Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

The Way of the Warrior – Final

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How can we live like warriors?

Throughout the past four months, we’ve been exploring different warrior traditions, starting from the very beginning in one of the oldest cultures on Earth, we thematized the battles we go through in our daily lives.

Passing through ancient Japan, we saw how important discipline and the acceptance of death can be if we want to live fully.

After a quick turn to the vikings in pre-christian Scandinavia, we saw the bonds that are created and must be upheld to succeed in dire times and hostile environments.

It’s time we broaden our sights and, instead of observing single cultures and clans, we start looking at warriors as a whole. It’s time we abstract the intricacies of each of those people so we can understand what it means to fight, understand what it means to dedicate our lives to something bigger than ourselves, understand what it means to be a warrior.

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

13838If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s taking a mundane task and idealizing it to something borderline magical.

It should come as no surprise that I absolutely loved this book. Granted, I’m into woodworking, DIY, architecture and philosophy, all things this book is based on, but I feel that this book will be appreciated even by people who only like one or two of those things.

Pollan takes upon himself to build a writing house, a place he can retreat to and work. With no carpentry skills whatsoever–he is after all a journalist–he hires a contractor to help him through it and tells the story of the building in the book.

It’s a perfect mix of “first X then Y” and philosophy. It’s not a handbook on how to build a cabin, but rather I’d consider it a type of “essay” on what a cabin like that means. What the construction means, what hard work means.

It’s incredibly motivational, and if I first came across this book when doing research on how to build furniture, it incentivized me to go beyond that and someday in the future build my own cabin.

It’s your fault

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Living in the (pardon my French) shithole I have been for roughly the past year has made me realize several things, the latest of which probably being the most important to take to the future.

And let me preface it by saying that I’m loving it here.

The latest thing I realized came from a conversation with my flatmate. I realized something that I’ve always known and believed, but probably never “got.”

Service

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“We offer service, there’s no higher purpose.”
“Than pumping gas?”
“Service to others.”

To help pay the bills, I’ve been working as a waiter for some time while going through my schooling. The salary isn’t particularly good, has me on my feet for several hours and whenever I could rest a little, I’m sent home so the restaurant doesn’t have to pay me any extra hours.

My experience isn’t far from the conditions most waiters find at most restaurants. The hours suck, your social life is compromised and you can be sure that whenever you’re inside, you’ll be running around doing something. The customers? Some better, some worse.

Everyone knows all of that subconsciously, we’ve all been in a restaurant at one point in our lives and it’s not too hard to form a picture, which is why everyone is surprised when I mention that yes, I do like working there and if I’m running around with a smile on my face, that’s not for tips, it’s because I’m enjoying it immensely.

“I’m serving others,” it’s my argument, which is always met with skeptical looks and phrases like “for money,” “you’re just bringing them drinks,” or “you’re too idealistic.” I won’t argue with any of that, I am doing it for money, technically I am just bringing them drinks and I am very much an idealist, thank you.

I think a fair amount of idealism is even necessary at times. I like the idea that we can put as much meaning as we want into whatever we do and if that helps me treat the customers better, or live better in general, I’ll be doing exactly that.

The beauty of service is that it leaves us vulnerable and as a direct result of that, makes us a lot more human. In serving, we put ourselves at other people’s disposal and allow them to guide us. A more extreme case of that service was seen in the Way of the Warrior series, in warriors serving their leaders and putting their lives in line for that, but not all service has to be like that.

Just like not all service has to be while working under the umbrella term of “service.” We can serve when a friend asks us for help, we can serve when we see someone going through a tough time, we can even serve by being good students or good citizens.

Just like how we should create instead of only consume, we should all serve and not only be served.

Onism

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“I just feel like there’s not enough time to do everything I’d want to.”

This was a sentence smack down in the middle of an email I received from a good friend a few days ago. I think it’s something we can all relate to. It’s difficult to find time to do everything when there are so many interesting and exciting opportunities popping up everywhere we go. For someone just starting their 20s, the world can be a little scary even. We can get paralyzed by the sheer amount of possibilities we have. What to study, where to study, whether or not to study… Those are all things constantly in our minds. Maybe taking another gap year is the smart thing to do. Maybe then, if we wait a year more, we’ll be absolutely sure of what we want and things will be easier. Maybe then we’ll be a little more grown up, more responsible, things will be clearer.

Well I’m actually very happy to say that that’s not the case more often than not. I started writing that “I hate to say it” but deleted it because I don’t hate to say it. I think that’s wonderful.

As I replied to the email, “I think there’s a certain beauty to it, that we get to choose.” That we have to choose, even. If we had all the time in the world, if doing everything there is to do were possible, life would be a lot less interesting. People would be a lot less interesting.

We’re composed of everything we’ve experienced. Of every conversation we’ve had. Of every book we’ve read. Of everything we’ve done. If people didn’t need to choose, if they could do everything there’s to be done, why would we need to communicate? Why would we need to exchange ideas, to live in a society even?

It’s always a pleasure to come across people who agree with me, to come across people who will nod and say “that’s what I’ve been saying all along.” That makes for great friendships, of course. However, if there’s one thing I like much more than that, it’s to come across someone who won’t agree with me on almost anything. To come across someone who will shake their head and say “no, I see it differently.” If the whole world were made of people who went through the same experiences, life would be boring.

There’s no way to see how each of our choices will impact our future, the only thing we can do is choose what sounds more fun, interesting or what we think will lead us to where we wanna go. Maybe the path is completely different from what we thought, but it was a choice, and we made it. There’s no objective best choice on what to do with our lives. What defines us is what we make out of our experiences.

I said to my friend that “there’s a certain beauty to that, we can only explore so much, we can only see so much, so it’s our utmost duty to fill these things with as much meaning as we can. To stand by our choices and to not waste time regretting it or thinking that ‘we should have done it differently.’”

I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of where I stand today. I do wish I had done a few things differently in the past, but ultimately, having done things differently might not have put me here, now.

So stop wasting your time regretting and start walking. The path becomes clearer and clearer, choose, and make the most of each situation life gives you. After all, you only live once (I’m so, so sorry).

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