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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 December 2, 2018

        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

        How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

        Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

        The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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        The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

        Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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        Review Your Past Flow

        Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

        Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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        Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

        Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

        Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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        Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

        Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

        We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

        Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

          Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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