Time Capsule #82
On the paradox of choice, Bordeaux, and finding one's own answers.
Welcome to the Time Capsule — a weekly newsletter that serves as both my public journal and personal scrapbook. I write about the things on my mind and close to my heart in hopes that those who read it find value and enjoyment in it, and perhaps some solace too.
💭 Quote(s) of the Week
You cannot save anyone. You can be present with them, offer your groundedness, your sanity, your peace. You can even share your path with them, offer your perspective. But you cannot take away their pain. You cannot walk their path for them. You cannot give answers that are right for them, or even answers they can digest right now. They will have to find their own answers…
✏️ The Paradox of Choice
The paradox of choice: having many options to choose from, rather than making people happy and ensuring they get what they want, can cause them stress and problematize decision-making.
It is a privilege to live in a highly developed country in the 21st century: we have access to opportunity, safety, healthcare, and education that makes life easier for us than 99% of human beings who have ever lived. The world is our sandbox, and, as the existentialists say, we are blessed with the freedom and liberty to create our own essence in the world. But with so many options and potential futures at our fingertips, it has become more and more difficult to choose a path for oneself.
Careers, relationships, living quarters, friendships — there are so many realms of life in which we must make choices about what we commit to and what we choose to let go of. The modern individual feels pressure to conform to longstanding societal standards, but at the same time to forge their own destiny. Especially at a young age, when one’s ignorance of the world is at its highest, it is hard to know which paths to take and where to invest one’s time and energy.
Keeping one’s options open is typically considered a good choice: it gives you the most opportunities to pivot and change as you evolve and circumstances develop. But optimizing for optionality often means choosing superficial breadth in exchange for specific depth. In other words, being noncommittal allows us to dabble in every which way without reaping the true benefits that come with commitment. One cannot become a master at 5 different sports, and even the best multi-sport high school athletes come to a point where they must choose a sport to commit to if they wish to reach the highest level. The same goes for friendships, relationships, and more: to truly reap the riches that each provides, one must be willing to trade optionality for singularity and depth. These decisions are often not easy to make, and there is no right path in any specific circumstance — one must choose for themselves and allow others the right to do so as well.
As Kierkegaard said, to choose anything in life or to choose against it, either way, you will regret both: that is the essence of philosophy and the human condition.
To the greatest questions, there are no easy answers.
📸 Photo(s) of the Week
📖 Book of the Week — The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
The Decamerone, also known as The Human Comedy (Boccaccio was the one who dubbed Dante’s comedy “Divine”), is a 14th-century work that is a foundational text of classical early Italian literature. It is a collection of 100 stories told by ten noblemen and women at a villa just outside of Florence, who were seeking refuge from the ravages of the Plague; to entertain themselves, they elect a king or queen to choose a theme for the stories they tell.
Through these tales, Boccaccio masterfully describes the history, virtues, and vices of humanity — it is funny, insightful, and real at the same time. And for a medieval text, it reads quite well!
💡 Food for Thought
When you notice that you have forfeited your relationship with the truth, you are in trouble.
🔭 Sunday Best
Khadijah bint Khuwaylid — the Wikipedia page of Khadija, the “Mother of Believers”, who was the first wife and follower of the Prophet Muhammad. She was a remarkable woman: a successful entrepreneur, intelligent and industrious, she played an instrumental role in supporting the Prophet in the early days of the movement.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
Phenomenology on love and auto-affection — by Dr. Ellie Anderson. This is a conference-style presentation of her article published in the 2022 volume of Phenomenology and Perspectives on the Heart, which you can find here.