Ask HN: Activity and reading to move through mid-life crisis?

49 points by markus_zhang 7 days ago

Hi friends,

Any recommendation of activities and reading for someone who is apparently going through a mid-life crisis, aside from seeing a therapist and doing more exercises?

I have some vague idea of what I would like to achieve for the rest of my life (mostly intellectual stuffs such as studying General Relativity), but there is an invisible wall standing between them and what my mind is at the moment. I also think I should setup some other goals such as family (already have a baby son) but my mind is not particularly interested in that part. Maybe it will reveal itself when time passes.

I'm also interested in any experience of anyone who apparently had a mid-life crisis but managed to go through it more or less without too much damage to themselves and their families.

Thanks.

ROTMetro 7 days ago

Failed my family in midlife, lost them all, lost everything. Here are my thoughts.

Find gratitude. Find humility. Give up ego. Shut down that voice that says 'but I deserve....'. You live better than almost all of humanity ever has. The King of France had a guy with a bucket follow him around and he would crap into it in public. You live better than the King of France. Find a way to make that enough, more than enough, to be something to be grateful for. Appreciate the gift that is your life every day. Try to not have resentment.

Impact the world through raising your child a little better than your parents did, and try to instill them raising their children a little better than you. That has true meaning, not knowledge in your head that will be lost when you are dust.

Go to any local public flower gardens and enjoy the beauty. It is as mind blowing a gift from the Universe as the principles underlying physics. And you can share the beauty of nature with your family and young child with much less effort.

Accept that NOTHING will be enough. Not understanding deep theories, not a Porsche Speedster. Not the vacations with family. Not academic praise, or 1% level riches. Turn your focus from those things you are trying to fill a hole with, and figure out why the hole is there and it's cause. You wouldn't just start putting dirt in a sync hole without understanding the cause.

Find a place where hopefully you are loved, but at the very least find a place within you to understand that you, as a person, are very much worthy of being loved.

As someone who failed the midlife crisis thing, I always go back to moments with family for strength, never to moments of 'ah ha' about some great programming algorithm or when I was in class and learned of some great discovery. General Relativity exists whether you study it or not, but those moments between Markus and those in his family that CHOSE HIM as their family, and CHOOSE to keep him family every day, those are very, very finite, and those others are choosing to GIVE their finite moments to be with YOU.

If you can not give those around you what they need, don't be a coward and wait until you fail them. Leave them now, stop stealing their finite time and energy. If that is the case, choose to be a failure, but not a failure and a thief :(

If you chose not to leave, then understand YOU CHOOSE this situation. No resentments in your head, this is your choice. You can choose to leave, but not to resent. Physical bodies change. Children come before our wants. Choose it, or leave. Don't pretend, don't steal the days of other's lives, and lie through omission.

You are halfway done with the period of time in which you can give and receive hugs. Some stupid Reddit that made me cry pointed out, at some point, you will pick up your child for the last time, then set them down and not in the moment realize that you will never pick them up again :( Make every time you pick your child up count. It is a special, finite thing, along with every other moment you have as the consciousness known as markus_zhang on HN.

  • ROTMetro 7 days ago

    Don't actually leave. That's just supposed to be an exercise to foster gratitude and get rid of resentments. Don't leave. Talk to old guys who 'toughed it out' or guys like me who failed their families if you even think of doing it.

  • muzani 7 days ago

    "at some point, you will pick up your child for the last time, then set them down and not in the moment realize that you will never pick them up again"

    I pick up my kids all the time because of this. My wife thinks I'm spoiling them, but there's a very limited period of picking them up.

    Even the span of time where they're interested in you is limited. They have a fascination with their parents in the first few months, and then they start looking at things, and a few years later, at friends, then the material world. After that, you're happy just to get a call or visit. The new generation complains that homeownership is a distant dream, but I think living with parents may be a blessing in disguise.

    • neon_electro 6 days ago

      I empathize with your point of view as far as I am a 30 year old son of a 78 year old father, and I have committed to living close to him (my mother passed 6 years ago) so that he can enjoy as many moments with me as possible before it's his time as well. I'll have the rest of my life without him to go wherever life wants to take me.

      • enviclash 5 days ago

        This is beautiful to read for any father, what do you think was crucial to build a beautiful relation like yours?

    • markus_zhang 7 days ago

      I think the best option is to live very close, but not under the same roof. Two generations usually share different schedules, ideas, etc. so it would be very useful to live close to each other for help and holidays, but not necessarily too close to cause hatred.

    • RHSman2 7 days ago

      We are the most important thing to our children. And the love and bond we create is what will decide how their lives pan out.

      The gift of unconditional love .

  • markus_zhang 6 days ago

    Man I read and I feel I want to turn my face away from it. But I know your words ring true in my heart and that's probably why I never feel comfortable for long even as I threw bone after bone to myself.

    TBH I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm kinda split and need time to think it through. Looks like it's either A or B because of limited energy.

    • zivkovicp 6 days ago

      I was going to leave a harsh comment hoping that the "tough love" sort of approach might help to get you thinking straight but I've decided against it since we don't know each other and everyone's situation is different.

      I'll just say that you need to "man up". Life is not always fun/nice/enjoyable/easy/etc. and sometimes you just have to realize that your responsibilities are more important than your feelings; especially when children are involved.

      Just know that what you're feeling is normal, it WILL pass (probably in a couple of short years), and you should resist doing anything stupid or permanent. Don't make mistakes with permanent consequences because you are going through a temporary rut.

      Exercise and socializing will likely help take the edge off.

      You have the good half of your life ahead of you, don't forget that.

      If you still need convincing, maybe a therapist is the right choice.

      Good luck friend.

      • markus_zhang 4 days ago

        Thanks. No hard feeling TBH. Actually my wife told me to man-up a few times and I know that I have always been a big kid all my life.

        It's just difficult to get rid of that personality and move into a new one.

        • zivkovicp 4 days ago

          > I know that I have always been a big kid all my life

          Same.

          You don't have to become a different person, just get yourself through the rut, don't do something you know you'll regret. This is just a passing phase.

          I’m rooting for you :)

    • ROTMetro 5 days ago

      I don't know your situation enough to add much. I can only talk to myself. Walking away is forever. When you are sick and alone. When you want to share memories about the restaurant you used to go to. About so many shared moments. Divorce is called one of the small deaths for a reason. It is a death, of everything that was, and of all future hopes and dreams that existed in that relationship. Forever gone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRcaSIMxfYg

      What you feel EVERYONE does. Realize this isn't unique to your situation, or that some other 'ideal' situation you dream about will be any different. You aren't going to feel 100% happy with your situation, ever. It's ok to buy a lottery ticket and fantasize about some unrealistic perfect life. It's probably not OK to quit putting in time and your job because your lottery fantasy seems better/easier.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mlfefNP8cw

      https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-truth-...

      • markus_zhang 4 days ago

        Thanks. I did think about quitting a few times but realized it was mostly frustration of other things that bring about that. It's a hell lot easier for me to blame the family than blaming myself when I failed to achieve something I wanted.

    • enviclash 5 days ago

      Take a very long cold shower and your survival Instinct will tell you what to do.

  • kirso 5 days ago

    This is very powerful and wholesome. Thank you!

justwannasay 7 days ago

Still going through it but it seems manageable now.

Exercise and meditation didn't work. Exercise almost daily anyways.

Here is my story:

1. Realizing that I m going through midlife crisis and it is a normal thing.

2. Giving into some minor temptations like smoking or drinking too much. Could have spiraled down but had some strict rules like doing it only socially and taking Uber.

3. Changing job, buying a new car, etc

4. Realizing none of above would help unless I go for what I really want, which while not clear but is along the lines of new career, adventures, less responsibility, sell home, move to smaller apartment, move abroad, be a student again.

5. Realizing even if I risk it all and do the above, I may still not be happy.

6. Accepting that my current responsibilities (family) is above me and provide for them.

7. Playing lotto and risky option trades in the hope of making enough to secure my family’s future. (Very small portion, not risking their family's future)

8. Waiting

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Yes I think I have realized that and acknowledged whatever I do it's going to live with me for a large portion of my life.

    2. I think I might indulge myself with some hobbies and spending. Fortunately my wife is generally fine with my hobby spending.

    3. I changed job and got a raise this year, not sure if it helped though.

    4. You nailed it! I'm doing a lot of things, but I still feel lost. What do I want? I seem to be able to name at least 10 items that I want, but do I really? I guess at least one or two of those items still hold true under such inquiry though.

    5. Could be true, time will tell. Maybe life from now on lives on uncertainty and we just have to get used to it.

    6. True for me too, although I struggled occasionally.

    7. Interesting. I also considered betting on OOM options because somehow every years there are a few chances that some of them get a huge win. Not going to say it's easy, but the point is to give myself a bit of excitement and hope.

    8. Waiting too.

simple10 7 days ago

I've been going through it as well. There are a few things that helped me so far.

1) There's a biological component where happiness follows a U curve. Mid 40's tends to bottom out on happiness then steadily increases. Useful to know since riding it out is a viable strategy. [1]

2) This translation [2] of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations is powerful as a daily reminder that no matter the year or station in life, the struggles are universal. Focusing on what's in your control and "knowing thyself" goes a long way towards fighting overwhelm.

3) Modern hypnotherapy is worth studying and possibly doing a session or two with a skilled practitioner. It's basically a shortcut for hacking into your subconscious and un-sticking negative loops without needing to spend years in therapy talking about the past. It's gained popularity in high performance communities, CEOs, athletes, etc. But important to know the more modern version is different than hypnotherapy from 10+ years ago. It's also not stage hypnotherapy. Much more like lucid dreaming where you're still completely aware. I particularly like Marisa Peer's Rapid Transformational Therapy. Her books [3] are worth reading. I can connect you with RTT practitioners or coaches if you're interested. I've worked with a few.

[1] (random link, but useful article) https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/scientists-just-discovered-mi...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Meditations-New-Translation-Marcus-Au...

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Tell-Yourself-Better-Lie-Transformati...

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks!

    1) Yeah I'm aware of the U curve. Kind of funny that I throw me a bone from time to time to keep myself having better expectation of future life down the road (Let's see if we can study General Relativity in the future -- Yes I know you are unhappy right now and does not have the will power to do any serious study, but maybe in a few years you will);

    2) I have seen the Meditations gets mentioned a few times on HN. I'll definitely buy a copy and read during night. I wonder if I have the vocabulary to listen to the audiobook (not a native English speaker) but maybe I can find one in my mother tongue;

    3) I heard about hypnotherapy from X-Files many years ago. I'm a bit scared about seeking its help because I don't know what I'm going to say during the session, could be scary. But I'll read the book first.

    Anyway thanks for the help! I hope your journey ends well and fruitful.

    • rramadass 6 days ago

      I recommend also reading the Caigentan (japanese: Saikontan). - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caigentan

      An excellent book (there are similarities to Meditations) but not that well known.

      I have two english translations; one by Robert Aitken (named Vegetable Roots Discourse: Wisdom from Ming China on Life and Living) and the other by William Scott Wilson(Master of the Three Ways: Reflections of a Chinese Sage on Living a Satisfying Life). Both are good but i am partial to the former.

    • simple10 7 days ago

      You're welcome!

      Hypnotherapy is probably not what you think. It's more like a type of guided meditation where you're awake but in a very relaxed state. This allows you to tap into parasympathetic nervous system as well as subconscious layers. At no time are you out of control or "under a spell." ;-)

  • badpun 6 days ago

    > 1) There's a biological component where happiness follows a U curve. Mid 40's tends to bottom out on happiness then steadily increases. Useful to know since riding it out is a viable strategy. [1]

    I'm not sure it's biological. I suspect it's because that's when people's lives tend to suck the most - they have all the demands of career and family, with very litle room for themselves. It would be good to study people who decided to drop out instead and see if they still follow the U curve.

    • simple10 3 days ago

      Good point. I'm not sure if there are studies that truly isolate it as biological, but there are many biological changes that start to occur that correlate with decreased happiness. For instance, testosterone tends to decline after 40.

codpiece 7 days ago

I found listening to the audiobook version of Viktor Frankel's 'Man's search for meaning' was very helpful. Funnily enough, I have read the book but got more out of the audiobook.

I know you don't want to hear more fitness, but weightlifting made a huge impact on my outlook. Try 'Starting Strength'. Getting strong makes all the little aches and pains go away and you hit new, easily-measured goals.

Finally, visiting the deathbeds of family made me realize that the only thing you carry at the end of your life is the love that you've fostered. Seeing the world through that lens truly changed me.

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks. I'm actually taking up a bit more exercises. I found that I did feel better in the days that I could muster the energy to do exercises.

    The deathbed recommendation intrigues me. I guess there is some volunteer opportunity about this? I'd love to help dying people but I'm not sure if I have the skills.

    • codpiece 7 days ago

      Try searching for "Hospice companion volunteer" opportunities in your area.

hahamrfunnyguy 7 days ago

In 2020, my wife of 12 years left me after returning home from a six-month work assignment. She let me know a few minutes after arriving home from the trip that she would like to split up. While things weren't going great with respect to our relationship, it was still quite a shock for me! I don't know if it's considered a mid-life crisis but it was a very difficult adjustment for me. I had to really think about what I was trying to get out of life.

Since then, I've started a new business based on a personal project I had been working on for a while. It is fulfilling work for me, and I believe the product is making a positive impact in people's lives. I am also scheduling time to activities and hobbies that I enjoy doing, and trying to get out in the community and volunteer.

In the summer, I have a weekly run with friends. In the winter I play in a volleyball league. I like having the scheduled activities to look forward to every week. It's a time to socialize, but also get some needed exercise too.

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad that you tread through and made some positive gains both financially and emotionally. Maybe the split even freed the mind somehow.

RHSman2 7 days ago

Spend more time with that ‘baby son’ and put more curiosity into him than General Relativity because on that thing lies more answers than you can possibly imagine.

  • markus_zhang 4 days ago

    Thanks. I began to spend more time with him since he reached 18m and started to talk a bit. I still struggle to treat it less as "work" instead of something more natural but I guess it will come along eventually.

    It's just I have so many things in my mind that I'm struggling to sacrifice any of them right now. I probably need to reassess and get rid a lot of them firmly from my mind. It's tough but I'm already working on it.

    • RHSman2 2 days ago

      I’m not gonna offer a stranger advice as I have no idea but as a 45 father of two boys (both have ADHD and one with dyslexia) I know that it is work. The bizarre thing about parenting is that the return on investment are heavily delayed. Yes, pleasure in every single activity can be achieved but it’s a mindset change. And nothing more dramatic than parenting.

      I also speak to you as a normally neurodiverse person but perhaps you have difficulty in making connection with you baby son which is outside of your control? When my children were born I feel very deeply into a love hole and have stayed there. All other dads I know feel the same so perhaps you might need to look a little harder at that?

ultrasounder 7 days ago

Went through this process exactly the same "mid-life crisis" couple of years ago. The books; The Flow-> Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Psycho-Cybernetics -> Maxwell Maltz both helped me pull through it. In my own specific case, it was a combination of lackluster jobs and our own autistic son's growth issues. I fixed my lackluster jobs by challenging myself by setting a goal. A goal to break into FAANG. I know its not the kind of goal one aspires to achieve and wakes you up from the bed. My REAL goal is FIRE(though I am in early 40s) but getting into FAANG would help accelerate that. Both of those books helped me fundamentally "reprogram " myself and gave me focus and motivation to keep chugging. I wish you the very best.

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks for the help. I see that you managed to pull yourself from the "swamp" (the crisis feels like being trapped in a swamp). I have read the first one but haven't for the second. I'll purchase, read and see what happens.

    • ultrasounder 7 days ago

      Sure. Email is in the profile if you want to ever chat about this. Yes. Swamp/Quagmire. Both are appropriate. The second one is all about setting a Goal. Your mind needs to be challenged consistently. If not you will end up in a treadmill. And the author Akins the Brain to a servo mechanism and how you use a specific goal to steer you brain. In my case a FAANG job. Maybe something else in the future.

prometheus76 7 days ago

I grew up as a Mormon and became disillusioned with that as I got older and got exposed to Eastern religions. Over time, I also became disillusioned with Eastern religions because they are ultimately nihilistic.

I found Eastern Orthodoxy, which is the perfect marriage between Christianity and mysticism. My whole life has been healed as a result of becoming (and continuing to struggle to be) an Orthodox Christian.

My life was a mess and my family was almost beyond hope. I was quickly falling towards divorce and despair. I heard about Orthodox Christianity through a few different avenues around the same time and I thought "what else do I have to lose?" I have not regretted the decision to go to church.

  • jmfldn 7 days ago

    I’m glad you found peace, and I am quite intrigued by Orthodox Christianity myself, but your characterisation of “eastern” religions as nihilistic is problematic for two reasons.

    First, “eastern”. That encompasses a vast array of cultures and traditions so it’s a bit of a meaningless label. Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh (etc) and the deep diversity within all of them. Are they all the same? Some are theistic, others pantheistic or more complex still. Non-theistic? Very different is my point and within all of these there is a a deep wealth of expressions and diversity.

    Secondly, nihilistic. This means, “rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless”. Even if you take Buddhism, a religion where god is not really part of it, and thus most open to this misunderstanding, do Buddhists eschew moral principles and say life is meaningless? Not at all. Buddhism is deeply moral at its core and has a deep vision of the good, true and transcendent.

    • AnimalMuppet 7 days ago

      I'm not an expert, but I think that Hinduism is morally nihilistic, if you go far enough. Cruelty is just as much a part of what is as non-cruelty. Kali is as much a manifestation of the divine as Vishnu is. And so you get to the point where you cannot say that cruelty is wrong compared to non-cruelty.

      • rramadass 6 days ago

        It is not that simple, there is a lot of nuance here.

        I suggest a study of Samkhya (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samkhya) whose Worldview is the basis that has most influenced the worldviews of the other systems within Hinduism. Kali/Vishnu/other popular Hindu gods are later conceptualizations meant for Popular culture. The Intellectual culture behind it is quite different.

        Samkhya defines the Purusha (consciousness) enjoying Prakrithi (everything else) through the interplay of three Gunas (characteristics).

        The imposition of a Worldview on a Social Structure is what defines Morality/Ethics/Values. Here is where "Ahimsa" i.e. "non-violence"(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahimsa) comes into play. You don't condone "cruelty" but are fully aware of its existence (in the interplay of the gunas) and take measures to control it. Kali is one of those concepts who destroys evil by any means but herself is not evil. The idea is similar to Wrathful Deities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrathful_deities) from Tantric Buddhism.

  • fellowniusmonk 7 days ago

    It's interesting, I had a similar experience (except I started as a non-conforming protestant) but actually bypassed eastern thought (I had already looked into it when I was younger and came to the joking conclusion it was atheism with more steps) and eastern orthodox (knew tons of people who grew up evangelical and got into eastern orthodox in college.)

    I just dove into the meaninglessness and realized if you really give into it you come out the other side.

    The flip side of existential despair is existential hope, if you stop "knowing" things "matter" (but suspecting they don't) and instead "know" that "nothing matters" (and suspecting it might) existentialism stops being despair and becomes existential hope.

    "What if everything does matter!" it requires really embracing the despair combined with a curious disposition / intellectual humility.

    Thought I'd share, food for thought, I've really enjoyed it but haven't met too many people raised theistic who can really stop fighting despair long enough to come out the other side, people raised atheist in the first place seem to get there much faster or just start there.

    • vitorbaptistaa 6 days ago

      Your comment reminded me of the Optimistic Nihilism video by Kurzegesagt [1]. I highly recommend it, as they explain these concepts very well in a short 6min video.

      [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBRqu0YOH14

      • fellowniusmonk 5 days ago

        I appreciate that video but after watching it I'm definitely not an optimistic nihilist as described in the video, I think while the video does caveat a lot of it's statements and I do overall agree with its sentiment it's too definitive and confident in certain areas.

        "Existential hope" is definitely my position, no confidence, certainty or belief in nihilism required, just inject even more uncertainty and the nihilism goes away as well.

        It means that in contrast to the video summing up its point by saying "do what you want and bonus points for helping others", I say that discovering and investigating and progressing is actually an imperative task.

        I think the divide may be that I neither presume or reject as default materialism as the final truth, the video doesn't explicitly either but it does frame things in a way that I never would and it's conclusions for a meaningful life are also a narrower subset of my position in some areas and broader in others.

        My possibly false impression based on the video is that optimistic nihilism takes for granted that materialism is a starting assumption.

        I think while materialism is our current empirical observation I don't know if that will hold up long term as the underlying nature of reality.

        Existential hope works equally well for those who lean or suspect that this underlying nature is deist, theist, atheist, materialist, metaphysical or dualist.

    • prometheus76 7 days ago

      If everything matters, then every decision and every moment has weight and also matters. The "existential hope" you are talking about sounds just like "do what thou wilt" or the new, more modern adaptation of that phrase "do what you want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else". That first phrase is an Anton Lavey quote (a satanist) and the second is a nonsensical libertarian version of the same premise. "Do what thou wilt" is still nihilism. That viewpoint completely ignores that we are part of a community and that our actions affect those around us. It's also a poor foundation for trying to understand the world because it is still a relativistic worldview, which I have found to be very disastrous for individuals and for societies as a whole.

      There's a book called Nihilism by Seraphim Rose that does a much better job of laying out and explaining the problems with nihilism (whether the "despairing" version or the "hopeful" or "liberal" version).

      • fellowniusmonk 6 days ago

        I didn't say that at all. You are referencing other thinkers (if they can be called that based on their poor intellectual rigor) I couldn't care less about and incorrectly reinterpreting the point I made. I think you are pattern matching on the wrong pattern. Mine is a simple enough self originated position that it can be argued about it situ. Classifying it incorrectly as nihilism and then saying "here are books refuting nihilism" isn't a sufficiently interesting or engaged response to warrant attention.

        My point is that there is real hope, and if there is hope than progress is real.

        We live in a time of unprecedented exponential increase in both our quality of life and our ability to fundementally interrogate reality, I am confident that we have a good chance of cracking fundemental truths in the near future (maybe in my lifetime, maybe in the next 1k years.)

        Far from saying "do what thou wilt", I would say, pursue peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness & gentleness be kind to others and invest in as much tech development and other positive human interactions as possible. I think we can crack this if we don't wreck ourselves with hating our fellow man or pruning trees of humanities intellectual exploration for arbitrary reasons.

        I have found among certain reformed and orthodox thinkers (though not all, many are very joyful) that they actually are nihilistic in spirit and thought but they avoid confronting this truth about themselves by just kicking the can down the road to the concept God, these types of theists often see nihilism everywhere as a result of it being the real underpinning of their position, and they often sigh and say things like "Lord come quickly" because they have in actuality given up and embraced oblivion and hope for death and "the next life".

      • physicles 7 days ago

        I noticed in your original post that you didn’t address the objective truth of Christianity, only that it has helped you.

        What does one do if one simply cannot believe in the supernatural because of the lack of evidence?

        I think you’re being a bit uncharitable with the consequences of nihilism — or to be more precise, metaphysical naturalism. I haven’t met very many people, even non-religious people, who truly believe that they can just do whatever the hell they want because nothing matters. If I met people like that, I’d cut them out of my life. Even if you don’t have an intrinsic motivation to do good, you just can’t escape the fact that if you’re an asshole and not a sociopath, your life will probably suck.

        The truth is that it’s possible to be a well-adjusted, loving human being while also believing that life is objectively meaningless. (Though ironically, in my anecdotal experience finding happiness as a metaphysical naturalist is harder if you grew up with religion and then left it, like myself). Today we can draw from stoicism, optimistic nihilism, secular humanism and others to help us along the way.

        All this said, I do not know whether a worldview divorced from objective meaning is better for building a healthy society. I suspect it’s more difficult without religion, which is one of the reasons religion is so widespread.

        • rramadass 6 days ago

          I model it like this;

          "Nihilism" is a blank canvas (i.e. the substrate/backdrop/support underlying everything). Every other school of Philosophy/Religion is merely a "man-made painting" on that canvas. We cannot look at/enjoy a blank canvas; there is "no support to grasp" for our consciousness when it looks at it. But the moment we paint our chosen Philosophy/Religion over that canvas there is something concrete for our consciousness to "grasp and get itself lost in". Consciousness (and therefore life) now gets a "meaning" even though the painting is but just a veneer which can be changed as and when needed (hence the proliferation of various philosophies/religions).

          PS: The above model arises from The Samkhya School of Philosophy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samkhya) which is an ancient system within Hinduism.

          PPS: You might find Philosophy in a Meaningless Life: A System of Nihilism, Consciousness and Reality by James Tartaglia interesting. Free book at: https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/philosophy-in-a-m...

        • prometheus76 7 days ago

          You've asked some very big questions that would require some unpacking to even start to answer, because there are a lot of assumptions and presuppositions and hidden definitions just in the first question of wondering about evidence with regard to supernatural things.

          This might feel like a cop-out on my part (and it probably is, because I am at work), but the best response I can give to you is that if you really want to try to understand the issues you raise from a Christian perspective, "Miracles" by C.S. Lewis is probably the most succinct way I could answer your questions. He takes on the problems with nihilism and naturalism in a straightforward, but thorough manner.

          I didn't read it until far into my journey back to Christianity, but he addresses the issue better than anyone else I've read.

          I will leave you with one little thing that always goes around in my head when I'm talking with a nihilist or naturalist, however. "There is no absolute truth" is an absolute-truth claim, which means the whole foundation of that world view is based on a self-contradiction. That might not bother you, but it started bothering me when it was pointed out.

          • rramadass 6 days ago

            >"There is no absolute truth" is an absolute-truth claim, which means the whole foundation of that world view is based on a self-contradiction

            This is mere sophistry and the phrase does not mean what you think it means. There is no contradiction here.

            The phrase is almost always used when comparing/contrasting different schools of philosophies/religions to emphasize that while within the worldview proposed by each of them they may posit absolute truths, outside of their framework there is nothing i.e. the phrase itself has no meaning. There are two different frames of reference at play here.

            James Tartaglia in his book (referenced in my other comment here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32920232) points out that our inability to make sense of reality from the outside in (i.e. Nihilism/no meaning) does not prevent us from giving meaning to reality from the inside out (i.e. as it is lived via any chosen philosophy/religion). The distinction is very important since it resolves a seeming contradiction i.e. how can life be both meaningless and meaningful at the same time?.

          • fellowniusmonk 6 days ago

            We were just sharing things thay helped us and the things that helped us differred, I'm glad you found something that helped you with despair.

            At no point did I claimed there is no absolute truth. There is absolute truth, if you cannot rectify that I hold both positions intellectually without contradiction than there is no room for an honest meeting of the minds.

            Many people do get poisoned in their ability to reason through others arguments because of overeager pattern matching after they are exposed to the field of christian apologetics and other sub-academic fields (in terms of rigour of logic) that tend to strawmanning.

            Christian mysticism is a way of kicking the can down the road in a way that feels better but is more tied to an embrace of epistemological and emperical uncertainty than truth grounding.

            Mysticism is a way of accepting the unverifiable unknown based on external authority statements.

            It tends to subvert more truth than it embraces, it's why so many christian thinkers have written against it, when christian theists have spent so much time rebutting the traditional view (which I'm not sure if you hold) I'm not sure what I can add, since I can't speak to the details of how you hold your particular beliefs and what they are.

            I say this as someone who has not only read C.S. Lewis extensively (I do hate when argument falls to these types of handwaving appeals to authority) but also better (though less popular because they were academic and didn't speak/write often for popular audience like he did during ww2) christian thinkers like Alvin Plantiga, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and frankly even Francis Schaeffer.

            I wish you all the best, and again, you don't have to be right or have "grounded beliefs" for me to be happy that you have overcome despair and are living a more joyful life, I'm glad you found something that lifted you out. Calling myself a nihilist is a dead end for the discussion you seem to want to engage in though.

  • afpx 6 days ago

    A few years ago, I read The New Testament - a translation by David Bentley Hart (an Orthodox scholar). It’s more of an academic literal translation. I read it mainly just to educate myself. I was raised in a strict “no religion” family, and I’d already explored Zen and Buddhism. So, I figured, why not educate myself in this religion that surrounds me and affects me so directly.

    Well, a lot of it is what you’d expect, unfortunately. But, if you get rid of 90% of it, and focus strictly on Jesus’s Laws, I believe he represents fundamental truths.

    “Love God above all else, all the time” - I find this to mean live in the present, love each moment, put love into each motion and effort. Love yourself. And,

    “Love others as you love yourself” - The covenants that you make with others, the promises that you keep are the purpose of life. Treat others with compassion. Be yourself. Relish in your unique existence.

    It’s really unfortunate that Jesus was eclipsed by Paul, Timothy, others.

    Well, I never actually got to “belief in a higher power” (I really wanted to experience that Human concept). But, I did become a believer in Jesus’s Laws, and I still try to practice them.

  • markus_zhang 7 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience . I'm not a religious person (although I do enjoy reading Apocalypses) but I hope the peace you found retain forever.

    • prometheus76 7 days ago

      I wasn't either, but it's the answer to staring meaninglessness in the face in your mid-life.

      • flakyfilibuster 7 days ago

        what's so bad about meaninglessness?

        • prometheus76 7 days ago

          I have found that meaninglessness leads to deep anxiety and confusion. I'll use family relationships as an example. If you do what you want and assign your own meaning to your actions and choices, those around you will probably not see the same meaning in your actions. To be more specific, if you think "I can flirt with this woman at work. It's fine. It's harmless." Things can quickly escalate and either your spouse will soon feel abandoned, or you will lose your job or worse, you will develop a relationship with someone besides your spouse and live a compartmentalized life. This, eventually, will come to an end and many lives will be torn up as a result of you saying "I can do what I want."

          "I can do what I want and make it mean whatever I want" is a very selfish delusion that completely ignores that your actions affect those around you (who are also assigning meaning to your actions and words) and that those around you affect you as well.

          Another danger to this is the delusion that you always know what is best for you. Many times in my life, I have gotten advice from someone who was watching me and who told me I was being reckless or foolish, and that I should think about what I was doing carefully and choose another path. I could have easily dismissed them (and often did), but sometimes those outside of our head can see what we are doing or where we are heading more clearly than we can with all of our justifications.

          In short, meaninglessness means that at any time you and anyone around you can decide that marriage doesn't mean commitment anymore. You can decide that your spouse cheating on you is a good thing. You can look forward to feeling betrayed. And hopefully your children will just be able to change their minds about how their parents feel about each other. And hopefully they don't change their minds about how they feel about you. It's all fine because you can just make it mean whatever you want!

50 7 days ago

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn." (White, The Once and Future King)

rramadass 6 days ago

There has been lots of studies done on Mid-Life Crisis; assuming it is Real it seems to involve Genetic, Biological, Psychological and Social factors. So you have to consider each one in turn, interpret it in your specific context and then take action.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful:

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midlife_crisis

2) https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-021-02206-x

3) https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/the-rea...

4) https://openthemagazine.com/science/the-genetic-origins-of-a...

5) https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/am-i-having-a-midlif...

6) There is a tradition of "mind training" in Tibetan Buddhism called Lojong (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojong) which you may want to study, learn from and put into practice. These are basically a set of practical advice/sayings/aphorisms/proverbs/etc. which teach you how to develop/modify your attitudes and perceptions towards life/other people/yourself in general. It was developed in the context of Buddhist practice but you can easily transfer the principles outside of it. A good starting point is the book Essential Mind Training: Tibetan Wisdom for Daily Life translated by Thupten Jinpa.

  • markus_zhang 4 days ago

    Thanks, I like your comments a lot and have been following around a few months ago. I also like your recommendation of the nihilism books.

    I think I simply have so many things in my mind that I'm always in a rush and always easily irritated. I'm definitely overestimating my ability since my childhood but simply do not know how to scale down probably, even that I know this and have already scaled down dramatically. This combined with the new burden definitely spell my doom.

sn0n 7 days ago

42 year old here... Definitely go down the "Alan watts" rabbit hole... He spit out books like he did public radio talks, and he was on the air for awhile in the 60s early 70s... Lots of him out there. He's definitely worth the midlife listen

uptownfunk 7 days ago

A great yogi once told me - "The secret to life is to know thyself - and to know thyself one must meditate"

A good meditation for me comes after at least 30 mins of solid yoga, and then sitting in padmasana (or something similar, siddhasana, whatever keeps your body locked and spine erect) and silence. Then just breathe slow and relaxed and listen to what comes from inside of you.

joshxyz 6 days ago

Haha fuck, you all are giving me anxiety on me reaching 40.

  • markus_zhang 6 days ago

    Don't worry too much. People are different.

kevdozer1 2 days ago

Wishing you the best. Your son will be thankful for the progress you do make

dasil003 7 days ago

I found a lot of value in The Middle Passage by James Hollis.

nickdothutton 7 days ago

Stoic mode. Lift. Quality above quantity in all things.

physicles 7 days ago

From Strength to Strength, by Arthur C Brooks. I heard about it from Sam Harris’s recent interview with Brooks. Focuses on the very practical nuts and bolts of growing old, what that means for you in all aspects, and how to capitalize on your new strengths while letting go of the old ways that won’t serve you anymore.

I plan to read it in a few years when I have my own mid-life crisis.

agent008t 6 days ago

Read Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus.

Melatonic 7 days ago

Backpacking (in the wilderness - not across cities)