I don’t suspect I need to tell any of my readers about the recent terror attacks in Paris, France. If you are unaware of the horrific events of November 13, 2015, I recommend checking this link to get some context. My heart goes out to those affected by those dreadful crimes. Society needs to work harder to prevent similar threats. I have ideas about how we might do that with education—not war—but I’ll save those thoughts for another essay.
Terrorism compels me to write about something less obvious. Acts of war and natural disasters remind me to appreciate the mundane. Dictionary.com defines mundane as, “common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative,” and, “of or relating to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven.” The word commonly carries a negative connotation. No one wants to be mundane.
I argue that it is commonplace events which make life worth living. How often do we forget family members we don’t see regularly, or argue with a lover about things that don't really matter? What if one of your kin died during the attacks on Paris? How would their death impact your appreciation for the tedium of everyday existence? Would you enjoy life more?
These questions, while morbid, are worth asking. I often remind myself of life’s impermanence. I say things like, “Your girlfriend, Kate, is human. Remember that she may die before you. Use this knowledge as motivation to fully treasure each moment with her.” Thoughts like this are nothing new. They are just one component of Stoic philosophy, established in the early 3rd century BC. The philosopher, William B. Irvine describes it well in this podcast appearance. Pondering future calamities helps us embrace our current situation and better handle the adversities that inevitably befall us.
I recommend regularly thinking about worst case scenarios. Don’t avoid misfortune, because eventually hardship finds each of us. Doing these sorts of exercises makes you less fearful and more prepared for an uncertain future. I’m reminded of this quote from famed author, Salman Rushdie, “How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.” These are words to live by.