I am turning 68 in a few months and I try to do most of what he recommends. Enjoy younger family and acquaintances but also leave them to their lives, being satisfied to just enrich their lives materially and give them space. I had to think about the wording of his advice to persue ‘impersonal interests’ which for me is studying Go with a Korean Go master and learning those aspects of (general) artificial intelligence that most interest me, without much thought to practical considerations.
Any advice for those curious and interested but inaccessible to an instructor?
Thanks in advance, and happy 68!
Advice for learning Go without an instructor: buy a Go playing program (I like CS Pro on my iPad) that can analyze your games, showing you what your bad moves are and showing an alternative.
"...in an old man who has known human joys and sorrows, and has achieved whatever work it was in him to do, the fear of death is somewhat abject and ignoble. The best way to overcome it -so at least it seems to me- is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. "
Already, he could no
longer tell the many voices apart, not the happy ones from the weeping
ones, not the ones of children from those of men, they all belonged
together, the lamentation of yearning and the laughter of the
knowledgeable one, the scream of rage and the moaning of the dying ones,
everything was one, everything was intertwined and connected, entangled
a thousand times. And everything together, all voices, all goals, all
yearning, all suffering, all pleasure, all that was good and evil, all
of this together was the world. All of it together was the flow of
events, was the music of life. And when Siddhartha was listening
attentively to this river, this song of a thousand voices, when he
neither listened to the suffering nor the laughter, when he did not tie
his soul to any particular voice and submerged his self into it, but
when he heard them all, perceived the whole, the oneness, then the great
song of the thousand voices consisted of a single word, which was Om:
In this hour, Siddhartha stopped fighting his fate, stopped suffering.
On his face flourished the cheerfulness of a knowledge, which is no
longer opposed by any will, which knows perfection, which is in
agreement with the flow of events, with the current of life, full of
sympathy for the pain of others, full of sympathy for the pleasure of
others, devoted to the flow, belonging to the oneness.
-Herman Hesse, “Siddhartha”
Hinduism has a concept of 4 stages of life called Ashrams. Brahmacharya the first stage is focused on learning and acquiring knowledge. Second stage Grihastha is to enjoy the family. In the third stage called Vanaprastha one retires from the household and takes an advisory role. In the final stage of Sannyasa one should completely detach from the desires of the world.
I am a born Hindu(never practiced) and was well aware of this concept but never thought about it deeply. Now as I approach 40 and have kids, I realize how spot-on this ancient wisdom is.
Hinduism doesn't have a concept of universal commandments. Everyone is free to follow their own virtuous path called Swa Dharma which roughly translated to Personal Duties. Central message of Gita is to take actions inline with your Swa Dharma without caring for the outcome because you don't control it anyways.
This is a central tenet of Stoicism as well (though from what I gather Stoicism has a universal, rather than individual, notion of "virtue" or "nature" that one ought to live in line with).
-- Albert Einstein
> As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. [...] This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings.
-- Charles Darwin, "The Descent of Man" (1871)
Another weird shift is realizing that kids have their own internal worlds and experiences that have nothing to do with your own mind/ego. It’s kind of mind blowing.
It's not the "others" bit, it's the "your own kids" bit that makes it surprising for me - it's kinda like one day you pick up a pen with your non-dominant hand and it writes some words in an alphabet you don't recognise: How did it do that? Where did it even come across Akkadian cuneiform?
I still remember the confronting the realisation of this with my eldest when they said a word that I knew we, his parents, hadn't taught him. It's such a stark contrast when you're still having to manage a little person's toiletting that they nonetheless have an internal independency of thoughts and feelings.
> I'm sure lots of guys I've seen refuse to make babies did so because they knew it was the end of a side of them.
Well, yeah...that sounds plausible. So how do they solve this?
I never thought I'd have kids, but the right woman will overrule you. It's a much better experience than I thought, and sure, there are days when I think - this wasn't a great idea - but once your child is born, you're programmed to care for it - and it's nowhere as bad as I thought it would be.
Someone should let my parents know that.
Bertram Russell had an unhappy childhood and was divorced three times, (married four).
This thread seems to be stretched beyond the original premise.
You're simply dead wrong that every person is somehow "programmed" to care for their offspring; don't go around spreading dangerous falsehoods.
btw what did you think would be bad having babies ?
I know several relationships/marriages that broke up because the man was ready for kids and the woman wasn't, yet never the other way around.
Her interests got me out of my comfort zone - I'm president of a girls basketball league - and develop aspects of myself that I may not have. I stepped into the position because she and her friends love the league and nobody else wanted to do it.
Your life will change. Your relationship with your SO will change. You may feel significant financial stress. Kids aren't cheap, but this of course will vary with expectations and your SO's expectations. You will have to compromise a lot.
I don't regret it by any stretch, but that could just be Stocholms...
Ignore advice that's certain one path fits all.
As an early twenty-something, who thinks often too much about life and death and the wildness of it all, I like to think I'm preparing for death by carrying around a memento mori coin . It's a healthy reminder that puts things in a golden perspective.
Yes, nice comforting lullaby. Never understood these types of texts.
“And time continues in its immemorial way of making everything and everybody look and feel like shit” – Martin Amis
This I understand. Sugar coating not necessary.
Well, but you see, there really are old people who (despite becoming frail and suffering pain) do not feel like shit.
Sure, there are many comforting lullabies offering a false hope (particularly religious ones), but this one doesn't strike me as one of those. (Remember that Russell was a staunch atheist, and did not tend to subscribe to false comforting beliefs.)
Just the opposite, it offers concrete advice, and embeds the process of getting older in a larger picture offering (secular) meaning.
Hell, just the existence of humanity itself it's mind-blowing, as the conditions for life as we know it presented themselves.
We should be thankful of the time we are given in this world, and make the best of it, regardless of its length.
FWIW, I find eg Nietzsche's (flowery poetic) writing terrible philosophy, in many ways.
Arguably the hermeneutics/analytical divide is (partially) about this issue.
I think he's describing Ego Death https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death
it reminds me of this quote from André Gide:
"But, above this, there is still a higher state, to which Goethe achieves, the Olympian. He understands that originality limits, that by being personal he is simply anyone. And by letting himself live in things, like Pan, everywhere, he thrusts aside all limits until he no longer has any but those of the world itself. He becomes banal, but in a superior way.
It is dangerous to achieve too early that superior banality. If one does not absorb everything, one loses oneself completely. The mind must be greater than the world and contain it, or else it is pitifully dissolved and is no longer even original."
- André Gide
What your child feels about you staying with them is something that you inculcate in them when they are young. If you didn't bother sharing space with your parents in the time of there need then your child won't either.
This is terrible advice fwiw. It might have been less terrible in 1951 before the explosion of terrible food choices. Science shows the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition + calorie restriction. You are very likely to age better if you avoid bad lifestyle decisions.
Eat well. Sleep lots. Exercise.
We really shouldn't be spreading messages to the contrary. Look down at your gut. It's killing you. It's destroying your organs with high blood pressure, insulin resistance and fatty liver tissue and likely doing so without causing any discernible symptoms. You won't know you're dying until it's too late.
I interpreted this sentence as a disclaimer that what follows is explicitly not advice.
I fear death because I fear no one will look after the things that I cared about in the same passion and in the same way that I do. I guess I am too sentimental for what I've done to the things I love.
Realise instead that no-one, not even your own offspring (see comments elsewhere on that one), will share your exact approach, your exact balance of desires, your exact passion. Give it up. Death will come and force the situation; don't be beholden to that which can never be achieved.
Check out https://happy.runningroot.com/
HAPPY is a modern and visual journey through The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell’s age-old advise on happiness. It provides a convenient framework that helps establish mindfulness towards the causes of unhappiness and understanding while embracing the causes of happiness.
HAPPY provides concise notes on what to look out for using many examples from philosophy, history and art. Given that happiness is a vast subject, the framework in HAPPY is a practical way of embedding Russell's ideas in your life without going too deep into the science, psychology and philosophy. It helps you benefit from these understanding with a constant mental awareness that sustains your happiness for productivity and health.
One sentence, though, I disagree with is "One’s thoughts must be directed to the future." I understand what he is saying, but I think better advice would be "One’s thoughts must be directed to the present." His main advice seems to be to find something that interests you enough so that you are happy to do it every day - to me, something like this keeps you focused on the present and not the future.
It’s interesting to compare this to one of his earliest games, Passage, which deals with a similar theme but from the perspective of a single individual.