Living via Eternal Recurrence


Eternal recurrence means that every time you choose an action, you must be willing to choose it for all eternity. And it is the same for every action not made, every stillborn thought, every choice avoided. And all unlived life will remain bulging inside you, unlived through all eternity. And the unheeded voice of your conscience will cry out to you forever. (When Nietsche Wept, Yalom)

This excerpt from Irvin D. Yalom’s novel highlights a framework of being that one can consider paramount to existence, and I, in fact, do. Now, we all have our own ways of discerning between one option versus another, but when it comes down to it, Yalom—who teaches psychiatry at Stanford University—nails it on the head for me.

In fact, reassuringly, Steve Jobs approached life in a similar fashion. In his commencement speech to Stanford’s class of 2005, Jobs announced how he looks himself in the mirror every morning and asks: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” He claimed that starting each day like that since he was 17 allowed him to constantly survey his innermost feelings, for when he answered that question with a string of “No”, he knew he needed to change something.

Now, whether or not you already practice this exercise, I implore you to come up with something that works for you on a personal level; something that allows you to recognize any incongruity between what puts your life in harmony and what creates an imbalance. I know creating a better world starts at the individual level, and the more each of us aligns the life we live with the life we have always envisioned living, the better off our communities will become.

Of course, the realist in me must admit that the very idea of community necessarily means we must make sacrifices for its betterment. However, consider this: Why must we always choose to do that which we are not perfectly aligned with? Why shouldn’t one consider what she can do today to start changing her life, steering it back toward her personal Polaris, or North Star? Who better to determine one’s destiny than that person who can mine the recesses of the soul and speak a truth that none other can?

If you love your partner, your job, your vitality, your spirituality, and your general environment, excellent—take responsibility and know that you created those situations. If any of these areas need some work, excellent, as well—take responsibility and know that you created these situations all the same. Ultimately, we must all come to terms with the choices we make, and, as Yalom so poignantly points out in his novel, when we decide to do one thing, we necessarily banish all other possibilities and all other realities into oblivion, non-existence. Knowing this, can we not start making small choices that promote our own well-being, at least a little more often than before?

So, consider what you must do to address your most basic of needs, however you define those. Then, start seriously questioning what truly impassions you and lay out a path of possibilities that will get you there.

Let go, and set forth.


James Lani, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Statistics Solutions

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