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什么是人生必须做的事?

(2011-06-13 10:59:03)
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杂谈

 
What must I do before I die?
安东尼娅•马卡罗 , 朱利安•巴吉尼 为英国《金融时报》撰稿
 

 

The Shrink

神经医生

There are scores of books recommending places to see, books to read, music to hear, golf holes to play or watercourses to fly-fish before we die. There are even dedicated websites that assist people in ticking items off the list. You might agree that this sounds a bit excessive. But aren’t we all under an ill-defined pressure to do, see and experience more? And aren’t we all accompanied by a vague sense of inadequacy if we realise we’re not keeping up?

有许许多多的书,推荐一生必游的地方、必看的书、必听的音乐、必打的高尔夫球场球洞和飞钓必去的水域。甚至还有专门的网站,帮助人们把“必做”名单上的项目一一勾掉。你也许也会认为这听上去有点儿过分了。然而,我们都在承受着一种莫名的压力,要去做、去看、去经历更多,不是吗?如果意识到自己落后于他人,我们都会怀有一种隐隐的不称职感,不是吗?

It is sadly true that our time on earth is limited, and we’d be well advised to avoid wasting it. It has been said that instead of getting through our days doing routine things on autopilot, we should engage in new and uncomfortable experiences. These stretch our perception of time and, in a sense, our life. Then there is the research that tells us that people are happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than objects.

我们在世的时间是有限的,这是个令人遗憾的事实;因此不要浪费时间是个好建议。有人说,与其像开启了自动驾驶一样天天重复着同样的事情,我们不如投身于新的、不那么自在的体验。这样做能够拉长我们对时间的观感,并在某种意义上拉长我们的人生。此外,有研究表明,人们在体验上花钱,比买东西时更愉悦。

But we shouldn’t absorb this cultural pressure unquestioningly. How many new experiences we engage in and how often we do so should depend on our personality, values and situation. Spending our time well doesn’t always equate with doing more.

但我们不应不假思索地接受这种文化压力。投身于多少种新体验、多频繁地投入,应由我们的性格、价值观和处境所决定。好好利用时间,并不总是等同于做更多事。

For a start, if you rely on novelty to keep life interesting, you risk ending up on a perpetual treadmill, always seeking the next thrill. We should also consider the possibility of restoring some sparkle to routine things by doing them more mindfully. While a certain amount of novelty can certainly be valuable, there are other goods – simplicity, contentment and the savouring of small everyday pleasures. A rich life can be one in which a few things have been experienced deeply.

首先,如果依赖新奇感来保持生活的趣味,最终可能踩上一部永不停止的跑步机,永远在追寻下一个刺激。我们应该也思考一下是否有可能通过多花些心思,让日常事务在某种程度上重放异彩。当然,一定程度的新奇感会是有价值的,但生活中还有别的美好事物——简单、满足感、对日常小乐趣的玩味。深刻地体会少数几样事物,也可以构建一个丰富的人生。

The answer to the question of what must we do before we die, by the way, is “nothing”. Like everything else, diversity of experience will become oppressive if taken as a “must”, even if you’re the kind of person who thrives on it. We don’t have to do anything, although we might choose to do many things. On the other hand, we might just find it more satisfying to watch the blue tits in our garden, like we have done so many times before.

顺便说一句,“什么是人生必须做的事”,这个问题的答案是:没有。跟所有东西一样,当多样化的体验变成一种“必须”时,它也会变得令人难以忍受,即便你是那种喜欢多姿多彩生活的人。没有什么必须做的事情,不过我们可以选择去做许多事情。但另一方面,可能我们就是觉得,观察自家花园中的青山雀更有意思,就像以往多次做过的那样。

The Sage

圣人

The race to do as much as possible before we reach our expiry date is rooted in a justifiable desire to experience life in its fullest intensity, squeezing out as much from each second as is possible. However, as the Danish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard acutely observed, the end result of this is often a life that is empty, not full. It becomes like trying to drink from a constant flow of champagne with a sieve for a glass. The present always eludes us: the moment we try to grasp it, it has already become the past.

在“大限”到来之前,争着尽可能多做些事,这植根于一种合乎情理的渴望:将人生体验到极致,尽可能从每一秒中挤出更多内容。然而,如丹麦存在主义者索伦•克尔恺郭尔(Soren Kierkegaard)敏锐的评论:这样做的最终结果,常常是导致一个空虚、而非圆满的人生。这会变得如同试图用筛子当酒杯,去接不断流出的香槟。当下会始终躲避着我们:在我们试图抓住它的那一刻,它就已经变成了过去。

The problem is that there is a real sense in which we are trapped in what Kierkegaard called the “aesthetic” sphere of existence.

问题在于,在某种意义上,确实可以说我们被困于克尔恺郭尔所谓的“审美(也称伦理、宗教)”层次的存在。

Life is a present-tense phenomenon: we can recall the past and anticipate the future but can only be in the here and now. But that is only half the story. In another sense, we do indeed exist over time as well as at a time, through our memories, intentions and projects. Life in this “ethical” sphere requires us to attend to more than just the thrills of the moment. As any common hangover will remind us, living only for today can cause a headache tomorrow.

生活是一种“现在时”的现象:我们可以回忆过去,或展望未来,但只能活在此时、此地。但这只是问题的一方面。从另一个意义上来说,我们既存在于一个时点,也确实存在于一段时间——通过我们的记忆、意向和规划。这种“伦理”层次的存在,要求我们不能只关心当下的刺激。就像宿醉带给我们的启示那样:只管今天快活,明天就会头痛。

The person who heeds the modern imperative to do as much as possible before she dies risks becoming the Kierkegaardian aesthete par excellence. She may know that every moment has immense value, but does she know how to value it? Even the best moments of pleasure take on a different value, depending on where in a life story they come. The enjoyment of a great meal, for instance, is not just a function of chemicals in the food interacting with taste buds. It can make a big difference, even to how flavours are sensed, when, where and with whom the meal is savoured.

听从“趁活着的时候必须尽量多做些事”这种现代要求的人,可能会成为杰出的克尔恺郭尔式审美家。她也许知道,每一刻都非常珍贵,但她是否知道如何衡量每一刻的价值?甚至连最开心的那些时刻,取决于它们在人生经历中所处的位置,价值也互不相同。就拿一顿美餐来说,它带来的享受,不只是食物中的化学成分发挥作用、与味蕾互动而产生的。时间、地点、共同品味食物的人,都会导致大不相同的感受,甚至会改变口中食物的味道。

It is certainly true that we need to make the most of the short, fleeting life we have. However, to do that requires savouring the journey along the passage of time, not just making as many stops along the way as possible.

当然,我们短暂、稍纵即逝的一生的确需要好好利用。然而,好好利用,需要我们在时间的长廊里细细品味人生旅程,而不只是沿途停靠尽可能多的站点。

The Shrink & The Sage live together in south-west England

精神科医师与哲人一起居住在英格兰西南部

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