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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Impermanence

You will die. Everybody you love will die. People will change, grow old, and leave you. Girls you are dating will marry other men. The world won't care about you in 50 years.

These are difficult-to-swallow truths. Our minds protect us from negative thoughts and emotions. People know these things intellectually, but fear embracing them emotionally.

However, once you fully realize this, it yields an immense power over yourself and your interpretation of the world. Dare I say, it will make you happier.

"First you've gotta know - not fear, know - that someday you're gonna die."
-Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Think about high school. At the time, the social structure of high school seemed immensely important. If you were like most people, it essentially defined your social life at the time. Fast forward 10, 20 years to a reunion. Does it matter anymore? No, of course not.

But that's not just high school. Whatever is going on in your life, and your job, at the current moment seems like the most important thing in the world. It's not. If you left work for a week, there's a very good chance the company would carry on just fine without you for that week.

Others' impressions of you will likely not matter at all in 10 years.

You go to a bar. Who cares if the girl rejects you? It doesn't matter. In 20 years she will not look as good, and she might will have no value to you and very little impact on your life.

If your friends are mad at you for something petty, it does not matter. People will come and go in your life, people will grow old, and die.

I'm not purposefully trying to be morbid, but rather simply reiterate the point that the things you think "matter" right now, don't. Use that frame to free your mind. Embrace your own selfish desires. Don't care so much what others think unless you need to work on improving your reputation for your own goals.

Once you internalize the fact that the most important things in your life are impermanent, you'll start to be much happier. You'll complain less, you'll let things roll off your shoulder that used to bother you, you'll grow more as a person, and you'll free your mind.

Suggested Readings

  • Natural Red Game - Do It For Your Own Mind: "Reflect on the fact that everyone you care about will die, and the deaths will pile up more and more as you get older. You must prepare for this psychologically in advance in order to avoid ego-based devastation."
  • Dukkha: "The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent"

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