Brain Food #610

To be open to the world

Thoughts of the day

The paradox of a happy state is that it may take years to reach and moments to lose. Beyond the concept of hedonic adaptation, there is also the mere fact that there are so many things beyond one’s control that can determine our path. Life is uncertain and ever-changing. The wealth of choices that it presents us with, in anything from items on a restaurant menu to life partners, will always leave just enough room for not knowing whether there was a better option waiting for us. We chase goals and, by the time we achieve them, we may not remember why we were after them in the first place.

The world is set up in such a way that it leaves no choice for anyone in it but to take risks in the face of uncertainty, if they are willing to push life a little further. And to take risks is also to have trust - not necessarily blind trust in others, but trust in the universal truth that uncertainty exists for everyone, and that to move forward means to take our eyes off the finish line that is faintly visible in the distance, and to expand our field of vision to what is near and around us.

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote that to be a good human being is to be open to the world:

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.”

Perhaps this would explain the ongoing fascination of painters with plants, particularly flowers, their most delicate and ephemeral parts, which open up despite their fragile nature.