How Should We Live? Book Summary By Roman Krznaric

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"How Should We Live?" is a book published in 2013 which offers readers a comprehensive overview of why Western cultures generally tend to think the way we do regarding topics such as love, work, and death.

Not only does it explain how our modern-day views evolved over time, but it also contains timeless advice for improving them.

This book is an important read for anyone interested in how our cultural beliefs came to be and how we can best live our lives according to these values.

It includes insightful explanations on subjects such as religion, technology, and capitalism - along with many others - providing readers with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of why we make the decisions that we do and how our beliefs shape our beliefs about life.

Book Name: How Should We Live? (Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life)

Author(s): Roman Krznaric

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 32 Minutes

Categories: Philosophy

Author Bio

Roman Krznaric is a renowned social philosopher and author, who has spent years researching and writing about the best ways of living.

He co-founded The School of Life with Alain de Botton, which is located in London, and throughout his career he has taught sociology and politics at both Cambridge University and City University London.

Krznaric is passionate about helping people live meaningful and purposeful lives, so if you're looking to gain insight on how to live your best life then look no further than his book "How Should We Live?"

What We Can Learn From The Everyday Lives Of Ordinary People In History

Although it is easy to get stuck in the present and look towards what is new and trendy, you can learn a lot from the past.

In “How Should We Live?” by historian Colin McKinney, readers gain insight into what life was like for people in previous centuries.

Through detailed accounts of individuals’ lives, it provides insight into how we can enhance our own.

From matters of money and family to love and leisure, McKinney outlines how studying history can help us to better handle today’s problems.

He highlights important historical figures such as Albert Schweitzer and provides an explanation of where words such as ‘husband’ originated.

Furthermore, he addresses topics like the strategies used by French peasants for getting through cold winters or improving our careers using the wisdom of figures like Schweitzer.

Ultimately, McKinney’s work encourages us to search for advice from some of the past masters on how to live a better life in the modern day.

By immersing ourselves in history, we can discover invaluable lessons which have been around for millennia – helping us to grow in ways that are not limited by time-bound trends or fashions.

Understanding The Six Ancient Greek Forms Of Love Is Key To Finding True Love In The Modern Age

The modern idea that we should look for someone who is capable of completely satisfying our emotional needs is unrealistic.

This ideal, often labeled as the search for a soul mate, is something that has grown out of centuries of social and cultural history, but in reality it’s not likely that one person could meet all our complex and varied emotional needs.

The ancient Greeks had a much more practical approach to love, believing that each role could be filled by different people.

They defined six distinct forms of love: Eros – passionate and dangerous; Philia – platonic love between friends and comrades; Ludus light-hearted playfulness; Pragma – shared understanding growing over time; Agape – selfless, charitable love; and Philautia – love of self.

These separate forms allowed them to spread their emotional needs across multiple people.

Over the centuries these individual forms slowly merged together; beginning with Arabian literature popularizing eros between two lovers, then carried through medieval Europe to create courtly love – where knights performed acts in the name of passionate affection.

During 16th century Dutch marriage culture they combined philia and pragma between spouses, only to be joined in 20th century capitalism with philautia — self-obsession tied to consumerism.

As the modern romantic ideal suggests, looking for one soul mate may provide temporary satisfaction due to its appeal but living realistically within the boundaries of what our emotions can handle is likely going to give us a greater likelihood of finding true happiness in relationships with more than one person.

How Historical Practices And Technology Are Transforming The Meaning Of ‘Husband’

Modern families face a variety of issues – one of the most prominent being the division of housework based on gender.

This idea is far from natural, however – it’s actually pretty new!

Men and women used to both work around the home, sharing in all sorts of domestic duties before the advent of factory work.

Unfortunately, we’ve still got a long way to go before reaching true gender equality in today’s world.

Beyond this, there’s another problem plaguing family life: an insufficient amount of conversation amongst each other at home.

This lack of communication actually has some deep historical roots.

Separate eating habits among cultures, ideas about piety from early Christianity and even emotional repression from the eighteenth century have all contributed to our current day situation where families are increasingly isolated from each other.

Not to mention, modern technology like televisions also helps us become more detached and less talkative in public settings now more than ever.

It’s important to remember that a lot of problems faced by modern families have their origins in history – something which should be recognized as we strive for more harmonious family relationships in the future!

Empathy Is Our Natural State – Let’S Use It To Improve Society

For years, it’s been popular to believe that humans are naturally selfish and cruel creatures, but the truth couldn’t be further from this idea.

Evidence from Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s research reveals that children were capable of being empathetic as early as four years old.

This trait likely developed so our ancestors could make communities work more effectively for their overall survival.

In addition, empathy isn’t just found in humans – dolphins and elephants can display empathetic behavior too!

Empathy is a powerful tool not just to understand our own lives better, but to expand our horizons as well.

It can be used in three main ways: experience (as George Orwell experienced vagrant life by disguising himself as a tramp), conversation (like former Ku Klux Klan leader C.P.

Ellis who talked with Ann Atwater to learn about her life) or social action (through Thomas Clarkson’s efforts to raise awareness of slavery in nineteenth-century Britain).

We’ve evidenced time and time again that our human empathy has the potential to bring positive change on an individual level and, possibly, change some of society’s biggest issues.

We should never underestimate the power of using significant thinking with compassion when facing difficult situations!

It Takes A Holistic Approach To Find Meaning At Work

It’s undeniable – in today’s age of technology and labour divisions, there are seemingly endless career options available to us.

With this overwhelming variety of choices comes the challenge of finding purpose and fulfilment in our work.

Fortunately, there are some time-honoured strategies for finding purpose that can be applied regardless of the job we decide to pursue.

From psychotherapist Viktor Frankl to polymath Albert Schweitzer, history offers us a range of examples from which we can draw inspiration and insight.

Frankl found purpose through pursuing meaningful goals, Schweitzer by following a sense of duty to help others, whilst Henry Ford demonstrated that respect and recognition offer us an alternative route to achieving fulfillment in our work lives.

Let’s not forget the great Renaissance minds either; those who found engagement through employing their full skill set as generalists.

Not only would they feel engaged with their work but they could enjoy a deeper sense of satisfaction knowing one had spent his/her time using his/her talents to the fullest extent.

Finding purpose in our work is an attainable goal despite all the confusing multitude of modern day career decisions – if we remain open-minded and motivated we can use these historical guides to craft an enriching life experience.

How Our Relationship With Time Has Evolved Over History And How We Can Reimagine It

Modern-day people are obsessed with time and enslaved to the rhythm of the clock, but this wasn’t always the case.

Until the invention of mechanical clocks in thirteenth-century Europe, it was difficult to tell time.

Clocks were used by monks to help them pray at set times and eventually became a part of communal life when they were installed in town centers.

This allowed shops to reasonably allocate hours for opening and closing their establishments; however, during the industrial revolution, clock technology began to be used as a form of social control.

The pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood started clocking in workers and punishing tardy ones in efforts to maximize efficiency.

This obsession with time soon led us into an era where everything has become faster-paced – including transport, technology, food, and even our language which reflects its commercial value as something that can be “wasted” or “borrowed”.

To counter this phenomenon we should take a step back from our short term thinking and look further ahead to consider our actions from the viewpoint of our ancestors and descendants alike like Viking warriors did.

We could also take some inspiration from 19th century French peasants who slowed down their life throughout winter season or from novelist Gustave Flaubert who took five years writing Madam Bovary.

From Consumption To Consumerism: How We Came To Pursue Money Over Pleasure

Money may make the world go round, but how we approach it is a choice.

This became even more apparent when industrialization allowed people to accumulate wealth and when shopping became a leisure pursuit with the opening of Bon Marche, one of the first department stores in Paris.

Advertisements would soon link products and brands to our desires, driving us to relentlessly pursue money.

However, an alternative exists.

Henry David Thoreau found himself disillusioned with growing consumerism and opted for simple living as an alternative on his retreat to Walden Woods where he lived off the land and spent most of his time at leisure; an experiment into life unencumbered by modern society’s demands.

He found that scaling back spending and focusing upon his pleasures was a refreshing deviation from mainstream methods of affluence accumulation which resulted in true wealth that money just can’t buy.

The Cultural Dominance Of Sight Has Deprived Us Of A More Complete Sensory Experience

When it comes to senses, most of us know that the five primary ones are sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

However, recent scientific research has discovered that there may be more than just these five senses.

For example, scientists have confirmed Plato’s belief in temperature sensing or ‘thermoception’ as well as a sense of balance or ‘equilibrioception’.

Even our ability to detect extremely weak magnetic fields – much like migratory birds do – known as magnetoreception has been observed.

But we don’t just end at those three; there may be even more sensing abilities beyond what is accepted today.

It’s been noted that vision has become dominant in Western society due to the invention of the printing press and scientific observation methods; sadly this comes at the cost of neglecting our other senses.

It’s possible that when we focus on the wider range of sensory experiences such as sound and smells coming from our neighbourhood or texture and scent when eating food, then it could open up a more vibrant life experience for us.

Take Kaspar Hauser for instance; he had gone through many years living in seclusion without any social interaction so therefore his sensory perceptions were heightened compared to others around him but once he was exposed to society his sensitivities diminished until he was no different from everyone else.

This proved how versatile our minds can be when it comes to honing particular senses depending on individual experience.

In conclusion, although sight is the dominant sense in most societies today, there may actually be many more senses available for us to explore and nurture – if we let go of some preconceived notions about limitation!

Reimagining Travel: How We Can Reclaim Thomas Cook’S Vision For A World Of Open Minds And New Experiences

Travel can be more than just a leisurely pursuit: it can be a great way to learn about yourself and the world around you.

By looking back in history, we can find examples of four kinds of travelers whose journeys can inspire us to go out and explore the world with meaningful intent.

First is the pilgrim – a religious traveler who sets off on a potentially difficult route with the goal of visiting symbolic destination sites.

Those who undertake such journeys often gain personal insight from their voyage; for example, Satish Kumar walked from India to Moscow in protest against nuclear weapons during the 1960s and gained an appreciation for worldwide compassion and openness towards his cause.

Following this is the nomad, though not necessarily in its traditional sense.

Rather, taking up nomadic-like activities such as camping or beach trips with friends and family provides an opportunity to bond and allows one to experience different environments first-hand.

The explorer is another interesting persona that travel enthusiasts may look up to—William Cobbett traveled Victorian England observing how industrialization effected people’s lives, learning more along the way than he possibly anticipated at the start of his journey by keeping an open mindset.

And finally there’s the tourist – those who rely on guidebooks and standardized suggestions about must-see sites—travelers should instead try to discover things through their own eyes without someone else telling them what is worthwhile experiencing.

Ultimately, no matter which type of traveler you choose to emulate, you have a chance to open your mind through delving into distant cultures and developing empathy for those around you – making travel an enjoyable journey of self-discovery in its own right.

The Attraction And Ultimate Dominance Of Nature: Understanding Man’S Relationship With The Natural World

Our relationship with nature has changed a lot over the years.

In the past, it was seen as a thing of beauty to be feared and respected.

We thought of forests as dark, mysterious places and marveled at the magnificence of God’s creation.

However, when industrialization came about, nature became a commercial resource – something to be manipulated and consumed for human comfort.

Yet, despite all this change, we’re still connected to nature on an emotional level.

Studies have shown that people gain calm and health from being near nature – known scientifically as biophilia.

Even patients undergoing gallbladder surgery were observed to have faster recovery times if they had windows looking out onto the outdoors.

This show us that even though it may not appear physically, we are still bound to nature mentally – we still feel the need to take time away from our usually bustling city lives just so we can spend some time in peaceful natural areas.

We have reached a point where there’s an urgent need for yet another change in attitude towards nature – one of being more eco-friendly and sensitive towards our environment – or face losing it forever.

We Should Question The Beliefs We Inherit From Our Upbringing

Our beliefs play an important role in shaping our lives, but some of them are simply inherited from the culture and families we are born of.

Take religious beliefs for example; research into post-World War II religious preferences revealed that a staggering 90 percent of Protestants, 82 percent of Catholics and 87 percent of Jews still remain practising within their childhood religion.

This shows how even if we choose to depart from our original religion later on in life, the impression it made on us growing up remains strong.

Nationalism is another good example – often times we tend to place extreme importance or superiority on the country we were born in, but this is mainly influenced by what we were taught during our upbringing.

As the respected playwright George Bernard Shaw observed, where you’re born is largely due to chance, so it doesn’t make much sense to put any faith in these beliefs if they aren’t backed up by facts.

These examples show that while some of our fundamental convictions may be inherited from our parents and environment, it also pays off to challenge these beliefs at times.

This can be seen through Leo Tolstoy’s touching story; he was born into a life of privilege and vice as an aristocrat in Russia, but after experiencing the bloodshed of the Crimean War and witnessing an execution in France he was ultimately driven to question his mentality towards monarchy and nobility; leading him to forgo his original lifestyle entirely for one fueled by his own moral compass among labourers on his estate.

The lesson here is clear – it’s essential that we strive to constantly evaluate what values have been imprinted upon us so as not limit ourselves with narrow views based on opinions only held by those who surround us.

It’s only then that each person can craft their own understanding of justice, morality and how best should one live according to said knowledge.

We Should Embrace Our Natural Creativity And Rediscover The Joy Of Craftsmanship

We often think that creativity can’t be taught and that it’s something exclusive to ‘geniuses.

This is an idea rooted in the Renaissance era, where the ‘genius of man’ – or his ability to create, not just copy – was first celebrated.

People were becoming more and more comfortable expressing their individuality.

This celebration of human potential can be seen in Michelangelo’s body of work, which earned him a lasting reputation as a gifted artist and led people to mistakenly think that only a higher power could produce work of that caliber.

However, despite this assumption, anyone can learn the techniques used by great artists and craftspeople.

Take William Morris, for example: He brought a craftsman mentality back into the Industrial Revolution by leading a handicraft revival movement.

His method celebrated the joys of working with one’s hands as well as giving people pride in their skills and labor.

Even today we see people exhibiting these same values through DIY activities like woodworking and baking.

This shows us that creativity can be learned, and it should be self-expression available to all of us!

Death Once Helped Us Cherish Life – But We Need To Rekindle Our Connection To It

Death was once an important part of life and it was not hidden away or considered taboo.

People used to be reminded of their mortality through symbols such as the memento mori, which is Latin for “remember you must die.” Medieval cemeteries were social spaces where tradesmen sold their goods and children played – almost like a celebration of life.

Recent generations in Western culture have however sought to hide death away from public view, often holding funerals in a quick and efficient manner and rarely talking openly about the subject.

Such attitudes can distance us from really living our lives as we might otherwise avoid approaching the subject of death entirely.

It is only by breaking this taboo of death that we can really start to embrace life again.

Open conversations about mortality can lead us to appreciate the beauty in life and perhaps come to terms with our own mortality.

Through public rituals, such as elaborate processions, we might also find peace with death and make sure that those who are no longer present are remembered fondly by future generations.

Wrap Up

The big takeaway from this book is that modern living has its complexities, but understanding how our ancestors lived can help make it more manageable.

Staying in touch with history can provide invaluable insight on how to best challenge ourselves and our beliefs, rethink romance, embrace creativity, commune with nature, spend money more effectively and understand death.

In the simplest of terms, the message is loud and clear: Swim against the social tide.

Don’t be afraid to go against convention and take control of your own individual art of living.

If you do so then you will be free to create a life that works for you in a sustainable way.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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