Learn more about philosophy with this collection
How to create a cosy and comfortable home environment
How to cultivate a sense of gratitude and contentment
The benefits of slowing down and enjoying simple pleasures
What does it mean to learn how to live? Where does one even begin? The existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Everything in the world has been figured out, except how to live.” My interview with Nate Anderson (author of In Emergency, Break Glass) discussed how to live — according to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all… I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.
Similarly, the psychologist Viktor Frankl explained in his book Yes to Life (published after his death) that to say yes to life is meaningful and possible under all circumstances. Anderson writes, For Nietzsche, the point of life is not to get through content; it is not to master knowledge. “It is to learn how to live. And then to actually live.”
According to Nietzsche, learning begins with self-knowledge. “That’s the heart of the approach that Nietzsche develops toward knowledge: Know yourself,” writes Anderson. Know your limits and embrace them. Reject the burden of any information that does not contribute to living your life.
Nietzsche’s information management theory emphasizes slow reading, rereading, not reading — even forgetting. To truly live, we must be willing not to know many things. Likewise, a previous piece on Knowing the Basic Rules for Life discussed Leo Tolstoy’s advice on sticking to the basics:
“It is better to know several basic rules of life than to study many unnecessary sciences.”
Learning to live is a call to action for Nietzsche. “The call to stop sitting in the shade,” observes Anderston, “to stop being a spectator to one’s own life, to think, to speak, to live.” An ingredient in this call to action is a goal or meaning for life. In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche advised,
"In a journey, we commonly forget its goal. Almost every vocation is chosen and entered upon as means to an end, but is continued as the ultimate end. Forgetting our purpose is the most frequent form of folly."
Saying yes to life requires us to begin understanding ourselves and our reason for living. Nietzsche stressed that we could not return to the past. “We have burned the boats; all that remains is for us to be brave and let happen what may. Let us only go forward, let us make a move!”
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