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Perspective

  • "I wept because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.  "
  • ~ Ancient Persian Proverb
  • "Despite some of the horrors and barbarisms of modern life which appall and grieve us, life has — or has the potential of — such richness, joy and adventure as were unknown to our ancestors except in their dreams.  "
  • ~ Arthur Holly Compton, American physicist, 1892 – 1962
  • "People call me an optimist, but I’m really an appreciator… When I was six years old and had scarlet fever, the first of the miracle drugs, sulfanilamide, saved my life. I’m grateful for computers and photocopiers… I appreciate where we’ve come from. "
  • ~ Julian Simon, American academic, 1933 – 1998

Insane World

The bored rich seek therapy for their lack of contentment while millions of people around the world don’t have enough to eat. Workers with good jobs in rich countries file lawsuits against their employers for all sorts of trivial grievances, while countless people around the globe are desperate to find any sort of paying labor. Rich and famous athletes and entertainers moan that they’re not adequately “appreciated.” The paradox of the modern age is that never have so many had so much – and complained so often.

Living Sanely

Generally, this guide encourages you to focus on yourself, and not compare yourself with others, but there is a broad sense of perspective that you need to maintain both sanity and common sense. This perspective falls into two broad categories: the past and the present.

The Past: For the great majority of the time mankind has roamed planet earth, life has been short, hard, and, dull. As late as the eighteenth century, the average life expectancy in Europe and North America was less than forty years — it is now almost twice as long. Until the twentieth century, infant mortality was very high, and parents could expect the heartbreak of seeing some, even most, of their children die before reaching adult-hood. In the past, the typical workday was very long and consisted of mind-numbingly dull agricultural labor. The general standard of living for both rich and poor was far lower than it is today. Educational, recreational, and cultural activities were far more limited, and effective medical care was practically non-existent.

The Present: Even with the great progress that has been made over time, those of us living in counties with established democratic, free-market systems are still far better off than those who live in countries emerging from despotic regimes and con-trolled economies. Millions of people around the world still lack the most basic of life’s necessities. Even with the amazing innovations in medical science, millions still battle serious physical handicaps or crippling disease, even in the most technologically advanced countries.

In addition to appreciating the general economic and scientific advances that make our lives relatively comfortable and easy, we should keep our day-to-day challenges in perspective. Even in rich, technologically advanced countries, every hour of every day some people face rape, accidental death, complete ruin, or some other genuine tragedy. We should appreciate the fact that our daily struggle is, generally, not life-threatening.

Focus

On appreciating the advantages of modern life in a free society, and not mistaking challenges for tragedies.

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