Here is a brief excerpt from Maria Popova‘s brilliant discussion of Roman Krznaric’s book, How Should We Live? History’s Forgotten Wisdom on Love, Time, Family, Empathy, and Other Aspects of the Art of Living, published by Blueridge (December 2013). According to Krznaric, “How to pursue the art of living has become the great quandary of our age…The future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past.” To read the complete article, check out others, learn more about her website Brain Pickings, and sign up for a subscription to the newsletter, please click here.
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“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth,” Goethe famously proclaimed. Thomas Hobbes extolled “the principal and proper work of history being to instruct, and enable men by the knowledge of actions past to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently in the future.” It is this notion of “applied history” that cultural historian and philosopher Roman Krznaric — who gave us How to Find Fulfilling Work, one of the best psychology and philosophy books of 2013 — places at the center of How Should We Live?: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life. Part psychological manual, part cultural manifesto, part philosophical memoir of our civilization’s collective conscience, the book explores yesteryear’s great works of philosophy, social science, economics, anthropology, and cultural mythology. Krznaric trawls the timeless to surface the timely and excavate practical ideas about the art of living, about how we, today, can live better, richer, more fulfilling lives — ideas across love, work, family, time, money, death, creativity, and more.
He writes in the introduction:
“How to pursue the art of living has become the great quandary of our age.
“I believe that the future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past. If we explore how people have lived in other epochs and cultures, we can draw out lessons for the challenges and opportunities of everyday life. What secrets for living with passion lie in medieval attitudes towards death, or in the pin factories of the Industrial Revolution? How might an encounter with Ming-dynasty China, or Central African indigenous culture, change our views about bringing up our kids and caring for our parents? It is astonishing that, until now, we have made so little effort to unveil this wisdom from the past, which is based on how people have actually lived rather than utopian dreamings of what might be possible.
“I think of history as a wonderbox, similar to the curiosity cabinets of the Renaissance — what the Germans called a Wunderkammer. Collectors used these cabinets to display an array of fascinating and unusual objects, each with a story to tell, such as a miniature Turkish abacus or a Japanese ivory carving. Passed down from one generation to another, they were repositories of family lore and learning, tastes and travels, a treasured inheritance. History, too, hands down to us intriguing stories and ideas from a cornucopia of cultures. It is our shared inheritance of curious, often fragmented artefacts that we can pick up at will and contemplate in wonder. There is much to learn about life by opening the wonderbox of history.”
Rather than approaching that wonderbox as an instructional manual, however, Krznaric looks at history as a choose-your-own-adventure compendium of do’s as well as don’ts.
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Here’s a direct link to the article.
To learn more about Maria Popova, please click here.