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3 Wonderfully Inspiring Lessons Learned from Classic Literature

3 Wonderfully Inspiring Lessons Learned from Classic Literature

Study the classics, they say, but make your own rules. In a similar tone, Edgar Degas claims that “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” If the reader is indeed the one who writes the story by filling in the blanks with his own intellect, imagination and sentiment, then no literature piece is ever fully red, nor fully written.

Instead of being fossilized, forever closed structures with a single, universal moral, classic books have the power of opening themselves toward the world. If there’s anything universal about them, it’s the innate, deeply human truth that makes them applicable to every age and culture, and most importantly, to each of our lives.

So, let me ask you a question: when was the last time you drank vodka with Dostoyevsky? Sure, we’ve all had our fair share of “Crime and Punishment” during our high school years, but I dare you to pay another visit to poor Rodya!

Now that your consciousness – which envelopes both your self-awareness and understanding of the world – has fully developed, this failed overman will teach you a couple of life tricks more. First, you’ll be surprised at how many things you never understood in your mind’s youth; then, you’ll realize that Dostoevsky is every bit as hardcore as our modern Burroughses and Bukowskis.

Overwhelmed by pure ingenuity, elevated by a pageantry of style, you’ll see yourself anew.

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1. The Iliad: What Life is Really About

    Now, you can start your journey at the beginning, in the formidable company of one Gilgamesh, but the Plant of Heartbeat will keep slipping away. In consolation, you’ll learn a thing or two about immoderation, the power of twinship and inevitability of death; though born god-like, we all die as humans that we are. Similar, if not the same, is the destiny of your first companion, Achilles.

    Assuming you hadn’t dozed off at the English class in question, you’ll likely remember that one of the major themes in Homer’s Iliad is a quest for everlasting glory. A thirst for Kleos urges both our hero and his counterpart, Hector, though their reasons greatly differ. While the latter acts in the name of family, love and honour, Achilles does it all for the immortality. And, for the sake of immortality, he slaughters them all.

    The next time we encounter him, the glorified warrior claims he’d rather “follow the plow as thrall to another man, one with no land allotted him and not much to live on, than be a king over all the perished dead”. Without going deeper into the analysis of the Odyssey from which this quote is taken, I’ll remind you of this – the restless Odysseus finds him in the Underworld, deeply disappointed in his life choices.

    The moral is quite simple, yet universal and omnipresent: whenever you lust to achieve, take it slow. The ultimate victory – be that an everlasting legacy or not – is meaningful only when shared with your loved one (Briseis), your friends (Patroclos) and your family (Peleus), so be sure not to lose them in the process.

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    2. Hamlet: It’s the Thought that Counts

      What is the value of life in the face of death, and can human beings achieve immortality are questions old as time. To question ourselves and what surrounds us, however, is not only our prerogative, but our very nature; even when unanswered, questions compel us to grow and spread inwards and outwards alike. That’s why our quest for lessons to live by continues with the prince of inquisition himself, Hamlet.

      The madman that he is, Shakespeare’s Hamlet truly makes you wonder. The reasons we failed so gloriously to understand the significance of the world’s most contemporary drama are the very reasons behind Hamlet’s own flounder – the uncertainty of knowledge and the complexity of what makes it actionable. Is there any way of knowing the truth with utmost confidence? Are our own thoughts as elusive as the meaning itself? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, meanwhile, and the evil prevails.

      Hamlet’s indecisiveness is understood too lightly and misunderstood too often. Rather than a lack of action, it implies the inner schism that tortures us all – are we heavenly beings or predestined fallers, inherently good or inclined to evil, human or dancers? Whatever the ambivalence, the reconciliation of contradictory wholes, as always, lays within a thought. The greatest critical thinker of them all, Hamlet chooses not to act until he fathoms the naked truth, if there is any at all.

      No lecturer is more monumental than Shakespeare, nor will there ever be one, and the lessons from Hamlet will only continue to pile up with time. For the time being, take the ultimate one: the world is endlessly complex, governed not only by reason, but emotions, psychology and ethics as well; the only way to glance at the truth is to think and evaluate. Only then, your actions are justified.

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      3. Anna Karenina: In Pursuit of Fulfilment

        Speaking of uncertainties, has there ever been a bigger one than Anna Karenina? The debates will never end. Rather than the most popular one (“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”), two other quotes from Tolstoy’s saga stir up the discussion.

        Throughout all interpretations, Anna Karenina stays the ultimate novel about marriage as the epitome of love and the (im)possibility of happiness and harmony: “Man survives earthquakes, epidemics, the horrors of disease, and agonies of the soul, but all the time his most tormenting tragedy has been, is, and will always be, the tragedy of the bedroom.” To compensate, like Stiva and Dolly (thesis), break molds like Anna and Vronsky (antithesis) or to seek marriage in love and love in nature like Levin and Kitty (synthesis), that is the question.

        Though choices are different for all characters, the pursuit of the other half is the same and eternal. A human life is nothing but a never-ending yearning for partnership and fulfillment, regardless of where, when and how. Both Anna and her long lost brother Levin linger in stark discontent, but while she gets terribly lost in her pursuit, he eventually finds his furrow. What makes them the same is the love that’s absolute and, more importantly, pure.

        So, should we judge our Anna or not? “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”, cites Tolstoy. Karenina’s motives may be pure, but her actions are soiled with blind, selfish determination. Love is a force of harmony, not destruction, and that’s only the main of many Tolstoy’s life lessons. We all bear or crosses and it’s not ours to judge, would be the second.

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        And, there you go – the true meaning of life, the vast importance of thought and the true nature of love are the three most vital lessons in the universe. Seemingly simple, they move us forward, compel us to search for the reason behind it all. Rather than lessons, these classical thoughts stand as a foundation that our humanity has been built upon.

        Along with Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”, which reminds us that “Manuscripts don’t burn”, thus introducing the question of art and its all-prevailing eternity, Camus’s “The Stranger” that argues that the ultimate freedom lies in acceptance of existence as it is, however, absurd or meaningless in the face of the universe it may be, and many, many others, the likeliness of Achilles, Hamlet and Anna Karenina hold the key to a simple, ruminated and fulfilled life. Ultimately, that’s everything we could ever wish for.

        Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/yIMy3ERBc3o via pexels.com

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        Aleksandar Ilic

        Blogger, Social Media Butterfly, Guitarist

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        Last Updated on February 18, 2019

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

        Why is this so critically important to you?

        The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

        Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

        1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

        Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

        When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

        • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
        • The man facing the judge.
        • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
        • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
        • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
        • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

        These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

        Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

        Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

        2. Accept Your Fear

        Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

        We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

        And here’s what can be done.

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        3. Get Some Perspective

        I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

        And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

        That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

        We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

        So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

        • Are you really at risk?
        • Will this kill you?
        • Which leads us on to..
        • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

        4. Hold a Hand

        As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

        Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

        We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

        Ask yourself:

        • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
        • Could that really happen?
        • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
        • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

        By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

        5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

        This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

        Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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        The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

        It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

        For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

        Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

        6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

        I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

        Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

        Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

        Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

        Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

        Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

        7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

        Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

        I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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        It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

        One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

        Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

        It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

        8. Assume the Worse

        If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

        Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

        • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
        • Think about how they feel about champagne?
        • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

        And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

        When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

        Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

        9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

        If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

        Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

        Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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        10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

        One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

        11. Go with Fear

        When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

        I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

        Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

        One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

        However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

        We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

        12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

        And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

        The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

        What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

        13. Own Your Fear

        Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

        We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

        You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

        More Resources About Fighting Fear

        Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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