought it was ok, but felt that is was very much reflective of the perspectives of the time. Most of it felt like stuff that was obvious and other stuff felt not applicable to the world today. IIRC there was some stuff about traveling abroad / being a good guest in a foreign country, and I did think that part was useful.

I don't really recall reading stuff about women though. I wouldn't expect an enlightened perspective from a man in that time period though, no matter how kind the interpretation. It wouldn't invalidate the whole work, it would just show that the author was wrong about at least one thing, which is not an issue (unless we're talking about holy books where it's not acceptable to acknowledge mistakes).

Agreed on all counts!

"The Master said: 'Girls and inferior men are hard to get along with. If you get familiar with them, they lose their humility; if you are distant, they resent it.'" (Chapter 17)

This sounds pretty bad. My reading of it is that he meant that relationships between men and women are particularly tricky (bearing in mind heteronormative standards at the time, etc. etc.), so one has to be careful not to misrepresent them or else everyone suffers. This can be generously reinterpreted to general use ("don't toy around with people and treat them straightforwardly"). Realistically... I'm happy to take it as a mistake on his part and just extract something worthwhile from it even if it's not what he meant.

With regard to enlightened perspective or lack thereof, there's an interesting question. I'm no expert on Confucius himself and how he regarded women, but his filial piety towards his mother is widely lauded (as was Mencius').

Hope that helps!

Thank you for giving that additional context! Certainly good food for thought.

You're quite welcome, glad it was interesting!

Is it unlikely that he had exposure to Confucius?

Russia and China were bumping into each other before Chekhov's time, and a bit of Googling is turning up cases of Russian missionaries translating Chinese works to Russian in the early 1800s.

Was just a guess on a uniform prior :)

If you have specific evidence of Chekhov referencing Confucius (the similarities are so striking that either he came up with them independently, which was my original point, or he was inspired by Confucius, which should then leave traces) please do tell! That would be really cool.

I'm not savvy enough to know whether or where to find a list of works the Chekhov studied in his lifetime. I'll leave that search to others. Just floating idea that him coming across a translated work and it influencing his writing without him actually referencing it directly anywhere seems at least comparably likely as independent invention. Especially given that such translations at least existed in his time. I've got no idea about how widespread or accessible they were.

But I'm not even a hobby historian or philologist, more of an armchair philosopher.

Just following up on the fascinating prospect you initiated.

Which Russian missionaries translated which Chinese classics, since that you've already searched? I'm turning up Russian -> Chinese, not the other way around.

Here's one of the resources I came across. I only perused it briefly, but it mentions a Father Yakinf returning to St Petersburg and translating "the Confucian classic Four Books (Sishu)" among other things.

Hopefully this link works for you and isn't dependent on local cookies or something. But the book is: China and Japan in the Russian Imagination, 1685-1922: To the Ends of the Orient By Susanna Soojung Lim


Haha: "He developed a questionable reputation among the other members of the Mission..."

Yes, I can see it, and this is very cool. Thank you very much!

As well as Christianity. (and maybe 90% of religions?)

At a certain point, sure. There is, I suspect, an execution difference (which does not at all create mutual exclusivity) though. Have you read The Analects, out of curiosity? If so, you know what I mean. If not, by all means please check it out! It's a short read, unlike any of the Bible, Torah, or Quran ;)

They do not use their smart phones in the presence of others.

On the timeline of humanity, our pocket computers are brand-new. It will likely be a couple of decades before we sort out the social norms of using them. However, I think that we will fall towards using these devices constantly in all social settings because the young people growing up won't have the nostalgia of time before smartphones-- there was never a time where you and your friends sat at a table and talked completely free of digital interruption. Go to a coffee shop or restaurant near a high school around the lunch hour...

But it could also swing the other way: after the novelty wears off people might find it more respectful to pay attention to whoever you're sharing the table with in that coffee shop. There have always been ways to momentarily withdraw from your company and preoccupy yourself with something personal, but still you don't see people suddenly pulling out a book or a newspaper and read a couple of paragraphs (to give a flawed analogy).

It's also possible the current physical manifestations of these devices will change quite a bit in the near future. I imagine in 20 years of less we'll mostly be using some eye based (glasses, lenses, whatever) display with AR and gesture control.(likely with a gesture "shorthand" for AR control with limited movement for when you don't want to wave your hand in front of you).

At that point, it will be both much more and much less invasive, as it will likely be fully integrated. You can use it to enhance your conversation by adding context, distract from your conversation by utilizing it for something unrelated, or ignore it entirely. Sort of like your memory and imagination now (because that's what it will be at that point, a slower but much fuller extension to your current mind).

I bet that the current small tablet format will dominate for a very long time. It has few drawbacks and is very simple to implement.

Thats an intriguing prediction of the future.

Why intriguing? That's the only way I see it going, as well.

The Internet is already an extended memory. Other people's minds are an extended processing power, as well.

It can only get closer and more tightly integrated to our brains, unless society as a whole chooses to get away from that.

This is why privacy concerns are real - what we do today about them will impact the future massively. Will there be a central database of people's private thoughts and memories or will they remain private?

Well, I think all the essential features are already present, so I think it's a fairly safe bet.

- We already have AR

- We already have gesture control

- We already have glasses displays

- I already use my phone in this manner in conversations (I'll do a quick lookup on something we are discussing but are unsure about while trying to still listen).

You could essentially live most of this scenario right now if you were willing to put up with the heavy equipment and short battery life.

This letter appears to be a drawn out detailed set of insults to his older brother. Maybe cultured isn't the best translation. Is this what we in the US would have called "classy" back then?

Classiness does not preclude being insulting. It simply calls for a higher degree of skill in the insulting. History is full of classy insults. Diplomacy is nearly made of them.

http://allowe.com/laughs/book/When%20Insults%20Had%20Class.h... - just a quick hit on "classy insults" that seems to fit what I'm saying here.

There's also something to be said for long-form writing with snail mail enabling this. A very quick wit is required to make such insults in real time, as opposed to behind a pen with a day or two of thought.

No, I meant "cultured" wasn't what he was describing,

I might say "gentle criticism" rather than insults, but the beginning and end of the letter do make it clear that he is specifically advising his brother: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6408/6408-h/6408-h.htm#link2H...

> You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture.

>You must drop your vanity, you are not a child ... you will soon be thirty. It is time! I expect you.... We all expect you.

disagree that this is gentle. If you assume that every bit of advice implies that his brother is the opposite it's pretty bad

Well, he prefaces it with "I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil.... You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent."

Sounds like his brother probably satisfies at least 1, 2, and 3. That's why I say gentle; he says "you're a great guy, you have natural talent and the potential to be cultured, just need to work on your attitude and develop your talent".

"well bred" is indeed a more correct translation

Chekhov had this very weird and dry sense of humor. Some jokes would certainly look like insults to a random observer.

In this case, though, I believe he was actually frank, if blunt, but well meaning (his brother had issues with alcohol).

I agree. I got a few items into the list and got the sense that a joke was being played. I wonder if the original poster had that sense too and was in on the joke?

> no great writer has not been touched in some way by his stories.

Don't trust people who say things like this, btw.

Dunno. I'm reading Chekhov's letters and it doesn't look to me he was up to his own standards.

> it doesn't look to me he was up to his own standards

Would anyone pass your test?

I haven't made any test. What do you mean by it?

Do you have any examples?

Can't give you any quotes but for example he was quite derogatory towards "khokhly" (Ukrainians). Not sure if this word was derogatory by itself at his time (as it is now with rare exceptions). He went well beyond just using this word and expressed his negative view of these people using rather rude vocabulary.

Actually this view was stereotypical at that time in Russia and it was a norm to be derogatory to "brother nations". My point is he was a normal case of a person of his social status in that era with all the fallacies you would expect.

Of course this conflicts a lot with his idealistic view on cultured people. It should be taken with a grain of salt.

If you'd like to know more I consider you read the letters. It's well worth reading. A great insight into the life of Russian intelligentsia class and into the Russian mentality.

I have a set of rules I give my children. I started with them as kind of a joke because they would always flip out about stuff, so naturally, rule #1 is:

1) Be calm

2) Be kind

3) Don't steal

4) Always attempt your best

I've always liked the thought that "don't steal" is the ultimate morality lesson. Killing someone is stealing their life away. Adultering is stealing someone else's love or relationship. And of course, stealing in its basic meaning.

I've noticed that younger kids seems to take events extremely seriously

One thing that helped me keep this in perspective, is that every event makes up a significantly larger fraction of their existence than that event makes up of my existence

I'm 36, my oldest daughter is 6

occasionally she'll get really upset when seemingly minor setbacks happen (a craft she's working on doesn't turn out the way she wants it too seems typical), while we do try to work on her handling her frustration better

its helpful for us, to remember that 1 messed up craft out of 6 years of life experience, is 6 times a bigger deal than 1 messed up craft out of 36 years

I like these rules, but for myself, I always struggle with #4. For a while, "my best" was a half-hearted effort. "Oh well," I'd think, "this is the best I can do." Around college I had a resurgence of willpower, and "my best" became unhealthy obsession - dangerously low calories, dangerously frequent lifting, etc. Finding a balance there is a question I think about often. Technically, "my best" can easily kill me. It's not just about effort, it's about a high amount of thought and consideration into whatever it is - finding a weight target and just choosing a date for it to avoid over-dieting. Taking only so many classes that I can still have a social life. Etc.

There's much more to morality than "don't steal". Firstly, it elevates property rights to a position they don't deserve – making life or dignity second-class rights. "Don't steal" isn't even universal: there's nothing wrong with a starving child stealing bread.

If you want something memorable, the golden rule ("Do unto others as you would have them [...] do unto you") is much better, even if it requires more thinking.

I used to be cultured, at home, at work, and in public.

But, as I hit my late 20s (circa 1998),I became the opposite at work, and that approach has gotten me much farther ever since.

Play the game.

Reminds me a lot of Desiderata.


My favorite, is his point about "squeezing out the slave". He foresaw well how society can be highly tolerable of being subservient to dictatorship.

Seems more like a description of middle-class virtues.

Yawn, in addition to becoming cultured, I fear this advice will also make you incredibly boring.

Oh, how I laughed, to finish this ode to humility and there at the bottom, this little blurb which seems to be working overtime in demonstrating as many of the just-disparaged traits as possible.

>Want more? Join over 15,000 readers getting The Open Circle, a weekly dose of my best ideas. I’ll also send you 200+ pages from my private notebooks and 24 of my favorite books. Get it here.

Yes, but please don't post snarky dismissals anyhow. How often do we get to discuss Chekhov?

I've never heard of him and probably won't hear of him again, so I guess somewhere less than once a decade.



You're criticizing a person who died over a hundred years ago about modern progressive values that are only just getting real traction over the past 20-30 years.

It's worth pointing out that the statement is misogynistic, but where do you want to go from there?

Chekhov is dead, so certainly he isn't going to change his writing. But he is in numerous company of great writers who show outdated cultural values despite the quality of their work, so it doesn't sound like you're trying to outright dismiss the piece either. It's a pretty well established pattern when we run into cultural issues like misogyny and racism in older works to take the valuable parts and address the harmful parts at the point of interpretation.

I think you were voted down because 1. the mention of motherhood is pretty obviously sexist, so 2. people wanted to see you interpret the point into additional discussion, rather than just point it out.

I didn't downvote, but the downvotes are probably a result of the brevity and slightly vulgar nature ("cut the crap") of your response. I do actually agree with you though.

I was hoping others would bring it up too, but as with all "problematic" historical icons, we're supposed to accept that even though he was extremely wrong about women, it was just a byproduct of his society and not worth discussing about the person as a whole. I think that's a huge cop-out though. I don't think we should write him off or stop reading his works, but sexism is a real flaw in a person's character.

It's worth wondering why he was so eager to tell his brother that intelligent women are liars not worthy of relationships. Was he emotionally hurt by someone in particular and lashing out against all women? Does he just like feeling superiority over women as a class of people, and therefore accepted certain norms of patriarchy without questioning because it benefitted him? The former reason is sad, but understandable, while the latter would make me wonder if those norms are reinforced in his works as well.

Yeah, I guess 'cut the crap' was maybe considered a bit crude.

Thanks for the response.

>TFW you're voted down immediately for calling out sexism which, though very explicit, has so far gone uncommented upon

What reaction were you hoping for? That we'd refuse to read the thoughts of someone who lived 150 years ago because you deem one line sexist?

It's more shocking to me that someone could read a letter like this and get only "author is sexist" as the message.

By the way, "freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood" are traits I looked for (and found) in a mate. Guess he's not wrong.

It may not have been the most elegant invitation to discourse, but CaptainSwing is right that Chekhov was conveying a very sexist attitude there.

The problem isn't so much that his favorite traits in a partner coincide with stereotypes of an idealized woman, it's that he goes out of his way to say that clever women aren't worthy partners because they're liars. The rest of his letter shows that he clearly values intelligence for himself and other men, and he clearly holds himself up to a standard that avoids lying, but for women, he thinks intelligence will produce an untrustworthy mate. He acknowledges that he is clever and honest, but does not think a female partner can share those traits. That double-standard is a flaw in his thinking and his character. An extremely common flaw for men of his time period, but a flaw nonetheless.

Acknowledging an author's sexism doesn't make his work any less meaningful, it just gives another insight into the mind of the man who wrote it. It can provide context for analysis of other parts of his work and open up some questions into his beliefs. Was he emotionally hurt by clever women lying to him? Or did he just cut-and-dry accept patriarchic notions of women as lesser beings who can't achieve the same standards of intelligence and morality? If it's the latter, what other false notions did he accept and do those make themselves apparent in his works? If it's the former, are there any aspects of his work that delve further into the theme of trust violation in relationships?

I read it a little differently. He cites "THE cleverness which...", implying that there's a particular form of cleverness that manifests in "continual lying."

I wonder whether the Russian word translated "cleverness" means straight intelligence as you are reading, or whether it might connote a sense of guile.

I'm also a little perplexed that people are taking the "motherhood" part as sexist.

What's wrong with aspiring to be a great mother? What's wrong with motherhood as a part of what strong and awesome women do, and a quality that you obviously would look for in a mate? Is there some kind of anti-mother backlash? If you're a mother, you're obviously in cahoots with the patriarchy? Is being a mother too embarrassing and lowly in today's culture? Why should it be that way? Let's take back motherhood as a noble and respectable thing!

While I'm at it, I'll put in a word for "freshness, elegance, and humanity." I wouldn't mind seeing these qualities held more in honor - in contrast to today's vapid culture that seems to encourage obsession with body shape while normalizing extreme inelegance (athleisure + tackiness) and inhumanity (permanently glued to phones, unable to converse.)

Note that even without any reference to men, the body-obsessed, tacky phone-addict is enjoying life less and attaining less satisfaction than if she were shooting for "freshness, elegance, and humanity." Would the female programmer or professor get less respect by having these qualities? If so, that IS a problem.

The sense of "guile" that we associate with cleverness is actually a pretty new subtlety. In older english it was basically equivalent to intelligent / skillful. (see http://www.websters1913.com/words/Clever ). I'm not sure when this was translated, or whether the russian meaning is different, but as it reads, intelligence is the most accurate meaning in that context. Unless the russian meaning is radically different, he's clearly stating intelligent women = liars, even if it's not comfortable to recognize that.

Agreed that motherhood is not the sexist part. If you as a man value children and fatherhood, then someone who values motherhood is the logical choice. There's nothing wrong with motherhood, and I think the vast majority of people do rightly view it as noble and respectable, as long as it's a choice at least.

I don't care at all about "freshness, elegance, humanity", and those traits do seem valued plenty as is. I've never seen someone get less respect in tech for exhibiting those values.

>Was he emotionally hurt by clever women lying to him? Or did he just cut-and-dry accept patriarchic notions of women as lesser beings who can't achieve the same standards of intelligence and morality?

Or maybe it's neither. Maybe he didn't think twice about it, like most of us reading it, because it's beside the point.

>That double-standard is a flaw in his thinking and his character

Thankfully, HN has some glass-house residents eager to point out such character flaws, despite the content.

I'll reiterate: if you read something like the article, and your first thought is "this author might be sexist!" (emphasis on might), then you are not without your own debilitating flaws.

When did I say I was without flaws?

I'm just contributing to one aspect of discussion for the piece linked because it interests me. As is kind of the point of the comment section, yes? You are welcome to disagree with my points, but my interpretation of the work is no less valid as yours. Judging by the votes on my comments I'm not an outlier either.

At least I'm supporting my comments with context from the piece. You're just quoting me and saying (paraphrased of course) "you don't get the point", "I know what your first thought about this was", "you have debilitating flaws". I got the point, that wasn't my first thought (just the first thing I wanted to write about), and yeah, I've got flaws like everyone else here.

I didn't down vote you but my guess is: The guy has been dead for over a hundred years now. Everybody knows society was more patriarchal back then, pointing it out just sounds like virtue signaling.

And all this striving towards Chekhov's idea of cultured allows one to achieve what? I'd venture that for most it would amount to smugly patting themselves on the back for having achieved such a fine state of serenity. If this version of cultured means just another way to feel superior to others, I'm happy to be uncultured.

It allows one to achieve a view where they don't judge others in an attempt to speak for them as you have done here. While you can imagine someone patting themselves on the back for being aesthetic, the reality is that is only occurring vividly in your own mind, and not out here. If someone was indeed patting themselves on the back out here for these things, that is a separate problem created of their own judgement. Speaking for other's actions leading to judgement is itself viral irrationality, as doing so only spreads the behavior and irrationality further into the aggregate.

For the nerds here, I present this as a recursive pattern which spreads by being computationally inefficient. Software bloat, maybe?

As an aside, when I talk about a "dissonance" button for social media sites, your comment would be a perfect example of when to push it. That's not to say your leading question and comment on others future irrational actions shouldn't be allowed, but I think that it's important to call out content that is potentially "messy" in nature due to it's own innate ability to spread to others without your intervention (after saying it, of course). Maybe limiting replies to such "comments" would be one way to increase the overall aesthetic.

Your comment is barely comprehensible to me. Can you condense this to simple English? What are you even saying in half of your post?

> It allows one to achieve a view where they don't judge others

So you're telling me that being cultured allows one to not judge others, but while clearly having the effect of outwardly being smug to others?

That's basically what I got out of your comment and the parent post.

Your aside also implies that his comment basically shouldn't be allowed despite your explicit comment that it's "not to say."

This seems all rather smug and rude.

One side-effect of stating one's internal truth is that others may take it how they like. If you decide to take what I'm saying as smug and rude, then that's your prerogative to speak for me in an internal frame, inside your mind. Out here in the external frame, what appears to be a deterministic reality by all accounts, I'm telling you directly that I am not smug about this and I do not consider my actions rude given I'm not blaming you, personally, in my original comment. (The state of rudeness can only be evaluated by the entity which receives the comment, not someone who speaks for them out of turn.) In fact, it is my intent to help others achieve a state of understanding that allows their own assertion of my claims here. If Boothroid has something to say about me or my comments here, then that is their prerogative. I would encourage them to keep speaking for my internal frame to a minimum, however, and make observations instead of judgement. Only each of us may speak for our own internal frames.

I will note that there is blame in my comments here now, which is being directed toward someone who is clearly speaking for another's thought processes - that would be you speaking for me being smug and Boothrid in my "being rude" to them, when I'm saying otherwise here publicly. This behavior can contribute to a cyclic behavior of increasing blame (from the irrationality spreading) if one decides to ignore what another is saying and continue speaking for their internal frame.

Tending toward the aesthetic encourages letting go of personal judgement because once you stop judging yourself, you stop judging others. There's also a deeper cause for letting go of judgement, which involves understanding what all of this really is. You may think you are are separate entity and definitely have a right to claim separation from the whole, if that's what you want. OTOH, I think you are one part of a larger unidentified, unified entity: a global consciousness frequently mistaken for "God" by religions.

However, me stating that internal thought to you here is direct blame if you don't believe that, given I (would and am) pointing out publicly that you are part of a global entity (which itself is an irrational thought). Again, spreading irrationality by broadcasting irrational logic is not ideal, so I really shouldn't do it. However, I did it here to prove a point. ;)

Most behavior is viral by default, human see human do. While I agree that this extends to judgemental and otherwise unproductive discourse, usually the factors driving those behaviors in people are unlikely to be resolved by having the symptoms pointed out repeatedly.

If a software module is producing faulty output, you have to fix the problem on the inside rather than simply rejecting all of the output. People are the same, except you can't directly inspect or modify their internals; you have to rely on message passing and observation, which is way more difficult. The way to make this more efficient, IMO, is to give people the tools to identify and resolve the underlying bugs in their own perception. But that's a different topic altogether.

If the behaviors are affecting the message passing, then measures must be put in place to limit that behavior. Buddhism calls the pointing out of this type of behavior "indirect pointing", but given we have a construct (the computer) we can now point to, I'd prefer to just point and say "This irrational statement is itself a producer of irrationality and therefore should be limited given its affect on the message passing".

Just to provide a counterpoint to the two other comments which are disparaging of the parent, I thought this was a great contribution, even if it was written less like a HN comment and more like a philosophy essay.

If you look at the actual list, it's a recipe to living a generally happy life. If I had to summarize the list, it'd look like this:

1. Let go of small things.

2. Have sympathy for the people around you.

3. Repay your debts.

4. Don't lie, don't brag, and don't gossip.

5. Don't disparage yourself to fish for pity.

6. Be humble. Let your talents prove themselves.

7. Spend time on the things that matter to you.

8. Long list of stuff that's generally about living in moderation and maintaining your body and environment.

There isn't much here to be smug about.

So very much like the Ten Commandments then, only with a veneer of coffee shop faux-intellectualism.

You sound like you're trying really hard to find something wrong with what Chekhov wrote. Why do you think it has a veneer of coffee shop faux-intellectualism?

The items on that list would be natural byproducts of simple humility, serenity of the mind, and the pursuit of excellence. These things are their own reward.

Surely. But one might argue that spending your time pondering how to make yourself 'cultured' is a nauseatingly bourgeois activity, ripe for satire when compared with the harder realities of life for the less well privileged.

Yeah it's bourgeois, so what? I've been poor and I've been not poor. Not poor is better, trust me. Being not poor and cultured is way better.

There are few things more annoyingly bourgeois than fetishizing poverty.

You misrepresent me by saying I fetishised poverty. I did nothing of the sort. I merely said that a state of smug complacency is risible. Or are the 'cultured' so full of pomposity that mockery is considered threatening? That seems like narcissism to me.

>spending your time pondering how to make yourself 'cultured' is a nauseatingly bourgeois activity, ripe for satire when compared with the harder realities of life for the less well privileged.

I haven't misrepresented you. You literally said that a 'bourgeois' activity has less value compared to "harder realities of life for the less well privileged". That's putting poverty on a pedestal. That's fetishizing it.

No. Working your ass off to barely scrape by is not in any way better than learning new things, being kind, or any of the other things enumerated in this article. That ridiculous crab mentality is what kids who are born into poverty have to deal with if they express any aspiration to make something better of themselves. It is its own kind of smug complacency, far more malicious and destructive than someone taking pride in more 'bourgeois' accomplishments.

Seriously, give me 'nauseatingly bourgeois' culture any day. If that makes you feel insecure, maybe try reading a book or something.

Agreeing with zaccus here, but from a different angle:

"Striving to be cultured" is not the same as "social climbing" and ultimately is not an end in itself.

Cultivating oneself is a way of using one's limited lifetime well and wisely. Ultimately, this offers the best shot at a satisfying life, and the most chance to benefit others.

For some reason I'm reminded of Gwyneth Paltrow and her macrobiotic diet. Oh to have a colon so pure!

Don't worry. Chekhov's advice is only meant for talented people.

Case in point: I'm better than you attitude. So cultured!

And you being so proud of how uncultured you are is different how?

It isn't different. Perhaps I'm just as legitimate a target of criticism for my depressing scepticism. To each their own. But at least I don't namecheck Vonnegut and Chekhov like a 20-something pseud..

It's a good description of the type of people I like to be around. By extension, it seems like a good way to be a person who makes friends easily.

It's self-important-twat-signaling. To each their own, I don't judge (heh).

The bit about lying really struck a chord with me. I have been a compulsive liar for most of my life (25 now). Just this past Friday I lied to my skip level manager about the progress of a project.

I've lied about the most mundane things to even lying to my family and friends about graduating college. At this point I feel as if I've been struck by a disease. Worst of all is that I lie to myself the most with respect to how much it is affecting my life, and how dangerous it is for me to continue on this path. I've personally ran out of ideas for how to internally fix this.

First, sorry it took so long to respond. The way HN works (if you don't know) is that messages from new accounts sometimes are automatically killed and therefore nobody can respond (or even let you know there's a problem). I actually asked support to unkill this one, and they were all for it.


That must be very hard to carry around with you, 24/7/365. Obviously you don't want to be a liar, but behavior is not so easy as people seem to imagine. They think, 'if you don't want to do it, just choose not to do it'; but they aren't looking at reality, or even in the mirror. If you look around, human beings don't work like that - or we'd all be happily married, well-adjusted millionaires, in happy workplaces, with no drugs, no hate, no crime, no politics, etc. You are not alone in carrying this human burden.

Get some professional help; you are hardly the only person with this problem and many problems like it. A good therapist has heard it all before (and much worse) and can help you; get some recommendations if you can, and try a few to find one you feel personally comfortable with (from what I understand, rapport with the therapist is the most important factor) and otherwise meets your needs. You wouldn't trust your business to an amateur, and this is far more important - find a professional and hire the best person for the job.

Maybe you've reached the point with your problems that I think most people encounter as they mature (if they are honest with themselves). I once heard a songwriter put it his way (paraphrased): 'When I wrote songs at 20 years old, I was the hero in all the stories; I was learning and growing so rapidly that I never considered that I wouldn't outgrow all my problems. But now I'm older and some of these problems haven't gone away; the easy ones are all solved but some others have been very hard to move past. And I find that, in real life, sometimes I'm the villain.' I know I reached that point, too.

I wrote the following in response to someone else and at least a few people found it encouraging; maybe it will be encouraging to you too, but I'm not a professional. Find one! Take care of yourself!


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact