Notecard: On keeping a diary

Among secular people, the absence of an afterlife raises the stakes. In “Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life” the psychologist Adam Phillips warns that “once the next life—the better life, the fuller life—has to be in this one, we have a considerable task on our hands.” Given just a single shot at existence, we owe it to ourselves to hit the mark; we must not just survive but thrive. It’s no wonder that for many of us “the story of our lives becomes the story of the lives we were prevented from living.”

Sartre thought we should focus on what we have done and will do, rather than on what we might have done or could do. He pointed out that we often take too narrow a census of our actions. An artist, he maintains, is not to be “judged solely by his works of art, for a thousand other things also help to define him.” We do more than we give ourselves credit for; our real lives are richer than we think. This is why, if you keep a diary, you may feel more satisfied with the life you live.

- from What If You Could Do It All Over? by Joshua Rothman via The New Yorker 

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