Tag Archives: existentialism

On Being Foreign

Having (very) recently emigrated from the UK (to the Netherlands), this article on what it means to be ‘foreign’ was not only timely, but quite emotive, too.

The [complaining foreigner] answers [the question of why he doesn’t go home] by thinking of himself as an exile—if not in a judicial sense then in a spiritual sense. Something within himself has driven him away from his homeland. He becomes even a touch jealous of the real exile. Life abroad is an adventure. How much greater might the adventure be, how much more intense the sense of foreignness, if there were no possibility of return? […]

The funny thing is, with the passage of time, something does happen to long-term foreigners which makes them more like real exiles, and they do not like it at all. The homeland which they left behind changes. The culture, the politics and their old friends all change, die, forget them. They come to feel that they are foreigners even when visiting “home”. Jhumpa Lahiri, a British-born writer of Indian descent living in America, catches something of this in her novel, The Namesake. Ashima, who is an Indian émigré, compares the experience of foreignness to that of “a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that the previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding”.

Beware, then: however well you carry it off, however much you enjoy it, there is a dangerous undertow to being a foreigner, even a genteel foreigner. Somewhere at the back of it all lurks homesickness, which metastasises over time into its incurable variant, nostalgia. And nostalgia has much in common with the Freudian idea of melancholia—a continuing, debilitating sense of loss, somewhere within which lies anger at the thing lost. It is not the possibility of returning home which feeds nostalgia, but the impossibility of it.

Choosing just one or two passages to quote in this article was very difficult.

via Link Banana

Advice for Design and Life, from Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser, the designer best known for creating the ‘I ♥ NY’ logo, offers ten pieces of advice from a life in design:

  • You can only work for people that you like: “all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client”.
  • If you have a choice, never have a job: “if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age”.
  • Some people are toxic; avoid them.
  • Professionalism is not enough, or: the good is the enemy of great: “Professionalism does not allow for [continuous transgression] because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success”.
  • Less is not necessarily more: “Just enough is more”.
  • Style is not to be trusted: “anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist”.
  • How you live changes your brain: “The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on, [than a computer]”.
  • Doubt is better than certainty: “Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience”.
  • On aging: nothing matters.
  • Tell the truth.

via Green Oasis

25+ Etiquette

Bringing to mind something I wrote about last week (The Quarterlife Crisis), this advice to those 25 and over is more etiquette lesson than antidote to the 20-something malaise.

It is time, if you have not already done so, for you to emerge from your cocoon of post-adolescent dithering and self-absorption and join the rest of us in the world. Past the quarter-century mark, you see, certain actions, attitudes, and behaviors will simply no longer do, and while it might seem unpleasant to feign a maturity and solicitousness towards others that you may not genuinely feel, it is not only appreciated by others but necessary for your continued survival.

Three that particularly struck a chord:

  • Develop a physical awareness of your surroundings (“You […] need to learn to sense others and get out of their way.”).
  • Have something to talk about besides college or your job (“Be interested so that you can be interesting”).
  • Rudeness is not a signifier of your importance (“Be civil or be elsewhere”).

via Kottke

Option Paralysis: The Quarterlife Crisis

Kate Carraway sums up that modern existential angst experienced by countless twentysomethings: The Quarterlife Crisis, a somewhat disabling mix of akrasia, apathy and ennui brought on by a number of realisations.

This phenomenon, known as the “Quarterlife Crisis,” is as ubiquitous as it is intangible. Unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.

Somewhat in the midst of such a twentysomething void myself (or at least I can sense its advance), am I alone in not resigning myself to this ‘crisis’? This article seems to suggest so, and I doubt this.

As Michael Kimmel is quoted as saying:

The Quarterlife Crisis is a kind of anticipatory crisis: ‘How is my life going to turn out? I don’t have a clue; I don’t have a map; I don’t have a vision for it.’

To simply just accept this situation seems almost insulting.

Update: Ben Casnocha has also written about The Quarterlife Crisis, linking to some of his other great articles that cover similar ground.