Tag Archives: Learning

One Of My Projects is Sixteen Today

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the Portuguese video games website ene3.net . While I wasn’t a founder, I have been there since nearly the beginning, and at some point, the torch was passed on to me. 

I tried to pass it along a couple of times, but like a particularly lovable but slow mutt, it kept coming back to me. I don’t actively post there anymore, but I kept it up as a repository of part of the written and spoken history of video games, in Portuguese.

I don’t actively post there mostly due to me re-evaluating my relationship with video games. I’m not entirely sure if they are something that I want to promote. I’m still figuring it out.

Still, sixteen years is a lot. This was a project that I joined pro bono, just because it was a fun thing to do. Eventually, it was instrumental in developing the skills and relationships that led me to do what I do today. Writing. Marketing. Leading teams. Weird – my little passion project ended up contributing more to my career than my alma mater ever did.

When you start something, know that’s ok to not stick with it forever. Just start it. You never know where it may lead you. Life isn’t a straight line. Leave room for serendipity.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien,  The Lord of the Rings 

Rescuing Philosophy

Philosophy exited my life after I was done with the required readings at school. I had no reason to keep at it. It was taught to me as a duller version of history: this person thought this, that person claimed that. There was no rhyme or reason behind it all. There was no goal in learning it besides getting a better grade and being cultured. The latter was of little interest to a 17-year-old. 

As I went through life, I was as unprepared as anyone else for the trials and tribulations of adulthood – loss, adversity, existential dread, dealing with tyrannical structures, resisting temptation, fear of all the possible futures that end in absolute disaster, etc. 

A friend lost his mother a couple of months back. Most of us are going to go through that. It is an entirely predictable event in most lives. Yet my friend found himself dreadfully unprepared, as are most of us. 

Why are we not taught how to deal with stuff like this in school?

After a lengthy detour into the personal development (or “self-help,” as they dislike being called) industry, I finally came back to philosophy, via Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics. That’s when it dawned on me: there was a place for people to teach us about how to conduct ourselves in the face of life’s challenges. That’s what philosophy class was supposed to be for. 

Someone messed that one up, badly.

That’s part of what I’m trying to do here, with some of these essays. I’m trying to take back philosophy, to rescue it from the classroom and bringing it back to where it belongs: to people’s lives.

Photo Credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Flickr via Compfight cc

The World Breaks Everyone

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. But those it does not break, it kills.” Wrote Hemingway.

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed many a breaking. And I concur – many are stronger at the broken places. I’m not saying that it was a fair trade, mind. Not saying that the strengthening is equal in value to that which was lost. Assuming that would be naive. The sad reality is that the balance is rarely positive. Hemingway uses the quote in the context of a man losing his family – I don’t think anyone sane would argue there’s a coming back from that. But there’s… Something. Life can go on.

What’s interesting to me is to look at what the people who do get stronger do, versus the people who don’t.

Those who get stronger attribute it to a decision. At some point after the braking, they decide to go on with their lives, to carry – voluntarily – whatever burden their breaking saddled them with, into the future.

They didn’t decide it would not be painful, or easy, or even pleasant. That’s not a choice that’s available to us mortals. But they did decide that regardless of how hard it was, they would go forth the best they could.

Those who don’t get stronger, they attribute it to a characteristic. (Or, more often, lack thereof.) They say they aren’t strong enough, courageous enough, smart enough. They didn’t have the right genes or upbringing.

I’m no optimist. My formal education is in the sciences, and science is deterministic. Genes and place of birth combine to produce a baseline of talent, intelligence, skill. It’s possible, but incredibly hard, to move the needle.

(Incidentally, people hate to hear this. Scientists keep trying to disprove it, all the time, and to their great dismay – if they are honest scientists – they can’t. No-one is happy about this. Most people would like to think that they are infinitely malleable. But this is how things are.)

But you can always choose to use what you’ve got. That’s a decision, not a trait. A lot of people with massive talent, intelligence, strength, whatever – they get broken, and they’re done – fate has laid them low. Other, seemingly less “capable” people, they get broken, and they decide to carry on, often under great pain and strain. They are the ones who get stronger.

The world is going to break you. It breaks us all. Are you going to decide to move forward, regardless? Or are you going to let fate lay you low, and find a justification for it?