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Introduction to Essays on How to Live
These essays have a theme – how to live. They were written to help me live better by exploring topics affecting how I understand my world and then act. It is self-indulgent. But it is possible (and my hope) that my exploration may help a few others.
More has been written on how to live a good life than could be read in a lifetime. Time is precious. You shouldn’t waste it reading something that adds no value to your life. Likewise, I shouldn’t spend my time writing something that is not valuable to someone, even if that is only me. What can you expect from these essays that justify the time to read it?
Life is hard. Everyone struggles. Sometimes that struggle is basic — getting a job, supporting your family. Sometimes it is philosophical — why am I on this earth? What is happiness? Am I happy? Sometimes it is a moral struggle — am I doing the right thing? People have wrestled with these issues for as long as there have been people. We all want to live a “good” life (whatever that really means). Fortunately, people have learned ways to make our life easier, meaningful, fulfilling, and happier. That is what these essays are about.
My goal is to identify and explore important ideas that can help us live a better life. This won’t be comprehensive. After all, this is a huge topic that many have written about. Instead, I will be selective. I’ve selected certain topics that I have found particularly powerful.
I intend to present these topics in a practical manner. This is not a motivational exercise that encourages us to be all that we can be. I hope to avoid well-worn platitudes that sound good (maybe they are) but get very confusing when we try to put them into practice in our daily life. Lots of advice about how to live a good life is contradictory. Following one principle leads you to violate another. I hope to address these contradictions in a way that allows the reconciliation and balancing of important concepts.
I write as an ordinary person. I am not an academic or a philosopher. I am not a psychologist (although I live with one). I’m not a writer by profession. What I bring to this work are lessons learned in large part through living. I’ve seen and experienced much in life. I like to think I have learned something. Some good has come from life’s pain and suffering. I’ve also read extensively on these topics. I hope I can blend the lessons of others with my own experience to produce something relevant to some people.
I was inspired to write these essays in part by reading the essays of Montaigne. I liked the idea that someone who was not professional a writer, not an academic, and not a philosopher would sit down and write essays on aspects of life that interested him and that these essays could contain practical wisdom that influences other centuries later. Similarly, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations was an inspiration. Here a diary written only for himself, never intended to be published, has provided wisdom influencing millions. I don’t for a moment think my musings on life deserve to be on the same shelf as these classics. But my writing is of the same genre – practical and thoughtful observations on how to live written primarily for myself and the few others who may be interested.