Essay: On The Benefit Of Doing Different Things

From the inspirational journal:

“A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”

What is your favorite way to relax and rejuvinate yourself.

A full night’s sleep!

In all seriousness, I’d say the best way for me to rejuvenate is to switch up whatever it is I’m doing by doing something near it’s opposite. I doubt I’m unique in this. A switch of focus will refresh anyone. After all, no less an intellect than Anatole France (at least, he sounds smart. I got this quote from Bartlett’s Quotations and don’t actually know who he is) said, “Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.”

That’s why when I’m exhausted from being social, it feels good to sneak in some alone time; just as it feels especially good to get out with friends if I’ve been cloistered in the Ivory Tower. If something grows tiresome, shrug it off and take up a diametrically opposed activity.

Essay: On The Fear of Missing Out

I’ve been keeping an inspirational journal. Every day, I write my thoughts on a cheesy prompt. I keep it hidden because it’s full of hollow platitudes and dumb ideas. But today something good came out of it:

And in the end it’s not the years in your life
that count, it’s the life in your years.
—Abraham Lincoln

Describe how you live each day to the fullest,
and what you can do to enjoy life more.

I’d say that I rarely ‘live life to the fullest.’

On those rare occasions that I do, it’s a day that manages to include being useful (whether or not for monetary gain), physically active (maintenance), and able to spend time with friends. Very rarely does a day include all of those things with enough time to catch enough sleep for the next day.

Furthermore, deciding to spend your time in any given way guarantees that you’re missing out on something else worthwhile. The cliche ‘so much to do, so little time’ is an expression of disappointment in the fact that no one can be two places at once. Life’s greatest challenge is to make peace with this.

It’s incredibly difficult to confront the feeling ‘I’m missing out on this, this, and this!’ and genuinely feel satisfied with what you are doing. But I must assume that being content with what you are doing instead of what you could be doing is, if not happiness itself, the prerequisite for contentment.

To be young is to feel these feelings.

Essay: The View From Olinger Crown Hill


I find that there are few things more life affirming than walking through a cemetery on a gorgeous day. As your eyes pass over each headstone, names and dates tumble through your mind, drawing associations and thinking of questions for the dead.

Walking through the Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery on a clear spring day, I saw the tombstone Ulysses S. Grant who was born in the mid-1870s and died in 1919. You wonder how he felt being named after a war hero and president. Did he feel dignified? Was it annoying? Did he feel like Michael Bolton in Office Space?

Further back, walking off the trail, there’s an area for infants born a hundred years ago. Here lies James D. Norton, alive for three months in 1916. And others. Unsure whether to feel lucky to have survived infancy or slump my shoulders in grief, I took time to do both.

Off in the far corner, the military men are divided by wars they served in. Among the older graves stands a monument to the Spanish American War. What was that war even about? Did it even matter?

More importantly: was it worth it?

Moving on, I saw the tombstone of a 26-year old World War II veteran. He survived the war but not the 1950’s. You think about all the sagely WWII veterans who lived to old age and how admirable they all were. Why didn’t this one make it?

What did these people know? What did they see? The history books overlook them and their memories departed with them.

Among the we are forced to answer the question Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) felt was central to life itself:

“My question, the one which brought me, at the age of fifty, to the verge of suicide, was the simplest of questions, the one that every man carries in the depths of himself, from the stupidest child to the wisest old man–the question without answering which life is impossible, as I indeed experienced. Here is that question: ‘What will come of what I do now, of what I will do tomorrow–what will come of my whole life?’ Formulated differently, the question would be the following: ‘Why should I live, why desire anything, why do anything?’ It can also be put like this: ‘Is there a meaning in my life that will not be annihilated by the death that inevitably awaits me?’

We are built to confront this question, whether or not we are prepared to answer it. Any other secular place around town lacks the gravitas to pose these weighty questions to us. A higher meaning might be advertised in a department store but good luck actually finding it.

“The Relativity of Wrong” by Isaac Asimov


In this essay, written in response to a colleague’s skepticism toward his optimism about scientific progress, Isaac Asimov argues that there are degrees of being wrong. Being slightly off is better than being COMPLETELY wrong.

“The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong. However, I don’t think that’s so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts.”

 Asimov then gives a brief history of scientific thought, using the size and shape of the earth as an example of how an idea can refined to become less and less wrong over time. He describes how and why man first perceived the earth to be flat, then spherical, before deciding that the planet is an ‘oblate spheroid’ shape.

“The correction in going from spherical to oblate spheroidal is much smaller than going from flat to spherical. Therefore, although the notion of the earth as a sphere is wrong, strictly speaking, it is not as wrong as the notion of the earth as flat.”

He concludes the essay by describing why a belief in theory is important; because even when a new theory seems to represent a revolution, it usually arises out of small refinements. Otherwise, the original theory wouldn’t have endured for so long:

“In short, living in a mental world of absolute rights and wrongs may be imagining that all theories are wrong, the earth may be thought of as spherical now, but cubical the next century, and a hollow icosahedron the next, and a doughnut shape the one after. What actually happens is that once scientists get hold of a good concept they gradually refine and extend it with greater and greater subtlety as their instruments of measurement improve. Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.

Isaac Asimov’s scientific writing is a joy to read. With only 2,480 words, you can’t afford not to read “The Relativity of Wrong”.

If this subject is especially interesting to you, I suggest checking out Thomas Kuhn’s classic A History of Scientific Revolutions or Asimov’s out-of-print but still available The Relativity of Wrong.