Living your best life – can you reimagine your relationship with time?

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

Living your best life: an inspiring essay by a philosopher is full of wisdom about reimagining our relationship with time.

I recently read a fine essay on “Three ideas for how to live a fuller life” by Roman Krznaric on the BBC website. It focused on “reimagining our relationship with time” in order to come to terms with death. It then offered three ways to do that.

Stephen Turner and Leigh Turner, Nigeria 1958
With my brother Stephen in Nigeria, 1958

The dinner part of the afterlife

You’re having dinner with all the other ‘yous’. These are the people you could have been, if you had made different choices in life. Which of them is most charismatic, interesting, or admirable?

Whakapapa

Whakapapa is a Maori concept for lineage. Imagine a child you care about, years ahead, when she or he is aged 90. Then imagine someone placing a tiny baby into their arms – and the 90-year-old imagining what the baby will need to thrive in the decades ahead – well into the 22nd Century. Moral: if you can transcend the “now” and think about generations before and after you, it will give you a sense of perspective about what matters.

Baldwin and Mildred Hovey
My grandparents Baldwin and Mildred getting married

A longer now

Consider a 200-million-year-old fossil or a star whose light left its source before humans evolved. Consider yourself – or humanity – as a blink in the five billion year history of the earth.

‘As we busily swipe our phones and click the ‘Buy Now’ button, let us pause a moment,’ Krznaric writes, ‘and open our imaginations to a longer now. That is how we begin the journey beyond death. That is how we become good ancestors.’

References: Stapledon and Adams

Krznaric’s admirable piece reminded me of two other works:

  • Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon – a history of humankind’s next two billion years, written in 1930. I read it as a teenager and found it mind-blowing in its ambition. So did many science fiction writers including HP Lovecraft, Arthur C Clarke, CS Lewis and Brian Aldiss;
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s “Total Perspective Vortex“: ‘if life was going to live in such a vast Universe, one thing it could not afford was to have a sense of perspective’.

Philosophical resources

If you’re interested in philosophical issues and happiness, do have a look at my Existential Questions – and women category (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog), or see my post How to be happy: 16 great posts to browse.

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2 Responses

  1. First if not for food and housing you struggle for yourself to be recognized and to be seen. Then you struggle to keep a position you have achieved to be resoected.You learn, that being respected includes to do for others and let others do for you. In the meantime you hear and read about a past and a future. There is a chain of people having lived and of things having happened which leads to yourself and to your own operations of today. From this presence you look back along that chain and ahead for another century of children and grandchildren. The scale of our conciousness grips a total of about two hundred years being rather relevant for us and so with ourselves.The thoughts you present here with their much wider scale back and forth in terms of time give me relaxation. They tell me not to worry about my absence from future important questions and answers when i‘ll be gone – just because the world got along without my genius and my loving heart long before I came. And so it will later on. Not to mention the universe. So as I felt no suffering about my absence in a past before I was born there will be none in the future when i‘ll be dead.

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