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.