What It Means to Be Finite Creatures With Infinite Minds
Oliver Burkeman on Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady
In this episode of Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady, Oliver Burkeman joins Roxanne Coady to discuss his new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, out now from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
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From the episode:
Oliver Burkeman: I think the idea of being infinitely productive and efficient runs through pretty much everything I write. There’s a kind of pessimism that involves facing up to the way reality is, no matter how much we might wish it to be otherwise.
With email, if you get really good at replying…you get more, you get more replies to your emails and you get involved in more email conversations…you get a reputation for being responsive.
Two interesting topics to untangle: one is about planning and the degree of control we can expect to exert over how time unfolds, and the other is about trade-offs and the fact that time, being finite, means you’re always making choices on that first one.
Another point is about missing out. It follows from having finite time that any decision to do anything with an hour is a decision NOT to do something else with that hour.
Something that we do all the time is to put all the focus on the future goal and to judge the value of the moment by whether we’re using it well for the future.
Childhood is its own thing and not a rehearsal or preparation or training for adulthood. Every day of your life is its own thing and isn’t only a preparation or training for somewhere that you’re headed.
Impatience is basically an emotional reaction to not being able to make the world go at the speed you want it to go at. Which comes from this quest to feel an unrealistic kind of control over time.
You never consider that you’ve fully integrated all the insights you’ve had into the way that you live your life…. You reach further as you grow and you learn to face reality a little bit more.
Part of what I want to do here is to translate this question of what it means to be finite creatures with infinite minds.
Oliver Burkeman is the author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. He wrote a long-running weekly column on psychology for The Guardian, This Column Will Change Your Life, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Psychologies, and New Philosopher. He lives in New York City.
Roxanne Coady is owner of R.J. Julia, one of the leading independent booksellers in the United States, which—since 1990—has been a community resource not only for books, but for the exchange of ideas. In 1998, Coady founded Read To Grow, which provides books for newborns and children and encourages parents to read to their children from birth. RTG has distributed over 1.5 million books.