You will never regret being kind. You will never regret having hope. You will never regret prioritising happiness. You will never regret being yourself. You will never regret taking chances.
People think regret is born out of bad choices, but more often than not, regret is the result of not making a choice. Taking a chance may come with consequences, but that is a risk we have to take. Because if you’re too afraid of consequences or being hurt and refuse to take action on the important things, life will pass you by in the blink of an eye and you might miss it. On your deathbed, it won’t be the decisions you made that you regret, but the bites you didn’t take.
Happiness is an active process, not something that will come to you passively. So choose to be kind and choose to be hopeful. Choose to laugh and choose to love. Choose to be the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.
During World War II, the British Royal Air Force boasted an impressive accuracy in intercepting Nazi German bombers despite the cover of darkness at night. The British air ministry reported that their fighter pilots ate a large amount of carrots to boost their night vision. Since then, it has become public knowledge that carrots help you see better in the dark.
Unfortunately, this is false. The British air force were not actually using carrots to help see better in the dark; they were using a revolutionary new technology called radar to spot enemy war planes from a far distance. The carrot propaganda was spread to hide this fact from the Germans.
The carrot myth sounds plausible as carrots contain a large amount of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a key chemical required for vision, in the form of retinal. It is true that vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness. However, the dose of vitamin A required to improve your night vision is so high that it cannot be achieved by simply eating a lot of carrots.
Imagine if you will, that you could drop whatever is happening in your life and have a six-month break. No matter what you are doing – studying, working, preparing to get married – you are allowed to forget about your life and have six months off. During this time, you may go wherever you want and do whatever one thing you have always dreamed of doing as a profession.
Whether you want to be a walking tour guide in Europe, a scuba diver in the Caribbean islands or a professional gambler in Las Vegas, you can be it. Furthermore, there are no consequences of your break (i.e. you will return back to your normal life afterwards as if it did not happen) and you do not have to worry about skill levels (i.e. you will be at the perfect skill level for your job before you start).
Now that we have set up the perfect “break”, what will you choose to do with it? This question may seem simple, but it helps you search deep inside you for what you truly want in life. Too often in life, we have to set aside our dreams and aspirations just to survive reality. In such a world, telling people to “do what you love” or “chase your dreams” can sometimes seem ignorant as many people do not have the luxury of doing so.
That being said, there is no harm in dreaming – in imagining a world where things could be different and you could do what you really wanted to do. Even if you couldn’t take six months off to chase your dreams, perhaps there are other ways to live a little happier. If your fantasy was to be a barista in Italy, learn to make coffee using a filter. If you dream of being a rap star, spend five minutes of every day writing down some sweet rhymes on a notebook.
Dreams will make your life happier one way or another. All you have to do is give your dream a chance. So what is your dream break?
What is the greatest good in life? A school of thought called Epicureanism, founded by Epicurus of ancient Greece, believed that the greatest good is pleasure. Epicurus and his followers believed that life is about achieving the greatest amount of pleasure possible. However, this has been mistranslated throughout time and people misused its name to promote the seeking of physical pleasures such as sex, decadence and partying (which is essentially hedonism). What Epicurus meant by “pleasure” was the combination of two states: a state of tranquillity and a state of no fear or bodily pain. A combination of the two states (ataraxia and aponia) constitute happiness in its highest form. Contrary to what the layperson thinks of Epicureanism, he taught people to live modestly and moderately, avoiding the suffering caused by overindulging. Ergo, an Epicurean life is not that filled with pleasures of the body, but with pleasures of the mind. To quote Epicurus: “with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten”.
To attain this simple life, Epicurus came up with the tetrapharmakos, or “four-part cure” – a guide to how to live the happiest life possible. It states:
Don’t fear god,
Don’t worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.
Epicureanism also promotes gaining knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one’s desires. For example, knowing more about the world will reduce your fear of gods and your worries about dying. Perhaps the act of discovering new things and quenching your curiosity brings about simple pleasures of the mind for you. Essentially, every action and way of life in Epicureanism is driven by the principle of minimising pain and maximising happiness.
However, the flip side to this is that if something does not result in happiness, it is deemed counter-productive For example, it advises against culture and politics as it can potentially create pain and unhappiness (although it is more complicated than such a sweeping statement). Even the morality and ethics of the thought is questionable, as it says that altruism and good morality is essentially driven by how it can benefit you. Epicurus believed that people should abide by the law and act morally as it will lead to less guilt and shame, and being nice to another person will make them trust you more and minimise pain. Ultimately, it is based on a social contract driven by mutual agreement rather than trust and goodwill. Although this may be effective and results in a “model citizen”, the motives may be deemed impure.
Even though it is a rather extreme example of how to live life, the thought of living for the sake of happiness is a nice one to go by. If it does not harm you or others, then do whatever the hell makes you happy.
Shakespeare stated that “all is well that ends well”, but the opening of a story can be just as important. For example, “once upon a time” instantly transports a child (or adult) to a magical, faraway land full of wonders and adventure. So how would one open a story of drama, mystery or even horror?
One of the most infamous examples of such an opening is the line: “it was a dark and stormy night”. This opening sentence was first used by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The full opening is:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
The phrase is effective in establishing a setting and painting a word picture.
However, this opening is considered overly florid and descriptive, overachieving its goal of establishing the setting. This kind of sentence is known as a purple prose and is mocked in the world of literature. This opening has become the poster child of purple prose, such as the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which celebrates the worst examples of “dark and stormy night” stories.
Probably the most popular mention of “it was a dark and stormy night” is in the comic strip, Peanuts. Snoopy, the canine protagonist, is often seen starting a novel on his typewriter with the line “it was a dark and stormy night”. Perhaps it is no surprise as to why his novels were never published.
If you ask a hundred children what their dream is, not a single one would say “I want to be successful”. But as children grow up and enter society, society advises them that dreams do not feed them. And so, children slowly lose their innocence and dreams and choose to chase success instead. Why? Because success will feed them and give them a secure future. It is uncommon to find a middle-aged person who has achieved their childhood dreams. The majority judge their dreams as unrealistic, put them away in a corner of their mind and sacrifice happiness to earn more money to feed the family. The child who wanted to become a painter who put the world on a canvas follows her parents’ advice and becomes a lawyer. The child who wanted to become an astronaut is working into the night at a bank so that he will be promoted. They devote themselves to work and strive to succeed. But when they are at their deathbed, the only thing they are left with is regrets.
In life, there is no success or failure. The only moment you will know whether you led a successful or failed life is when you are at your deathbed. No one else can judge whether you were a success or a failure. Whether you were rich, poor, famous, average, lived long or died prematurely, you were a success if you can end your life with this thought: “Yeah, I lived a happy life without regrets”.
A “good fortune teller” is not an “accurate” fortune teller. A “good fortune teller” is a fortune teller who “says good things”. A fortune teller who tells fortunes that are too real, despite warning people of the dangers to come in the future, tends to be ignored and hated on just like Cassandrafrom ancient Greek mythology. Human beings say they fear uncertainty in the future and want some certainty, but they do not want to hear about an unhappy future. This is a normal response. Who would want to hear that they will soon be diagnosed with a terminal illness, or that they will break up with their lover? However, people are fascinating in that they still try to know the future. We go to fortune tellers and read horoscopes to try figure out what will happen to us. But if they receive bad news such as “you will fail your next exam”, instead of studying even more they curse at the fortune teller for giving them a bad prediction. Thus, human beings live among curiosity about their life and fear of the unknown future, while celebrating good fortunes and actively denying bad ones.
The reason why we like to have our fortunes read is similar to why we watch previews of television shows: we are curious about what will happen. But if you ponder this deeply, you soon come to a great epiphany. The further you look out into the future, the clearer this becomes. Everyone eventually dies. A person’s life span is typically not much longer than a hundred years, with everyone meeting the same fate some day.
A fortune teller predicts the ups and downs of a person’s life. If you think about it, life is composed of a series of peaks and troughs that eventually result in death. No matter what misfortune comes your way, it will pass just as seasons come and go. A person who passed an exam is happy and leads a good life, but even if the person fails, they somehow make it through. Unless you give up, a person will continue to live on. C’est la vie. Life is as simple as that.
If the best fortune teller in the history of mankind told your fortune, they would say the following: “nothing matters, live the way you want”. Whether your fortune for the week is good or bad, you will eventually die. There is no point scaring yourself with fortunes, live every day as if it was your last. An uncertain future may be scary, but it also represents infinite possibilities. Just like Schrödinger’s cat, our tomorrows are both alive and dead at the same time. Until tomorrow comes and the box is open, we can never know what the future holds.
So as long as it does not harm you or anyone else, do whatever the hell you want.