Day 899

 More Vietnam veterans have died by suicide than were killed in Vietnam. According to the Veterans Administration, one veteran dies by suicide every hour in the USA. 

‘The survivor is a disturber of peace. He is a bearer of ”unspeakable” things. About these he aims to speak, and in so doing he undermines, without intending to, the validity of existing norms. He is a genuine transgressor, and here he is made to feel real guilt. The world to which he appeals does not admit him, and since he has looked to this world as the source of moral order, he begins to doubt himself. And that is not the end, for now his guilt is doubled by betrayal– of himself, of his task, of his vow to the dead. The final guilt is not to bear witness. The survivor’s worst torment is not to be able to speak.’ – Terrence Des Pres in ‘The Survivor’.

”If the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you’ve given it away you’d ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So, did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and strips forever? You’re goddamn right they didn’t.” – Dalton Trumbo in ‘Johnny got his gun.’.
Viktor E. Frankl said, ” Suffering ceases to be suffering when it has meaning.” 
Meaningless violence gives birth to more meaningless violence. There are no winners. All sides loose. 

Day 867

(The Attic, by William de Kooning)

In the 1920s, a Russian film director, Lev Kuleshov filmed a male matinee idol staring in turn at a bowl of soup, a young girl in a coffin and an elegant lady reclining on a couch. The actor got rave reviews from the audiences on his ability to effortlessly evoke hunger, grief and desire in the film. What they did not know was the fact that the director had used the same shot of the actor each time, just cut to each different object.

Humans have an innate need to impose order on the world. If we are presented with disparate images, we will try to assemble them into a meaningful order. It we are given a bunch of jumbled unrelated words, we will try to arrange them into a sentence that might mean something.

In the mid-twentieth century, Wiiliam de Kooning emerged as one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism. His art is known to put brains in a tizzy, desperately trying to order and make sense of the shapes within. Faces? Animals? Semi-clad human forms? Women? Doors?

(The Excavation, by William de Kooning)

Maybe life is the same – unrelated images randomly juxtaposed, the human mind desperately struggling to make sense of them.


William de Kooning:
Kuleshov effect:

Day 772

Positive thinking and Positive Psychology are not so positive as implicit within them is a resistance to the negative. I believe that positive and negative are two sides of the same coin. As humans we place undue focus on the negatives. So, it is good to shift our attention to the positives and see what makes happy people happy.

Martin Seligman is credited as the father of Positive Psychology and its efforts to scientifically explore human potential. In his book ‘Authentic Happiness’ (2002), he describes a useful equation:

Seligman’s Happiness Equation


H = Happiness
S = Sum of our genetic capacity for happiness (50%)
C = Circumstances (10%)
V = Voluntary Control (40%)

S and C are pretty much beyond our control. V is the only one we can do something about through our thoughts and actions. There are 4 ways to think about happiness:

  • Pleasures (sensory and immediate; we can become numbed to them. Eg. handbags)
  • Gratifications (absorbing; may not be pleasurable at the time but take us towards something worthwhile; create a positive memory or strengthen our social networks. Eg. a game of tennis)
  • Meaning (Using our strengths in service of something larger than ourselves like family, community, an institution, knowledge, justice or something spiritual. Eg. volunteering)
  • Flow (the sort of feeling we may get from a task that fully engages our abilities but doesn’t test them to breaking point. Eg. writing or music)

Top tip:

“Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” ~ Martin Seligman