Another Year of Living Deliberately

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The Year of Living Dangerously is a romantic drama film directed by Peter Weir. It stars Linda Hunt as a Chinese-Australian man with dwarfism, a role for which Hunt won the 1983 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 88% rating. Film critic Roger Ebert  gave the film four out of four stars. Weir was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.

I am enjoying the (fairly light) essays on Thoreau in the edited volume Now Comes Good Sailing and so I could not resist the title of this post, as another year is coming to an end.

Since I love movies (and am ecstatic that WBCN and The American Revolution played on over 125 PBS channels last month), let me open with (NYTimes chief film critic) A.O. Scott’s The Apples of His Eye:

He is defiantly impractical, and delights in taking seriously objects and activities that seem trivial.

I am maximally inverse in the sense that my posts delight in being playful about (and trivializing) activities (NSF Distinguished Lecture), publications (God: Omni-Channel Retailer), supply chain engagements (The Big Shortage)  and initiatives (Committee on Fair Organ Allocation) that are considered serious (Liquid Biopsy, Split Liver Transplantation), in line with Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Playful):

Life is too important to be taken seriously.

Since I also love physics (especially 2020 Tayur Prize and Quantum Queuing, and thrilled that we have been invited to contribute to Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A), let me next highlight Alan Lightman’s To a Slower Life:

Creativity thrives on unstructured time, on play, on “divergent thinking,” on unpurposed ramblings through the mansions of time…Replenishment of mind comes from doing nothing in particular, from taking long walks without destination…It was described as early as 1500 BCE in the meditation traditions of Hinduism.

Of course, I could not resist fusing movies and physics in Noir Physics (and Pulp Physics).

Pico Iyer in My Guidebook to Japan:

It was Thoreau who had nudged me awake by simply stating that he did not wish to die having found that he had not lived….I moved on to the fourteenth-century monk Kenko, whose book on reflections, translated as Essays in Idleness, had a title that Thoreau (like Whitman) would gladly have borrowed.

And, indeed, Bertrand Russell did: In Praise of Idleness.

Geoff  Wisner in Is it Worth the While?

In Walden, Thoreau marks certain ideas, projects, or experiences as worth the while. These are the things whose value measures up to the amount of life they cost. In a life lived deliberately, Thoreau hoped to gain fresh perspectives. For Thoreau as for Kierkegaard, travel was trivial unless it changed the traveler.

Proust felt similarly, of course. And, so did I in My History of Eternity.

Of course, I do not agree with several assertions Thoreau has made, especially as an Academic Capitalist amused at SPACs and enjoying his KaRmA, notably:

Trade curses everything it handles.

No. I do agree with him on the broader principle that it is worth asking (as Stacey Vanek Smith put it in Dolittle’s Rebellion):

Is it worth for me to spend my time, energy, efforts here?

Refreshingly, Rafia Zakaria in The Fragility of Solitude, quoting Louisa May Alcott’s irreverently titled Apple Slump (1879), questions the philosophy (as I did somewhat in Weston Brahmin):

I found a verse that encapsulated how I actually would have felt about the self-absorbed men who made up the Philosopher’s Camp.

Philosophers sit in their sylvan hall

And talk of the duties of man,

Of chaos and cosmos, Hegel and Kant,

With the Oversoul well in the van.


All on their hobbies they amble away,

And a terrible dust they make;

Disciples devout both gaze and adore,

As daily they listen and bake.

What am I looking forward to, next week, before the holidays? The initial presentations from five IIT-Madras undergraduate student groups competing for:

2021 Tayur Prize.

The winners will be announced in early 2022. Happy Holidays, everyone!




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