Impermanence And Improvement

Four thousand weeks by Oliver Burkeman is a book about admitting and embracing the finitude of the human experience. It is a reminder that your life will end and that you can’t do everything you want. It is a self-help book that tries to take a realistic look at the obstacles that productivity tries to overcome and admit: It’s impossible.

If this sounds negative, it only is negative, if you believe that life is somehow infinite. That with enough productivity tricks you will find a way to overcome the fact that there isn’t enough time, energy or opportunity to do it all. If you truly embrace this hard limit - that you can’t do it all and that you too will die and rather soon as well - it frees you to do the best you can in each moment and you won’t perpetually live in a way that tries to make a fantastical future a reality that will never come.

I thought it expressed succinctly one of my core beliefs: I have to play the hand that I was dealt and resources (and everything is a resource) are not available in endless supply. If you take these two things together, it makes sense to go for a satisficist way of life.

The book also uncovered a very important puzzle piece for me, which is that my here and now is not merely a transitory state in between the lacking status quo and an amazing future. Instead of improving things in the present moment, I would endure certain things simply because I defined my present situation as something that didn’t matter in the future.

It’s an interesting fallacy to fall into, because if you are interested in meditation (like I am), you probably have heard of the idea of impermanence, that everything is constantly changing and getting attached to impermanent things will create suffering. But living fully in the limited moments our lives have to offer also means to not simply ignore the potential the present moment holds. As long as we are open to things changing and we are not clinging to a state of affairs as if it would be permanent, then improving stuff, for now, for the joy of it, for as long as it lasts, is a good thing. In other words: There is no need to let it be.