On Being Nothing – NYTimes.com

Some reflections by Brian Jay Stanley on learning one’s place in society. Most of us figure this out in our 20s, where some of our earlier dreams and aspirations are replaced by a more realistic assessment of where and how we can contribute. Different take than Judith Timson’s When it’s time to drop your Bucket List.

All of which can be taken in context of our search for meaning (currently reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning). Quote:

Society is adroit at disillusioning newcomers, and many self-assured children grow up to be bitter adults. But bitterness, instead of a form of disillusionment, is really the refusal to give up your childhood illusions of importance. Ignored instead of welcomed by the world, you fault the world as blind and evil in order not to fault yourself as naïve. Bitterness is a child’s coddling narcissism within the context of an adult’s harsh life. Instead, I know that the world only tramples me as a street crowd does an earthworm — not out of malice or stupidity, but because no one sees it. Thus my pain is not to feel wrongly slighted, but to feel rightly slighted.
There must be a Copernican revolution of the self. Instead of pointlessly cursing the sun to go around me, my chance of contentment is learning to orbit, being the world’s audience instead of demanding the world be mine. If the world is a stage, then everyone’s an extra, acting minor roles in simultaneous scenes in which no one has the lead. With so much happening, society is poorly made to satisfy pride, but well made to satisfy interest, if we will only let go of our vanity and join the swirl of activity.

On Being Nothing – NYTimes.com.


2 thoughts on “On Being Nothing – NYTimes.com

  1. Your quote from Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning brings to mind a Leonard Cohen line I never really got until I started working: “They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom for trying to change the system from within.”

    While I certainly have been lucky to have work that is interesting, its not quite what I thought I would being doing or as meaningful as I hoped when I was young. But I do try to realize my work is far more interesting thant what many people do. Moreover, I have come around to the view that my life is not simply defined by work and that other aspects of my life (my family, friends, passions and interests) are really of greater importance to me and really do give me more meaning. I always enjoy your posts Andrew and the articles you point me towards. All the best.

    • Thanks Jodey. The quote was actually from the NYT piece, not Frankl (some of his quotes coming tomorrow in my weekly update). I remember earlier discussions about Leonard Cohen and I too, when work would get me down, would think to myself the same line of his 🙂 As to your broader observations, could not agree more. Cheers, Andrew

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