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How to live: history as a guide
on January 14, 2012
Secular society has failed to provide us with a guide on how to live. As Krznaric suggests, the self-help literature and the psychology of happiness seem unsatisfactory and superficial. His approach, which seems so obvious and compelling once embarked upon, is to seek guidance from history. This beautiful book draws inspiration from how those before us have made sense of the things that matter most to us: love, family, empathy, work, time, money, creativity, belief, and death. Krznaric effortlessly draws on the vast richness of how people have lived in the past. We discover that despite our many forms of progress, often those before us had far deeper conceptions of how to live. Love has a far more subtle and varied form in Confucian, Buddhist and ancient Greek thought. Time, "the tyranny of the clock" which Krznaric describes, has not always been our master. Rushing to achieve more we often succeed only in experiencing and understanding less. There are wonderful alternatives, such as the Balinese concepts of "full days" and "empty days". Nothing in this book is predictable, or dull. Intriguingly, family conversation is something we have struggled with as much in the past as the present. But the ways in which we have failed, and the examples of cultures that succeed, can provide guidance. The range of sources and relevance of this book is impressive. But Krznaric keeps his erudition hidden; his wisdom comes to the fore. This book is not just a guide on how to live. Reading this book is an end in itself. It is a deep, moving, pleasure.