Active Thinking Topic 04 -  Life Lessons?

Monday 26 April 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide (You must buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the space for 2 hours)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. When in their life do most people become fairly sure of what they can get away with, and what it's risky to venture into? Yourself?

2. Why do people draw radically different lessons from the same kind of experience? Can you nudge their 'life lesson' conclusions in another direction? (For example, I've learned as i age that I need to put two or three times MORE hours than I needed to at 20 into exercise. This is what it costs to stay fit and fairly pain free. However most people do much LESS exercise as they age, develop disabilities and live on pain medications).

3. What big experience has hit you/us over the head recently? What life lessons are likely to be learned?

4. Teenagers and young adults tend to experience some dramatic (for them) life lessons as they grow up. Some parents, teachers, others, may try to pass on advice before disaster strikes, but often they are not listened to. Why are (many of) the young reluctant to take advice? How can you tell someone they are being stupid in a way that actually changes them?

5. Many of us start out with ideals that can never be met, at least as life later seems to teach. What can you learn about a person by their reaction big and small disappointments? (Note: such disappointment may be purely personal, or happen to whole societies, as in politics).

6. A busy life is very, very short ( a life lesson Thor has learned). So you start with this brief gift of life. If you have the luxury of choice (many don't), how exactly should you make the best use of these few short years? (Note that for most it ends in pain. For example, the average Australian man spends the last 17 years of his life with a serious disability).

7. What life lessons can you draw from population statistics? For example, 25% of the American population is mentally ill in any given year, and at least half are hugely misinformed (e.g. 3% of Americans are millionaires, but 64% are confident they will soon be millionaires). Though I quote American stats, there is something similar in every country. So, for example, if you are trying to design an effective political or legal system, how might such population stats temper your starting enthusiasm? If you are going into business, how would knowledge of such stats affect your plans? Or if you are thinking of marriage, how would the odds of being stuck with an off-beam partner influence your plans?

8. Every religion and ideology offers a plan for ideal living, both for individuals and the community. How well do these grand plans work? Have you drawn any life lessons from watching these off-the-shelf living plans play out in the real world?

9. Do people as a group draw radically different life lessons at different times in history? For example most people for most of known history have lived unchanging routine village lives like their ancestors. By contrast, the only constant in my life has been a never ending churn and change at both personal, technological and social levels. Also, how do people who live through wars draw different life lessons from those blessed with a country at peace?

10. Now almost everyone spends a big chunk of their early life (and maybe later life too) in some kind of educational process. What life lessons have you drawn about the value, risks, limitations and failures of deliberate education? And what part did unplanned life on the street play?

Extra Reading

“The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it”

- Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)

Thor May (2021) "Reflections on turning 75". @ [PDF] or  [html]

Thor May (2015) "The Unexpected Power of Stupidity". @ [PDF] or  [html]

Thor May (205) "How much attention has $529 billion of advertising bought?". @  [PDF] or  [html ] [Extract: "Marketing, mostly in the form of advertising, channels the attention and actions of tens of millions of people into common participation. Where that mass participation involves spending money, then industries with successful marketing campaigns are the ones which survive in the marketplace, and in doing so shape the kind of society in which we live. None of this is to say that the industries (or politicians) who prevail in the contest of marketing actually have the best products, or even have socially beneficial products. The opposite may be true. That is, the marketplace is apparently quite amoral".]

Thor May (2015) "Probing the limits of tolerance? - Can we reconcile “live and let live” with “drawing a line in the sand”? @ [PDF] or  [html] [Extract: "In those dull places where no demagogue offers permission to hate the neighbours, we might do our best not to draw lines in the sand, not to warn off intruders with a threat. Sooner or later though some threshold, hidden even to our conscious selves, will surely be crossed. We lose our temper, act impulsively, do something we regret in cooler moments, but it is already too late."]

Thor May (2014) "So we had a few failures. Was that the end of university?" @  [PDF] or  [html] [Extract: "The source of this short document is intensely personal. It is the story of early university misadventure by one individual, myself. At first glance it might seem of little interest to anyone but the protagonist. I am publishing it because in fact pieces of this story fit the lives of so many students who simply disappear from the statistics and into oblivion. Educational administrators may make assumptions about them, perhaps based on personal prejudice and hearsay, while political decisions about which kinds of students to fund tend to be founded in ideology rather than the real life stories of actual individuals and their development". ]

AARP Bulletin (March 4, 2021) "15 Lessons the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Taught Us
What we've learned over the past 12 months could pay off for years to come". American Association of Retired Persons @ 

Stephen Scheeler (February 18, 2021) "As a former Facebook chief, here’s my verdict: It’s a shameless demonstration of corporate might". Brisbane Times @  [Comment on an article about Facebook's faceoff with Australia by a reader - artusj "Australia learnt three powerful lessons this year: about trade, information and health. China was the spider that invited us into its chamber and then clamped its jaws around us. Health taught us that we can never predict the future, even the baby boomer plans were all laid to waste, let alone the young ones. Facebook and Google taught us that like china, they are only acting in their own interest and laid an honey trap for us to fall in. And now it is difficult to extricate ourselves from it. Some serious thinking will have to be done on all these fronts. We must not fall into the clutches of any tyrant, political, economic or ethical, but make sure to have alternatives, even if inconvenient."]

Mathew Quirk (November 2005) "The Best Class Money Can Buy - The rise of the "enrollment manager" and the cutthroat quest for competitive advantage. The secret weapon: financial-aid leveraging". The Atlantic @

Pallavi Singhal (2017) "Students offering up to $10,000 for places after law classes fill up in seconds". Brisbane Times @

May, Thor (2014) "The Purpose of Education - a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?" The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

May, Thor (2013) "The Democracy Problem". The Passionate Skeptic website @ 

Darius Foroux (2016) "8 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From The Best Writers In History". Darius Foroux website @ 

Professor Mark Edele (7 June 2019) "What history can really teach us - History is too intricate to teach simple lessons, but knowing your history is key to understanding the complexities of the present?. University of Melbourne @ 

Juliet Starbuck (4 September 2018) "Adolescence and learning – the teenage brain". The World of Better Learning website @ 

What Kids Can Do (2013) "The Teenage Brain: Research Highlights". What Kids Can Do website @ 

BBC (22 Jne 2018) "The surprising reason people change their minds". BBC Futures section @ 

Robert B. Talisse (July 31, 2019) "Political polarization is about feelings, not facts". The Conversation @ 

James Tilley (3 November 2015) "Do we really become more conservative with age?". The Conversation via The Guardian @ 

Stephen Lunn (April 19, 2021) "'Ageism’ penalising employees earlier - Almost 17 per cent of employers now classified older workers as 51-54 years old, a six-percentage-point jump in three years". The Australian @ 

Walid Ali (23 April 2021) "Greed kicks an own goal in Super League debacle". Brisbane Times @  [Thor, comment: "Football is the most important of the least important things in life" said Arrigo Sacchi. But it also seems to be the most important thing in life for the (formally) least important people - the wider population. It's not for nothing that even a neo-liberal (a.k.a. conservative capitalist) government in South Australia offers free public transport on cup final days. They know where the power of sentiment lies. This thoughtful piece by Walid Ali deals with the open, unrestrained greed of the billionaire owners of premier football clubs who care nothing about the real game. The spontaneous revolt by furious fans has, as Wali Ali demonstrates, direct parallels to the damage done by unrestrained corporations and the populist revolts they generate (ref. Trump's America). Life lesson? Maybe greed is good, sometimes, in some ways, if you keep it in handcuffs - that is, regulated. I often think of Sun Wu Kong, 孫悟空, the Monkey King in the Chinese classic, Journey to West, 西遊記. Sun Wu Kong's incredible powers were terribly destructive until he was chained under a mountain for 500 years and forced to be helpful ... ]


 Life Lessons? (c) Thor May 2021 

return to Ddiscussion