Arguments for the Intense Life
I was talking with a friend about how different of a person he thinks I am today as compared to five years back. In that conversation, he mentioned this:
[6:53 PM, 8/20/2021] But i think beneath that hasnt changed much
[6:53 PM, 8/20/2021] Ok you werent as obsessed w speedrunning your life
[6:53 PM, 8/20/2021] But there were defo signs of that
[6:53 PM, 8/20/2021] Even in s4 lmao
As compared to five years back, my life now is definitely more intense. I was a high school student back then and my world around me was the school. But now, as a college student, I feel the rest of the world approaching. The problems I can solve are no longer limited to just questions on an exam paper — I feel ready to take on challenges for the world-at-large. This sense of empowerment is somewhat intoxicating, and it is what makes me live my life rather intensely.
So, here are three arguments for the intense life.
Optimizing for least regret
We make plans that span over multiple time periods. What am I going to do today? What’s my schedule for the week? What’s my plan for the year? Where do I hope to end up in ten years?
In making these plans, we have to optimise for some sort of metric. What informs my decisions? What do I value? In this, my decisions ask the fundamental question: Which decision am I least likely to regret in the future?
We all know too well the feeling of the wasted year. Even at the age of 22 — just over a quarter of the average life expectancy in my country — I’ve had wasted years that sting a bit when I think about them. So I optimise for least regret, which more often than not results in a pretty intense life.
Now is almost always the best time
Or alternatively — later is almost always a worse time.
Later is insidious, and it often turns out to be never. Often I make plans for the future and they rot away in the backlog. Next month may be a better time, but it only is better ceteris paribus. So I’ve come to think that the best way of doing the things I want to do is to do them now.
This way of thinking also helps me to overcome static friction. When trying to push a block on a level surface, it actually takes more force to start moving the block than to continue moving the block in motion. The activation energy needed to start on something is a lot bigger of a roadblock than it seems on the surface.
So how I do things is similar to implementing my to-do’s in a stack rather than a queue. Instead of procrastinating because the next item in the queue is a turn-off, I blaze through the things I want to do because there are tasks with actual deadlines further down the stack.
So this makes for a pretty intense life.
Mastery takes time
Understanding is hard. Our understanding of the world and the systems we have created are becoming increasingly complex over time.
This means that within a lifetime, the proportion of the world’s knowledge that we can obtain is getting smaller and smaller. To learn a field to a meaningful degree, it would take a considerable amount of time to dive deep into the vast pool of knowledge.
There’s only so much of life to know about so little of the world we live in. And even with our best efforts, one person can only do so much to expand the world’s knowledge. So we have to work on understanding the world everyday, bit by bit, and trying to make everyday meaningful like that makes for a pretty intense life.
As medical technology improves, our lifespans are increasing, but the world around us is expanding at a much, much faster rate. So in light of our finite lifes, the best we can do is to live as much of it as possible.
Bonus: Maxing out at 25 bookshelves
I started reading when I was 20 and the average life expectancy in my country is 83.5 years. If I read an average of a book a week for the rest of my life, that works out to about 3,300 books that I can read in my lifetime. In the following bookshelf, you can see about 130 books. This means that in my lifetime, I will only be able to read about 25 of these bookshelves. that doesn’t seem like a lot. Better start now.