At times … I wish I could meet in a duel the man who killed my father and razed our home, expelling me into a narrow country. And if he killed me, I’d rest at last, and if I were ready — I would take my revenge!
But if it came to light, when my rival appeared, that he had a mother waiting for him, or a father who’d put his right hand over the heart’s place in his chest whenever his son was late even by just a quarter-hour for a meeting they’d set — then I would not kill him, even if I could.
Likewise … I would not murder him if it were soon made clear that he had a brother or sisters who loved him and constantly longed to see him. Or if he had a wife to greet him and children who couldn’t bear his absence and whom his gifts would thrill. Or if he had friends or companions, neighbours he knew or allies from prison or a hospital room, or classmates from his school … asking about him and sending him regards.
But if he turned out to be on his own — cut off like a branch from a tree — without a mother or father, with neither a brother nor sister, wifeless, without a child, and without kin or neighbours or friends, colleagues or companions, then I’d add not a thing to his pain within that aloneness — not the torment of death, and not the sorrow of passing away. Instead I’d be content to ignore him when I passed him by on the street — as I convinced myself that paying him no attention in itself was a kind of revenge.
– Taha Muhammad Ali, Palestinian poet His poem Revenge is beautifully read by himself in Arabic and by Peter Cole in English here. Thank you Diti Ronen for sharing this deeply touching poem.
One of the most significant and deeply moving photographs of all times was taken 50 years ago, on Christmas Eve in 1968. The first image taken by an astronaut of this inconceivable ‘blue marble in black ink’ rising over the lunar surface was taken from Apollo 8.
The Ancient Greeks resolutely did not believe that the purpose of life was to be happy; they proposed that it was to achieve Eudaimonia, a word which has been best translated as ‘fulfilment’.
What distinguishes happiness from fulfilment is pain. It is eminently possible to be fulfilled and – at the same time – under pressure, suffering physically or mentally, overburdened and, quite frequently, in a tetchy mood. This is a psychological nuance that the word happiness makes it hard to capture; for it is tricky to speak of being happy yet unhappy or happy yet suffering. However, such a combination is readily accommodated within the dignified and noble-sounding letters of Eudaimonia.
The word encourages us to trust that many of life’s most worthwhile projects will at points be quite at odds with contentment and yet worth pursuing nevertheless. Properly exploring our professional talents, managing a household, keeping a relationship going, creating a new business venture or engaging in politics… none of these goals are likely to leave us cheerful and grinning on a quotidian basis. They will, in fact, involve us in all manner of challenges that will deeply exhaust and ennervate us, provoke and wound us. And yet we will perhaps, at the end of our lives, still feel that the tasks were worth undertaking. Through them, we’ll have accessed something grander and more interesting than happiness: we’ll have made a difference.
“For more than four decades, astronauts from many cultures and backgrounds have been telling us that, from the perspective of Earth orbit and the Moon, they have gained such a vision. There is even a common term for this experience: ‘The Overview Effect’, a phrase coined in the book of the same name by space philosopher and writer Frank White. It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us become less important and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this ‘pale blue dot’ becomes both obvious and imperative. Even more so, many of them tell us that from the Overview perspective, all of this seems imminently achievable, if only more people could have the experience!”
Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University, June 2005:
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.