Tag Archives: Life

Goethe’s Genius

In the New Yorker, Adam Kirsch explains Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

His genius. Some of his work, including “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship,” or “Faust.” Goethe’s scientific endeavors and sense of holism. His fascination with Bildung—the “apprenticeship to life and society” with the aim to learn “who he really is and how he should live.”

[The] combination of earnestness and jovial detachment is what characterizes the mature Goethe, and what makes him unique; no other writer gives us the same sense that he has both seen life and seen through it.

Simplify Your Life

Self-help manuals are for the rest of us what the airport bookstore bestseller on the latest management fad is for businessmen. They promise novel perspectives on fundamental questions but typically leave the reader disappointed. Past the enticing introductory chapter with interesting examples, the novel perspectives all too often reduce to new semantics without substantive value added. But then, there might be exceptions.

To “simplify one’s life” is a prominent search term on the web and the topic of many websites, blog posts and books. If popular search engines identify the most relevant contributions then a handful of top ranked sites should contain most of the pertinent information. So here is a selection of top ranked sites and their suggestions for simplifying one’s life.

becomingminimalist lists 10 most important things to simplify, namely

  • possessions; time commitments; goals; negative thoughts; debt; words; artificial ingredients; screen time; connections to the world; and multi-tasking

while Slow Your Home offers 21 mostly rather down to earth suggestions:

  • Perform a clutter bust; practice gratitude; rearrange your living room; add some life with indoor plants; keep your dining table surface clear; use the “good” tableware and glasses; create white space; prepare yourself for the morning; find storage for your kitchen appliances; create secondary storage for pantry items; meal plan!; make your bed each and every day; start an exit drawer; start a donate box; check your mindset; get your finances in order; be accountable by recording your simplifying efforts; declutter your wardrobe; daily meditation; start with acceptance; and unplug.

Zen habits suggests 72 steps but helpfully boils the list down to 2 points:

  • Identify what’s most important to you; and eliminate everything else.

The blog also recommends Elaine St. James and her book Simplify Your Life.

Other sites proceed more systematically and for that very reason, strike me as more convincing. wikiHow devotes a chapter to simplifying one’s life and lists four “methods” and corresponding actions:

  1. Eliminating clutter: Decide what stuff is unnecessary; do quick cleans; do big cleans every season; shrink your wardrobe; stop buying new things you don’t need; downsize (have a small but comfortable home and learn to live with less); create white space; and make your bed every day.
  2. Getting organized: Plan what you can, or embrace your inner chaos; split household chores evenly; streamline your finances; find a place for each thing; prepare quick meals; and simplify your parenting.
  3. Simplifying Your Relationships: Identify bad relationships and end them; make the effort to spend time with people you like; learn to tell people “no;” spend more time alone; and spend less time on social networking.
  4. Slowing Down: Put your phone away; stop reading self-improvement manuals, books, and blogs; work from a manageable to-do list; declutter your digital packrattery; do one thing at a time; leave your work at work; and meditate for 15 minutes each day.

mindbodygreen offers the most concise advice suggesting five simplifying steps:

  • Evaluate your relationships and those that are draining you; disconnect—fully—for one hour a day (at least); sweep every corner of your home; get really, really quiet; and shred your “To Do” list, and make an “I Want” list.

The international bestseller How to Simplify Your Life: Seven Practical Steps to Letting Go of Your Burdens and Living a Happier Life thoroughly covers the topic—from clearing off one’s desk to cleaning up one’s life. It proceeds in seven steps:

  1. Simplifying stuff: Desk; office; apartment; remembering things.
  2. Personal finance: Relax, be optimistic; fewer things, more money; no debt; courage; wealth is in the eye of the beholder.
  3. Time: Focus; less than perfect; say “no”; slow down; hide.
  4. Health: Happiness; flow; fitness; food; sleep.
  5. People: Networking; parents; death; no envy; don’t judge.
  6. Relationship: Talk; no drama; work-life; sex; plan for old age.
  7. Self: Your objective; strengths; no bad conscience; enneagram.
  8. The book’s new edition also features spirituality: Spiritual place; pray; empower routine work; engage your soul.

Now go and simplify or stay messy at your own peril.

More sites: Think simple now. The Art of Simple. Simple Chic. (See also minimalism, DAISY.)

“… trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen (Man’s Search for Meaning)”

The English language translations of Viktor Frankl’s book “… trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager” (Wikipedia German, English) were published as “From Death-Camp to Existentialism” and “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy.” Frankl describes his experience in Auschwitz and other concentration camps with a focus on the psychological changes the inmates went through. The narrative is shocking and Frankl’s ability to maintain a positive attitude to life in spite of the horror he experienced admirable. But I was less impressed by the book than millions of readers before me—it neither provides a systematic account nor a personal narrative.

The sketch “Synchronisation in Buchenwald” at the end of the book (featuring Socrates, Spinoza, Kant, KZ inmates and others) is the best part of the short book. Structured as a stage play it provides insights into Frankl’s thinking.