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Experience and Understanding

“If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82

I shall act as I now think—as a man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ― Charles Darwin, The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin

(Quick aside: I’ve posted a link to Darwin’s autobiography above, just know that the content is included in the Life & Letters link as well if you’re interested in reading online without purchasing.)

I read these two quotes from Darwin as the reflections of a man who realizes that life is short and all work and no play makes Charles a dull boy. Darwin was anything but dull, of course, and lived an extraordinary life full of contribution to our understanding of evolution and humanity’s place in the universe. But it seems he couldn’t summon a verse of poetry off the top of his head. We all beat ourselves up over something, don’t we?

The thing is, the accumulation of experience and seeking to understand it all are bold and beautiful acts, and transform us from soulless cogs in the machine into free-spirited humans actively engaged in living. This blog evolved from a travel blog to a living experience blog in which I process all that I encounter as best I can in the moment. Sure, I may lean in on philosophy and productivity more than the average bear, but it all counts, doesn’t it?

Clever quotes inspire us by drawing on the magic derived from a few words written or spoken by someone we might admire. I generally see a quote and wonder where it came from, seeking out the books and poetry that the line was plucked from and trying to understand the larger meaning of those magical words. In each quote above, you’ll see I’ve done just that—going beyond the famous quote to add some meaning. You can do the same by clicking on the latter link and searching for some key words in the quote to find the original. Blame it on the researcher in me: One must get to the source to truly understand the subject matter.

And here, friends, is our subject matter: Darwin understood what we all know deep down: this ride is a short one, and we ought to make the most of it. This living business is a deliberate act, and we are what we focus on. We must push aside the atrophy of a limited life and expand our experience and understanding. For that is where growth happens. We dare not waste an hour of our precious time.

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