The Antidote

I’ve always been a massive fiction reader – Kate Atkinson, Alan Bradley, Austin, Huxley, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George, Lisa Jewell, Liane Moriarty, Anita Shreve, David Mitchell, Peter Carey (just looked at my bookshelves now) – so it is a huge surprise to me to look at this blog and see mostly non-fiction books.

I wonder if it is because I don’t want to get all “book club” and start reviewing books? I just like noting down interesting ideas I’ve read in books – and those ideas mostly come from non-fiction.

Anyway, a recent read was The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman.

Ideas that resonated with me from this book:

  • What would Seneca do?” – Oliver discusses stoicism and the idea that “It is essential to grasp a distinction here between acceptance and resignation: using your powers of reason to stop being disturbed by a situation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to change it“.
    • I love the bit where he deliberately talks out loud on the tube to face his fears. I love the idea of this, but I don’t know if I could actually do it.
  • The storm before the calm” – He attends a week long meditation retreat. I long to do this. But it does sound scary.
  • “Goal crazy” – How pursuing a single goal (being rich) at the expense of multiple goals/a well-rounded life makes you miserable.
  • “The safety catch”– the difference between the “theatre of safety” (airport security) and things that really will keep you safe (surveillance of terrorist groups).
    • Often the worrying is worse than the reality.
  • “Memento Mori”.

Imagine you are eighty years old… then complete the sentences:
I wish I’d spent more time on….
I wish I’d spent less time on….

This turns out to be a surprisingly effective way to achieve mortality awareness in short order. Things fall into place. It becomes far easier to follow Lauren Tillinghast’s advice – to figure out what, specifically, you might do in order to focus on life’s flavours, so as to improve your chances of reaching death having lived life as fully and as deeply as possible.

I just want to bookmark it, highlight it and practice so much of this book.

Might have to read it again.