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 Post subject: Apathy or Contentment
Post #1 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:21 am 
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I'm getting older, and have been reflecting on life - maybe the beginnings of a midlife crisis or something.

Anyway, reflecting on my mental state, I feel I am generally content with my life.

On one hand that's good, but on the other hand, I fear I'm becoming apathetic. In some ways, not being content with the present gives me drive to improve. But if I'm driving to improve, I am not content.

What's your take? Is it bad to be content?

Maybe I need to have a goal or something...

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Post #2 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:33 am 
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Hi Kirby,

The meaning of life. People have been at it for hundreds of millennia...
Good luck.
( In the meantime, enjoy a good book or two :study: :)... )

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #3 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 7:00 am 
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I find it useful in such situations to seek more and more specific questions; in your case, it could be a simple 'what am I actually content with?' and 'are the things I am not content with not bothering me - if so, why - or do I just feel like I don't want to be bothered by them?'. If at any point you'll feel like not looking for answers any more, that's your warning sign.
My personal bit of advice (based on arguably limited life experience) is to never let yourself confuse the two. Apathy is like a mind rot and is something to be driven out with full force. An apparent lack of drive that you could attribute to contentment may turn out to simply be a matter of being confused by the time and resources suddenly appearing at your disposal once you rid yourself of major worries - or simply realize that there wasn't much that's worrisome about them in the first place. Priorities evolve.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #4 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 7:35 am 
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Kirby wrote:
In some ways, not being content with the present gives me drive to improve. But if I'm driving to improve, I am not content.


Apparently, if you are not improving on some aspect, then you feel frustrated. So while you still can, you should try to find some area where you want to improve. Later, you will struggle not to decline...

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #5 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:39 am 
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Content doesn't sound like happy.

This week I've been working till 2:30 AM out of sheer joy with what I was doing. I'm being paid for what I love to do (structured writing)! That's happiness.

In a previous stage of my career, I was more often going through the motions, in a good work environment, with a mildly satisfying intellectual/social challenge. I was content.

My wife and I bought a house in France and are going there very often. It makes us happy to have this new project but even being there, for the moment, does.

At home, we are watching a good TV series. Being able to do that with her makes me happy too, but the act of watching TV series makes me content.

So, is it bad to be content? Not at all. And you cannot force yourself into happiness. But our nature is to seek improving our situation. So I'm sure you will be happy again one day.

BTW, it happens, especially on a holiday in nature, that I count my blessings. There are many bad things that can happen to you and make you unhappy, such as losing a child. Those haven't happened to me, which makes me realize how happy I am, but the associated feelings are melancholy and anxiety about what may come.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #6 Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:07 pm 
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I'd say my feeling these days is somewhat neutral - not super happy, but not super upset either. I feel OK about my health, finances, and so on.

I just wonder if I should want something more in life.

Am I happy? I guess so.

Glad to hear you're having a nice time with your wife, Knotwilg.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #7 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:38 am 
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When I was in high school, a teacher loaned me a copy of ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell. I didn’t like his class much, but I enjoyed the book. Later I saw an interview with Campbell, and he was asked about happiness. He said that he didn’t think happiness was a goal. Adventure is a goal. This stuck with me.

And this makes sense. You can’t really control your subjective experience much, but you can at least try to have a good story to tell.

I notice you talk a lot about passion and ambition. These aren’t easy things to force. There is fear of disrupting the good things in life when contemplating risks. This is something I feel. I have some really good things, and some things that really suck and would like to be better. I am tolerating things I likely shouldn’t tolerate and settling for things I ought not settle for. But I don’t want to blow it all up.

I like the book ‘Superbetter’ by Jane McGonigal. It is about the value of games and how to use that psychology to improve your life. One thing that struck me is how she emphasizes self-efficacy rather than motivation. Self-efficacy works in cases where motivation fails. So this is something I am trying to learn. Historically, one of the hardest questions for me to answer is: ‘What to you want?’ I went through long periods where I felt I did not deserve to want things. Now I wonder if the problem is not me but that the question itself may be the wrong question and not very helpful.

Good luck, and I hope you have many more adventures.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #8 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:56 pm 
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Calvin Clark wrote:
When I was in high school, a teacher loaned me a copy of ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ by Joseph Campbell. I didn’t like his class much, but I enjoyed the book. Later I saw an interview with Campbell, and he was asked about happiness. He said that he didn’t think happiness was a goal. Adventure is a goal. This stuck with me.


I was about 21 when I saw a series of interviews with him, which may be the ones you are referring to, and I have rarely read or heard something as inspirational, though "The hero" was a tough book to swallow - impressive you digested it in high school.

More soothing than inspirational were the lectures by Alan Watts - a great voice to listen to and slowly fall asleep. Other than pills, Watts has been the only one to reconcile me with mortality.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #9 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:31 pm 
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Calvin Clark wrote:
I went through long periods where I felt I did not deserve to want things.


Interesting... Why don't you deserve to want things? Because you have things others don't have?

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Post #10 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 7:41 pm 
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Re: adventures

I suppose it's good to aim to have adventures.

Right now in my life, I don't feel a strong desire to change things. Day to day life is good. Someday I'll die. If that happens tomorrow, or if that happens 100 years from now, either way, I feel satisfied with my life, I think.

I did ok in school, don't have trouble finding work, have a nice family, have some interesting hobbies, travelled and lived abroad...

What else is there?

This is not to say that I don't enjoy life, day to day. I certainly do.

It's just that I don't seem to have a strong desire for anything more out of life. Having more of the same seems ok.

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #11 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:25 pm 
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FWIW, I was a fan of Joseph Campbell until I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was in college and, as it turned out, not long after I had studied folk tales on my own. (I had been interested in myths and folk tales since I was eight or so.) Campbell is not the first person to have come up with a unifying narrative for folk tales and myths. OC, to do so requires certain characteristic interpretations. That is not a criticism, except to point out that others have had different interpretations. But in The Hero with a Thousand Faces Campbell does worse. He excerpts fragments of tales and interprets one or more fragments of a tale in ways that are inconsistent with how he interprets one or more other fragments of the same tale. IOW, he fits the fragments of tales to his narrative instead of showing how his narrative ties the tales together. He doesn't even tie one tale together. (In brief, that is the argument of the paper I wrote about the book. ;))

Campbell agrees with Aristotle that happiness is not a worthy goal. Aristotle thought that The Good was a worthy goal, not that he explained exactly what The Good is. ;)

Interesting that Campbell considered adventure a worthy goal. IIRC, Campbell said that the knights errant of medieval chivalric literature sought adventures. (I think he was the one who said that. I read a fair amount of that literature, both as a child and as an adult, but it has been a long time since I did. I think I am just repeating Campbell, but I am not sure.) Anyway, Campbell (I think) said that there was a technique they had to find adventure, and that was to turn their horse into the densest part of the forest. Not a bad idea. :)

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Last edited by Bill Spight on Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:50 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post #12 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:55 pm 
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Quote:
into the densest part of the forest.
Hmm, the road less traveled by.
Who came up with it earlier ? :)

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #13 Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:45 pm 
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Kirby wrote:
Interesting... Why don't you deserve to want things? Because you have things others don't have?


I don't know. I considered it a symptom of depression. It's more of a feeling, than a thought.

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Post #14 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:50 am 
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EdLee wrote:
Quote:
into the densest part of the forest.
Hmm, the road less traveled by.


Actually, it was off the road where adventure was to be found. :) Don't play joseki. ;)

Quote:
Who came up with it earlier ? :)


I don't know the Shakespeare reference. It may have been Thomas Malory (Maleore), but for early it's hard to beat Wolfram von Eschenbach and Chrétien de Troyes. ;)

One of my favorite writings about the Grail legends was a small paperback owned by one of my girlfriends, which I think was a translation of La Queste del Saint Graal, although it used the term, sangreal. In it at least some of the adventures occur in the middle of the night, after awakening from sleep. (Years later I learned that it was common for people two have two episodes of sleep during the Middle Ages, when there was no electric lighting. People would go to bed early, wake up in the middle of the night, do things for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep.) Anyway, in that book, you didn't have to seek adventure, adventure sought you. ;)

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Post #15 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:55 am 
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Hi Bill :)
Quote:
wake up in the middle of the night, do things for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep.
Don't some cultures today also take naps during the day between working hours ? :)

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Post #16 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:48 am 
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EdLee wrote:
Hi Bill :)
Quote:
wake up in the middle of the night, do things for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep.
Don't some cultures today also take naps during the day between working hours ? :)


Yeah, well in the Middle Ages people referred to the second sleep. It could last four or more hours. :)

BTW, in some accounts the Holy Grail is a stone. Which sounds funny, unless you know that some people have worshipped meteorites. :) I was reading in SPQR how the Romans welcomed an image of Cybele, the Great Mother goddess, into Rome from afar, only to be surprised and confused, if not shocked and dismayed, to find out that it was not some beautifully wrought statue, but a meteorite. ;)

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Post #17 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:42 am 
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Hi Bill,
Quote:
some people have worshipped meteorites. :)
As they should! Extraterrestrial and all! :mrgreen:

Off off-topic: I speak zero Latin,
do you know if sapiens starts off with \sei\ セイ (is that the English pronunciation of sapiens ? ) or \sah\ サ as the \a\ in tabula rasa ?

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 Post subject: Re: Apathy or Contentment
Post #18 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:59 am 
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Quote:
Years later I learned that it was common for people two have two episodes of sleep during the Middle Ages,


It extended well beyond that in England. Charles Dickens refers to a "first sleep" in Barnaby Rudge (my favourite Dickens novel). But it must have been widespread in Europe because most of the major cities were lit at night by the end of the 17th century, and it seems that people took advantage of this to enjoy nocturnal activities between sleeps. Maybe it was different in America - home on the range and all that - but an American historian called Ekirch (?) wrote the definitive book about the history. I haven't read it - just a review of it, but I gather it was an impressive work and I seem to recall there were (?are) tribes who practise(d) it, so it wasn't just an urban thing.

I believe there is also now a school of scientific thought that two separate sleeps are good for you.


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Post #19 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:11 am 
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EdLee wrote:
Hi Bill,
Off off-topic: I speak zero Latin,
do you know if sapiens starts off with \sei\ セイ (is that the English pronunciation of sapiens ? ) or \sah\ サ as the \a\ in tabula rasa ?


I'm pretty sure it's /ˈsa.pi.ens/, [ˈsa.pi.ẽːs]

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Post #20 Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:12 am 
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EdLee wrote:
Hi Bill,
Quote:
some people have worshipped meteorites. :)
As they should! Extraterrestrial and all! :mrgreen:

Off off-topic: I speak zero Latin,
do you know if sapiens starts off with \sei\ セイ (is that the English pronunciation of sapiens ? ) or \sah\ サ as the \a\ in tabula rasa ?


I'm afraid that sapiens in homo sapiens has been thoroughly Anglicized, so it is pronounced with a long a. Judging from our current politics, sappiens might be better. ;)

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