— Bertrand Russell (link)
— George Mallory
— Kwame Anthony Appiah
From Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
One sunny afternoon, when he wasn’t feeling well, Jobs sat in the garden behind his house and reflected on death. He talked about his experiences in India almost four decades earlier, his study of Buddhism, and his views on reincarnation and spiritual transcendence.
“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.”
He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife.
“I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time.
“But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly.
“Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.”
— Charles Darwin
— Shane Parrish from collaborativefund.com
I’m going to give three answers to this. First, we’re not talking enough about great people doing great things in the right way — be it in the broader world or the local community. Our attention is trending towards the negative and not the positive. I’d like to see that reversed. Second, and somewhat related, we’re becoming adverse to thinking for ourselves and we’re increasingly outsourcing that to other people. We don’t want to do the work and we want other people to tell us. But it’s often through doing the work that we really reach deep understanding and find meaning. Finally, I don’t think we’re asking the internal questions about what it means to live a good life and how we should live.
From “When Breath Becomes Air” P. 71
While all doctors treat diseases, neurosurgeons work in the crucible of identity: every operation on the brain is, by necessity, a manipulation of the substance of our selves, and every conversation with a patient undergoing brain surgery cannot help but confront this fact. In addition, to the patient and family, the brain surgery is usually the most dramatic event they have ever faced and, as such, has the impact of any major life event. At those critical junctures, the question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living. Would you trade your ability — or your mother’s — to talk for a few extra months of mute life? The expansion of your visual blind spot in exchange for eliminating the small possibility of a fatal brain hemorrhage? Your right hand’s function to stop seizures? How much neurological suffering would you let your child endure before saying that death is preferable? Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer the questions: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?“
Amos Tversky from “The Undoing Project” p. 101
It’s hard to know how people select a course in life. The big choices we make are practically random. The small choices probably tell us more about who we are. Which field we go into may depend on which high school teacher we happen to meet. Who we marry may depend on who happens to be around at the right time of life. On the other hand, the small decisions are very systematic. That I became a psychologist is probably not very revealing. What kind of psychologist I am may reflect deep traits.”