what you value most

The Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

The Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

in 29 Thoughts for 29 Years, Tom White grapples with the big questions, contemplating his life and his values, his telos.

asking the questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I?
  • What are my guiding principles?
  • What are the guiding principles of the people with whom I interact on a regular basis?
  • What would I sacrifice my life for?
  • What would the people I am closest with sacrifice their life for?
  • What is the most important thing for them?
  • How about for me?
  • Are my answers to the above questions honest or mere bullshit—dishonest balm to sooth my soul?

According to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s, maturity is the ability to pin down and articulate your values.

To be mature you have to realize what you value most.

It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own. Perhaps they have imbibed the values of their particular profession or job, of their community or their neighbors, of their parents or family.

Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.

We are only faintly aware of the habits of thoughts and behaviours that shape the course of our lives.

We don't live life, we sleepwalk through it.

To live more deliberately, he compiled 29 quotes, each striking a psychological chord, imbuing a philosophical truth, and sating an existential urge.

The highlighted ones are my favorites.

  • Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is. — Saul Bellow
  • Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. ―Rainer Maria Rilke
  • If you aren't going all the way, why go at all? — Joe Namath
  • Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is most important. — Junko Tabei
  • The things that we love tell us what we are. — Thomas Aquinas
  • You don't have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you're holding. — Cheryl Strayed
  • When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • You never know what worse luck your bad luck saved you from. — Cormac McCarthy
  • All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it. — Samuel Butler
  • My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened. — Michel de Montaigne
  • What punishments of God are not gifts? — J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Education is the lightest burden that you will ever carry. — My grandfather, John T. Landers
  • Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity. — C. S. Lewis
  • Growth and comfort do not coexist. — Ginni Rometty
  • How we spend our time is how we spend our days. How we spend our days is how our life goes. How our life goes determines whether we thought it was worth living. — Keith Yamashita
  • You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. — Rabbi Tarfon
  • What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened. — Vivian Gornick
  • A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. — Rainer Maria Rilke
  • If life teaches anything at all, it teaches that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question. — Stephen King
  • God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful. — St. Teresa of Calcutta
  • There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. — Albert Einstein
  • It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. — Albus Dumbledore by way of J.K. Rowling
  • A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man. — Mario Puzo
  • If you want new ideas, read old books. — Ivan Pavlov
  • Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. — E.L. Doctorow
  • The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. — Steven Pressfield
  • What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do, or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better. — Doris Lessing
  • Many of us wrongly jump to the conclusion that our purpose can be measured by our productivity, even though in our own lives many of our most wonderful moments do not seem to “produce” anything but love, awe, or enlightenment. — Ellen Wilson Fielding