Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It.
Wisdom of the Great Philosophers on How to Live
By Daniel Klein
Is life meaningless and everything we do futile?
Well, I don’t have the answers to much of anything in life, but I do know that reading Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It by Daniel Klein feels neither meaningless nor futile. Quite the opposite.
I just reread it and loved it just as much as the first time I read it a few years ago. It is charming, amusing, and wise.
Some fifty years ago, Daniel Klein began jotting down philosophical quotes and in this book he goes through them again, adding his own reflections and musings, anecdotes, and memories. He’s able to elucidate complex ideas in an entertaining manner, and the book is worth reading just for the essay on Wittgenstein’s quote alone. And for Derek Parfit’s thought experiments, which may drive you half mad. (Maybe something to bring up at the next dinner party…?) And, and, and—just read the book.
I really liked that the ideas range from one extreme to the other: from the bible to a particle physicist, ancient Greek philosophers to modern day thinkers, hedonism to “Mr. Melancholia” (Schopenhauer).
“The art of life lies in taking pleasures as they pass, and the keenest pleasures are not intellectual, nor are they always moral.” Aristippus
“Life oscillates like a pendulum, back and forth between pain and boredom.” Arthur Schopenhauer
Reading it is kind of a mental roller-coaster ride in the best possible way (meaning that it’s exhilarating, not that it might make you feel ill!). Also, you do not have to know a single thing about philosophy in order to thoroughly enjoy this book; in fact it would be a perfect introduction to philosophical thought. It’s one that can be read over and over again because it feels somehow nourishing for the brain and there’s also something comforting about it.
“Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.” Ludwig Wittgenstein