Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some Thoughts on Rosh Hashanah

       Rosh Hashanah presents an interesting quandary to the Modern Jew. For so many of us, the specter of a three day holiday scares us into apocalypse mode. Some of us return home to the complexities of family dynamics; others remember their earlier days of fear and passion, while some just feel the weight of boredom pressing down on their long weekend. We ask each other, “So, how do you plan on getting through the holiday?” This assumes that we must struggle, even fight with the status quo of our expectations of these days to make them meaningful, or even enjoyable. We feel shock that on some level we might even look forward to the holiday. We horde books and other means of entertainment to distract us through the storm. We get through the day with the reward of DVRed TV that awaits us when that time finally elapses. Essentially, our accumulated baggage detours us from the simple opportunities of the day, opportunities that exist despite our espoused beliefs.
    Because, when looked at with the calm of distance, as a day in the year, Rosh Hashanah manages to encapsulate the range of human experience. Nothing evades its grasp. Not the smallest, mundane detail of life falls outside its range. The ideas of the day, whether you believe in their literal truth or not, allow us to live, if we so choose, on a different plane of existence, a more immediate, urgent level of life. The day recreates that first experience of the knowledge of your own personal death. We all know about death: we hear reports of its machinations on the news, we attend funerals, we even worry about friends and family, but that moment when you truly confront mortality surpasses all these experiences. The prospect of our physical demise, of our cessation of breath, ironically hones our intellect and sends our senses into a frenetic dance. We know this. We learned this in high school, we read about this from the existentialists in college, and we experience it from time to time in the trenches of everyday living, but Rosh Hashanah ritualizes this confrontation. In that sense, despite the abstract nature of the day, a day spent muttering, speeding through, or shouting old words, Rosh Hashanah ultimately partakes in the most physical aspect of our existence: our transience.
      Regardless of what we believe, whether in atheism, monotheism, agnosticism, etc. we cannot pretend our lives end differently. Death certainly equalizes, to an extent. But given the opportunity of the day, a day of solemnity, a day reckoning, of redemption, renewal, cleansing, introspection, gratefulness, a day of questioning, of confronting our choices, putting them through the lens of our ideals and values, measuring the extent to which our actual selves measure up against our ideal selves, and even questioning our goals in life, we neglect the drama of the day at our own personal loss. For these activities, all falling under the larger umbrella of what we like to call self-awareness, apply to everyone.
    Rosh Hashanah, for all its complexity, allows us to take, one maybe two days in the year, and act like Socrates, or that pesky advocate of the devil, in questioning our most basic assumptions about life. How can we not embrace this chance? In our day to day living we rarely, for a sustained period of time, question the foundations of our life. We can quibble over the details of the day, or fret over a certain issue, but rarely does that lead us down the path into the ambiguity of our values. As many comment, it appears that most people in the world live their lives based on a somewhat coherent set of rules and values. Deep down we all believe in something, a guiding principle, whether that entails a more humanistic or a more religious bent. However, most of us do not explore our system of thought enough, or cannot express it coherently on any given day. But imagine a day in which someone, whether God or tradition, culture, or family demands an answer to the question of why do you live this way and not that? And yet, something about this demand makes us uncomfortable.
    Though we, as a culture, value self-awareness, the idea of judgment stands as one of the new cardinal sins along with intolerance, racism, naivete and others. Consequently, we shy away from “judging” lifestyle choices. A person may choose to spend their free time volunteering, good for them, while most people might choose to spend their free time relaxing, or catching up on TV. Both are equally fine choices as long as neither hurts any other person. Charles Taylor comments that we no longer think of morality when we think of how to live the good life, though, for centuries philosophers saw lifestyle and worldview as one of the main realms of morality. Nowadays, we look at the good life as a matter of pragmatism. Whatever works for that person’s self actualization without causing harm to another person falls within the purview of an acceptable lifestyle. But Taylor points out the loss of discernment as to what we truly want from life when we stop learning how to “judge” lifestyles. Now, this treads into dangerous territory, one of discrimination, arrogance, and intolerance, but in some ways he seems right. We are a culture that knows way more about the details of what we do than about why do these activities in the first place.
    Perhaps then, Rosh Hashanah, whether in a synagogue or out, whether hearing the wake up call of the shofar or not, allows us to set aside time to take a step back and ask ourselves the basic questions of life: why this and not that? What do I believe in and why? What do I want to accomplish in life? What type of relationship do I desire with other people, with my family, friends, and significant others. What do I value in life, what does that say, if anything, about me as a person? Can I improve as a person? On one level these questions seem so obvious, simplistic, to almost border on the clichéd, but we can deny their power when truly dwelled upon. They can shake our foundations if we let them, and we all need a tiny experiential earthquake from time to time. 
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, self-aware/actualized, year.
Thanks for reading,
Here are some gorgeous poems regarding self awareness, repentance, and introspection:

The first two are from Yehuda Amichai:
A man in his life

A man doesn't have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn't have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
Was wrong about that.
A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.
A man doesn't have time.
When he loses he seeks, when he finds
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves
he begins to forget.
And his soul is seasoned, his soul
is very professional.
Only his body remains forever
an amateur. It tries and it misses,
gets muddled, doesn't learn a thing,
drunk and blind in its pleasures
and its pains.
He will die as figs die in autumn,
Shriveled and full of himself and sweet,
the leaves growing dry on the ground,
the bare branches pointing to the place
where there's time for everything.

The waters cannot return in repentance
The waters cannot return in repentance
To where would they return?
To the faucet, the sources, the ground, the roots,
the cloud, the sea, into my mouth?
The waters cannot return in repentance,
every place is their seas/days of old, their waters of old,
every place a beginning and end, and a beginning.

 Jorge Luis Borges: (It's shocking that a man of such complexity wrote such a simple, yet elegant, basic poem)
  If I could live again my life,
In the next - I'll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygenic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,
If you don't know - thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!
I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umbrella and without a parachute,
If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying ..

Emily Dickinson:

MY life closed twice before its close;
  It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
  A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,        5
  As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

David Foster Wallace: In Memoriam

Writing about the significant author in your life, for a literary dork, is often akin to talking with passion and longing for an old childhood imaginary friend of yours. For me, and I suppose for others as well, we revere our beloved authors with the ferocity of a religious zealots. We treat them like prophets: every action of theirs serves as a sign of some sort. We view their works as scripture in that we devour every word they said, every letter they wrote whether in a margin of some book now in Austin, or on their numerous drafts of their sacred works, or even their poems from childhood. We want to know every detail of their life.  We defend them regardless of the accusation until proven otherwise by conclusive evidence. We assume most people don’t truly understand the author, not like we do anyway. We wait restlessly for a biography to emerge, and applaud the academic world for finally catching up with our knowledge of the genius of this author, though we cry for the reason he emerged now. Of course, I’m talking about David Foster Wallace(the title gave it away, I know). It’s strange to think that this kind of obsessiveness we normally think we reserve for those in love, or stalkers, but where else do we find this kind of obsession besides for the world of art?  
To then begin to talk about them in a way that both does justice to the saint-like version in our mind while at the same time honoring the fact the author also existed as a real person, well, it seems like a futile attempt. I want to convey what David Foster Wallace meant to me because I believe his beautiful capabilities can affect other people too, but in a way, writing a eulogy gives in to this illusion of kinship between myself and this author. I never met him. I don’t know him at all in any private way. In no way do I believe that because he wrote with his blood on the pages that I understand him at all as an autonomous complete other human being. I can speak to the public's David Foster Wallace, why he drew so many obsessed fans, why people called him the voice of their generation, how he goes about making you feel as if he is whispering all his words into your ear, humbly. How our lionization of this human being actually belies his writings, but I can still not claim to know him, despite that strange feeling he bestows that he knows us, or that if given the chance we could actually be best friends.
This rests not on some abstract argument regarding the death of the Author, or authorial intent. Simply put, even he knew that on some level, as much as literature served as a mode of communication for him to us, he also knew of the artificial nature of that dialogue. We all realize the mask of literature, its crafted nature, something projected, we just sometimes stare at it for so long we forget it’s there.
In some ways, though this might sound obvious, but I imagine it still needs mentioning. David Foster Wallace was an eminently flawed human being. His writing overflows with, even if he gave reason for these indulgences, extraneous matter, with a brilliant mind experimenting, exercising for his sake, not necessarily the readers. What I find disturbing about Saint Dave, or this closeness that we feel is how much he began to insinuate his authorial self into my personality. To this day, I ask myself, what would David Foster Wallace think about this situation. I miss him, viscerally, and I think many of his Fantods do to. I cannot help but think his thoughts, write in his style (or attempt to), and lean on his words in times of weakness. (God, how many times have I/we read that graduation speech.) The problem with all of this adoration, as with any adoration is that it blinds us to other visions, shuts us off from divergent thinking, from noticing the strong depressive streak in his writing that colors his viewpoint. Maybe in some respects, David Foster Wallace, even got things wrong. Maybe we don’t live in a world of Total Noise. Maybe the answer to boredom lies not in attention, and maybe he didn’t plan on making many life assertions as we import to him. The point being that at the point you stop thinking for yourself, because of a schema you received from someone else, you should assess your relationship to that thought system.
With that being said, he matters too much now, to not speak positively about his contribution to my life. I too found him in the solitude of sadness (I think Franzen nails this point on the head), and for me he emerged as a light, a guide, a voice that spoke through the total noise of life. He accomplished, at least for me, what he set out to do, a rare feat for an author: to make the normal feel weird and the weird normal, and he comforted the masses of lonely people. Not people who necessarily live alone, or anti-social people, but existentially lonely people in a way that no one in our generation has. He allowed us to partake in genuine conversations, to indulge in genuine feelings and questions without looking stupid anymore. Through him, so many people overcame this post-modern tic of cynicism.
He challenged the reader to accept the possibility that they are smarter than they think they are, or he made us smarter, demanding more from us whether it entailed patience, attention, looking up word after ridiculous word, or simply guided us into the directions of other authors, of foreign ideas, (Wittgenstein!) He forever taught. He couldn’t help but teach because he saw so much pain and hoped to alleviate just some of it, apparently his own, but mostly ours. He allowed us to realize that art can demand from us, he opened us up as a perennial though unwitting teacher to Todd Gitlin, to David Lynch, to the intricacies of tennis, basically to think intelligently but feeling immensely in every situation. How any situation has what to tell you if you look hard enough. that solopsisim is the worst state possible, that an intellect is not a free pass to or from anything, that morality still matters, that cliches are important, that genuine connections still command our attention despite the effort and complexity they demand.
He let us take comfort in our humanness, in our innumerable frailties, our endless reserves of courage and strength, our actual feelings of hope; In our addictions, not in a sense of contentment, but an empathic understanding and caring for the well being of ourselves and others. He let us see both the extent of our pain, our damage, our selfishness, our skewed values, our predicament, while also showing us ways out. If he liked to wallow in the dregs of our life it was not only because of its humane beauty but because of the belief that you can only get better, and grow, if you can actually describe the sickness. As in the opposite of Hal knowing way more about the things he did than in the why he did anything. He brought back words that some of us wouldn’t dare to utter. God, humility, morality, obligations, civic duty, genuineness, honesty. He made writing cool. He actually seemed to believe in something we might even call the human spirit. How quaint.
But in the end, even as we still mourn his death, for me, I know I need a break. I need to leave the obsession behind, maybe separate completely, for now. Too many authors exist out there, too many points of view that to limit myself, to focus, for the most part on his ideas only hinders my ability to grow as a human being. But I cannot, on this day of remembrance, undervalue his importance in my life. I don’t know who to thank or what to mourn for per se, but I know I feel grateful for his existence and literary output, I feel grateful for his struggle that he shared with us, and I feel mournful for both the loss of public Dave, and the loss to his family and friends of the private Dave Wallace.
You are loved.
Thanks for reading,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Years Later: The Lessons of 9/11

Soon we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the day that changed contemporary American life forever. We as a nation stand embroiled in two endless wars. We created a homeland security sector of the government, we feel less naive, more vulnerable, and less certain of ourselves as a country. Airport experiences are more of a nuisance, but when it comes down to it, on a day to day, basic level, has 9/11 changed the lives of the masses in America? Obviously, those who actually lost friends and family in the attacks, those who suffered trauma from the attacks, their lives have been changed irrevocably and I dont mean to make light of their burden and suffering, but for most Americans, even most New Yorkers, does it matter, does it affect our lives, or better yet, do we care? Do we care about the politics, has it made us more active in anyway, whether in a need to know more about world politics, or in the desire to help other people, or to bridge cultural gaps? I don’t know.
This isn't to say that the day isn't vividly stained on our memories. We can all remember where we were when we first heard the strange news. I was in class, Jewish History class in my junior year in high school, with a teacher who we made fun of most of the time, and someone came in an announced the news, “A plane hit one of the Twin Tower,” and like that this bearer of awful news flew away probably to tell another class.  At first, we all laughed. We didnt actually understand, or we couldnt understand the words. A plane hit the Twin Towers. Apparently, when an event falls so far out of the range of expectancy or normalcy it takes your brain some time to actually process it. We thought a dinky little toy plane crashed into one of the windows. We simply, as 16 year old teenagers ,could not fathom the actual destruction. As people obsessed with events of terror we knew of terrorism, in Israel, we knew of bombs tearing through restaurants, but like so many other people, in our minds, that danger stayed out there, never in our home. This supposedly, was different.
The administration then ran an ad hoc assembly in which they attempted to allay our fears, though I dont remember many of us fearing anything in particular, because as teenagers it takes something truly personal to break through our shell of self-involvement and insecurities. Some people cried, I think. Some parents immediately took their children home for reasons I didnt fully understand then. No one really knew much of anything, and some people started to use the day as social currency. “Well, I saw ash rise from the roof, I saw it with my own eyes. Well I found a document floating in the air.” Some teachers allowed their classes to watch the news, to watch the towers fall in real time, while others, like myself and my group of friends watched it on endless replay later as we got home. Traffic came to a standstill so my house, a mere ten minute walk from school, became a haven for six of my friends stuck in brooklyn. We all watched TV, hungrily waiting for news, seeing all the newscasters without their jackets on, sweat all over their face, and a strange look of calm as they continuously replayed that famous footage. But even on that day, on that day itself, we ended playing video games, probably mario kart, or mario tennis, or more likely goldeneye, because what else could we do?
Eventually, it seems, we as a people acclimated. Life continued, we forgot the fear and striking excitement of the day. We laughed at the anthrax jokes, at the random color coded levels of alert, and life went on day in and day out, and for me, as I imagine for many others nothing actually changed, at all. We went to war, I think I watched some of it on TV, possibly I argued about it, but most likely not. We went to war again, and again, I watched it on TV and definitely did not argue about the merits of invading Iraq. I knew nothing about the details, and I still no very little about the details. As a people we’ve grown tired of the wars, but dont seem to care that much how to end them.
I’m not sure what this says about me, or if I am correct in my generalizations, about my generation that 9/11 is a blip on our radar. In fact, 9/12, strangely represents a more important day, the day David Foster Wallace hanged himself. But I imagine I am not alone in my apathy. I dont know anything about the two wars. I dont read the news about them, I dont know the names of the general, or the stages set up to lessen the presence of our troops their. I dont know how the number of casualties. For the most part, If you asked me is my country at war i would know to say yes, but the words would feel false. I dont know if this brings up some pressing questions such as: Why do most of us care so little about politics? Is it the more pressing economic needs, because even then most of us do not care about the process or the details of the economic plan, we just want happy results. Is it embarrassment at the outcomes, or lack thereof, of the wars? Why do movies that discuss the topics of our wars, and 9/11 mostly fail? Do we need more distance, or do we simply not care.
Does this experience, our general ability to simply keep calm and carry on, speak to resilience or to apathy, and how can you tell the difference between the two? What would it look like to take the “lessons” of 9/11 to heart? Are there lessons of 9/11? Is it that America is a vulnerable state that needs to beef up its security, its military, or is it that we need to understand extremism better and fight it not with similar tactics military prowess but with understanding and connection, is that a pipe dream? For the most part, as an American and a human being I feel the pain of the loss, of the victims murdered on that day, and on the loss of life the fight on terror continues to take, but as an American citizen, I feel wholly at a loss to understand the lessons of the day, and as the start of a pretty widely agreed upon awful decade I feel some lesson from history must be heeded, but what, I do not know. I’ve read the tenth anniversary remembrances from different magazines, intellectuals, and cultural critics, and I still dont know what to think. We like our historical lessons to be clear: never forget, tyranny fails etc. but I cant seem to think of anything concrete to think about on this upcoming day of remembrance, anything tangible to inculcate into my life. Maybe I am alone in these sentiments, but if not, then I think that scares me the most. 
Thanks for reading, 
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Sensibilities - Reading Seneca

For a Non-Fiction writing class, I recently began reading the writings of the forerunners to the personal essay. Specifically, the works of the Stoic philosopher Seneca. I always stayed away from the classics because in my occasional forays into their writings the foreignness of their culture and their assumptions drove me away from immersion. Instead I lived in the world of contemporary writing certain of its relevance and wisdom. I read what feels important, what makes my nervous system tingle, which is usually limited to contemporary literature. But ancient literature provides a certain type of pleasure that eludes contemporary writing. Mainly, in both the similarity and difference it makes from the assumptions we carry about life.
Each generation claims to have recreated the wheel. We pride ourselves on our voracious progress, unaware of the history we climb over to stand on our singular perch. (A wise man once said that each new theory that emerges must present itself as sui generis, without precedence, in order to gain acceptance despite the fact that few, if any, theories remain untainted by the pervasive influence of the past.) Nowadays, I imagine, most people do no think in this manner. The past decade has shattered much of our self-image, as people, as a nation, and as a generation, that instead of the staggering pace of progress most of us feel lost, uncertain how in the year 2011 much our of internal and external world appears to be crumbling at its foundations. In times like these, when our economy stubbornly stagnates, when jobs evade even the most qualified candidates, when you can spin a globe, stop it with your finger, and bet with good odds that this country is entangled in some sort of war, a return to the classics, to the wisdom of yesteryear provides a humbling perspective on life.
In a sense, similar to the study of history, reading ancient literature allows us to transcend these transient times of ours. Not as a means of escape, but as method of gaining perspective on the exigent issues of our times. History, in allowing us to detach ourselves from this moment, in offering the larger mural of time, helps us put into perspective our troubles, our issues, our struggles. Think of the countless people who starved to death during the industrial revolution, the great depression etc, think of the World Wars, then return home to your life. Usually, this detachment and reattachment evokes some sort of gratitude at our position in life.
Additionally, and this might lie in the realm of a personal stereotype, I tend to assume that people in the past lacked a certain complexity in their thinking, in their humanity. While we do live in what appears to be an unprecedented age of complexity, one in which the overflow of information challenges our ability to form opinions, to think clearly, I find it increasingly hard to say that we’ve progressed as human beings, in our personality, in our capability of thought when reading ancient literature. Here is a piece from Seneca’s letter on Noise. It reads like contemporary wisdom, but written thousands of years ago, well, it makes me feel less unique, less complex, more humble, and more connected to a long chain of human beings attempting to understand life, some with success some with failure, but no longer alone. Here Seneca discusses how external noise need not distract a person from the task at hand:
For I force my mind to become self absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within, so long as fear and desire are at loggerheads, so long as meanness and extravagance are not at odds and harassing each other. For what is the good of having silence throughout the neighborhood if one’s emotions are in turmoil?
The peaceful stillness of the night had lulled
The world to rest
This is incorrect. There is no such thing as, “peaceful stillness” except where reason has lulled it to rest. Night does not remove worries; it brings them to the surface. All it gives us is a change of anxieties. For even when people are asleep they have dreams as troubled as their days. The only true serenity is the one which represents the free development of a sound mind.
Now, with the hindsight of history and experience I find it slightly easy to pick apart this contention. (Very few theories of life, of how to live, remain whole under the skeptical eye of reason. I’m not sure if that speaks to the weakness of our philosophies of life or to the weakness of reason in the realm of experience) Calm places do evoke calm thoughts. External actions affect our thinking at the same time that our thinking affects our bodily functions. Our rational minds rarely use rationality to the extent we imagine, or even use it effectively. Talk rationally until the end of days to your chemical imbalance and you will not prevail. The existence of a subconscious, a being separate but tied to ourselves, possibly not under the dominion of rationality, the need for acceptance and indulgence of the spectrum of emotions often without moderation as a form of catharsis, all of these theories, or lifestyle choices belie this Stoic wisdom, and yet, so much of what rely on today partakes of it.
Cognitive therapy, that second wave in psychology, basically regimented Stoic advice. Yoga, the rise of meditation, mindfulness practice, all of these resuscitations of old waves started, even if they branch out in different directions, on the same ground of Stoicism. Keep calm and carry on, that famous sign put up in Britian during the Second World War. Mind over matter. You create the reality you want to live. We often feel controlled by emotions we don’t understand, emotions that feel more real than the wisdom of ages, but just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s real, or there. So many slogans and clichés, so much of the wisdom of our stories, our culture, our self help books all preach some form of stoicism, some form of control and moderation, and each time a person usually feels as if they’ve stumbled upon some new found element in the period table.  
And yet, despite the soundness of this advice, it often cannot compete with that other, somewhat higher value of our culture. Mainly, the value we place on personal and artistic expression. Imagine telling an artist to keep calm and carry on, or not to indulge in their passions? Art, culture, for so many of us has taken the place of religious wisdom, of prophecy. Artists peer into the souls of our century, see its beauty and flaws and attempt, sometimes, to guide us, or at least illuminate the maps of minds. How then do we reconcile these two conflicting, but sound ideas? How does stoicism fit in with our need to let loose, to lash out, to rage, to celebrate without inhibition, to let off steam, to black out, to be our true selves, to confront the darkness?  How do we know when to explore and when to retreat. The problem with clichés lies not only in their simplistic nature, but in the conflicting accounts of life. Most of these questions depend on the person, the context, the infinite number of variables, I think.
Now, the plethora of wisdom out there can make engender distress. Who do we listen to? Can we trust our intuition, should we rely more heavily on rationality. Is moderation the key to life, or just a cowards rationalization for not challenging themselves? Now true, the ambiguity can catch a person up in an endless loop of what ifs, but they also provide hope. They offer proof to the contention of the liquidity of life. Of our ability to choose different circumstances. Of the life given not needing to be the life we live. This is a particular gift of history and of ancient literature: to realize both amorphous and persistent nature of humanity.
Just as a side note, many criticize the stoics for their ostensible embrace of the status quo, regardless of the conditions. Seneca, like Socrates, killed himself as per the command of the country. He did not foment revolution, nor did he fight his sentence. He accepted his death with the calm and dignity that he preached all his life. Something about this grates against our collective personality which demands that we fight against injustice, that when we see something, we not only say something, but we do something. Fair enough. In hindsight, it’s much easier to criticize, but I find something courageous and admirable in the self-restraint displayed by these Stoics. In our culture steeped in freedom, we rarely discuss the beauty of self-control, of self-transcendence. We are a people of unprecedented access to freedom, flailing around in a sea of openness. For all intents and purposes so many of us can live any lifestyle we want. Freedom removes hindrances but fails to provide guidance even if in the end it’s something as simple as Seneca’s final answer to the problem of noise:
“This is all very well,” you may say, “but isn’t it sometimes a lot simpler just to keep away from the din?” I concede that, and in fact it is the reason why I shall shortly be moving elsewhere. What I wanted was to give myself a test and some practice. Why should I need to suffer the torture any longer than I want to when Ulysses found so easy a remedy for his companions even against the Sirens (earplugs...)

Thanks for reading,