For years I’d only heard ‘no one likes you’, ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you don’t belong here’. These seemed so obviously true to life I had thought that they were statements of fact. No amount of compliments or self-love could shift them. I needed something deeper.
We have become so disillusioned by fictional happy endings that don’t translate to real life. Perhaps we’ve told ourselves we’d rather face life head-on and see things as they really are. But don’t we secretly long for more than that?
Without a doubt, the Second World War had a galvanising effect on people, the likes of which have never been seen before or since. Yet many of our veterans returned with feelings of guilt or meaninglessness that weren’t acknowledged or understood for years to come, if at all. Victory had left so many floundering in a vacuum of purposelessness. It was hard to face the idea that so little had actually changed postwar, and even harder for many to admit that if ‘this’ is all they fought for, it didn’t seem worth it.
The primary way we understand someone to be trustworthy is not by what they say, but how they live. We’ve all met people who might claim to be whiter than white, but when you dig beneath the surface and see into the nooks and crannies of their life, they’re just as imperfect as the rest of us. So simply claiming to be trustworthy isn’t enough — we need to see it in someone’s behaviour.
In the past few years, the study and practice of mindfulness has exploded in Western culture. Originally deriving from Buddhism, it’s now utilised as a form of treatment for both mental and physical illness. But does it really possess the answer to the problems we face in life?
The very same attitude that makes us first to cry, ‘That’s neither fair nor true, because it’s just a social construct!’ is itself a social construction, a product of specific cultural conditioning. Relativism cancels itself out. Still, we often assume present norms are innately right because we’re entrenched; we haven’t known any other reality. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but the spell breaks when we realise the norm itself is always shifting.
It was a very difficult afternoon for both of us. I had to explain to Jen (my then girlfriend, now my wife) about how I had been looking at pornography. That day, as we went for a walk, Jen could sense that something was up. She could see I was angry with myself and holding something back. I was nervous about confessing, as I expected it would hurt her, but felt I had to be honest. So, we sat on a park bench and I began to explain what I’d done.
When you have to come to terms with failure, when you don’t get the recognition you think you deserve, it forces you to shift perspective...as I’ve grappled with my career disappointments, I’ve seen this longing for what it really was: a meaningless pursuit of my own glory.
Maybe it’s been a long week at a job that isn’t your favourite, a job you had to take to pay your ridiculous London rent. Maybe you’re desperately hoping you’re in a temporary situation, waiting for that perfect opportunity to come along. Or maybe you landed your ideal job, thought you’d finally made it, but soon realised it wasn’t all you thought it would be. What do you do when the dream job is just that?
When physicists heard the sound of two black holes merging over a billion years ago, humanity cheered. Our response to that cosmic tug is evident everywhere, and emotional investment in scientific discovery is just one flavour. Whether deliberately or subconsciously, the human spirit reveals itself in pursuit of intangible rewards.
Justice isn't always so appealing-namely, when you’re on the receiving end of it. But why are we prone to such a double standard? Perhaps it has something to do with the way we choose to take responsibility for our actions.
On a near daily basis, we find ourselves confronted with news of violence, conflict, suffering and death on a global scale. We’ve seen bombings in Brussels, shootings in Paris, car bombs in Ankara and countless atrocities across the Middle East and Africa. I find myself only half-digesting the facts of one horrific act, when, before long, news emerges of some other tragic loss of life in another part of the world....and so, we are faced with the great unsaid question: ‘What will fix it?’
The word ‘addict’ may seem extreme, but there is no denying it: I was completely dependent on sugar. I couldn’t go a single day without consuming the stuff. This was partly chemical...but also, as I gradually came to realise, something much deeper.
If we are interested in the truth, especially where we already have strong opinions, we have to be more skeptical than our feelings prompt us to be. But the fact is that it’s very difficult to question the things we take for granted...It's here that we are in danger of becoming another Donald Trump.
For some of us, success has become part of our identity. We have constructed a narrative about ourselves—which others have reinforced to us—that says: ‘You must be successful. You must be an achiever’. We feel a pressure to conform or live up to this identity...But if we don’t want to base our identity on what we do, what are the alternatives?
While Cobain and Augustine both end up famous and well-regarded in their respective fields of philosophical musing—one in music and the other in writing—somewhere along the way one experiences a tragic hopelessness leading to despair and suicide, while the other encounters life-changing hope and a new start. And what made the difference?
There’s almost nothing that can taint the acquisition of our romantic or erotic desires. But, whether we’re reading the latest erotic novel or entering the meat market of the Tinder-swiping generation, we know there must be something better and that this is not real love. We need to reclaim romance apart from our flippant desires and redefine our notion of love, which can and should remain our highest value.
Sometimes religious people have given answers to the ‘Why?’ (God is testing you, you’ve done something bad in a previous life, or you’ve done something bad in this life & this is Karma.) At best, these answers are unsatisfying and at worst, dangerous and highly offensive.
I didn’t choose most of the circumstances in which my life has been shaped: my parents, my culture, my influences. How can it be truly said that ‘I am the captain of my soul’ when, in reality, I didn’t even choose to get in this boat?