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Brent Beshore @BrentBeshore
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Recently finished “Living Life Backward” and immediately started to gift it. It’s a reflection on Ecclesiastes, part of the wisdom literature of the Bible and one of my favorite/frequent reads. Here are my top highlights/notes.

All quotes are David Gibson's. Rest are mine.
“Living in the light of your death will help you to live wisely and freely and generously.”

No one gets out of this life alive. Pretending otherwise warps reality by degrading the present.
“From a life full of labor and toil under the sun, people gain absolutely nothing…At the end of my life, what will the surplus be?”

There are no lasting monuments. The “cosmic merry-go-round” of “constant motion without lasting achievement" will carry on without me.
“There is nothing new about humanity in the unfolding of all our progress.”

Transmitted knowledge compounds and discovers reality. Circumstances change. Human nature remains.
“We long for change in a world of permanent repetition, and we dream of how to interrupt it. We long for lives of permanence in a world of constant change, and we strive to achieve it.”

We crave what can’t be — novelty with permanence, stability without repetition.
“We hold the good things of this world too tightly and lavish our attentions on them too freely.”

Satisfaction crumbles when we make good things something more, something they can’t be.
“Our national pastimes, for all their pleasure and fun, for all their creativity, are, for most people, simply a means of anesthetizing themselves against the pain of reality.”

Usually, leisure is pursuing temporary relief from the ordinary.
“Death stalks both the wise and the foolish.”

When the time horizon is stretched far enough, the wise and the foolish become indistinguishable.
“Life is meant to be enjoyed not mastered.”

Some challenges can’t be fixed. Most life events can’t be planned.
“There is a time for everything; life is a lyrical arrangement of good and bad, of relational complexity and nuanced subtleties, and at the end of it all, you go in a box in the cold, hard ground.”

Contrast brings out the color. Death illuminates life.
“Part of being wise in this world is learning to accept that we have only very limited access to the big picture.”

There are rarely easy, accurate answers to big questions.
“When we are dancing, most of us do not realize we are creating memories with people who we will one day mourn.”

Sadness is the unavoidable byproduct of happiness. But try to avoid sadness and you are guaranteed numbness.
“You are not what you think you are; but what you think, you are.”

Self-perception is a funhouse mirror that shapes your reality.
“Life is gift, not gain…As you enjoy, share.”

Stop trying to earn it. Receive it, say thank you, then share it.
“The smallest coffins are the heaviest.”

This world isn’t how it should be.
“When we pursue gain because we think that’s all there is to be had, others are going to get hurt.”

Goal-induced blindness creates cruelty, spreads misery, and destroys lives.
"It is possible to know the price of everything but the value of nothing…Here’s how to sever the root (of unhappiness): Spend your money on others. Give it away. Do it regularly, gladly, generously — and you will be happy.”

Simple and paradoxically effective.
“Simplicity safeguards your sincerity.”

The path to ruin is paved with distraction, confusion, and pretense, which is frequently caused by unnecessary complication.
“Part of living wisely is learning to live with the limitations of wisdom itself.”

While rarely universal, wisdom is never strictly personal.
“Superficiality is the mark of the escapist who is living in denial.”

Talk of news, sports, and weather is about nothing and tells you everything.
“We are blind to the good things of the present and ignorant of the evil of the past.”

Present and measured, not nostalgic and distracted.
“We aspire to have it all, know it all, do it all, achieve it all, be happy forever, have all the answers, and be remembered by all for all time.”

Aspirations of a self-made man destined for disappointment.
“Your love, your hate, your jealousy — the time is coming when they will all go cold and vanish and be forgotten.”

Paramount feelings eventually pass.
“We tend to live as if the one thing that is certain will never come while the many things that are uncertain are certain.”

Pretending changes nothing.
“When we enjoy his gifts, we are experiencing his favor. The only right way to respond to God’s good gifts, and to his pleasure in giving us the gifts of food and wine and family, is to go and enjoy them.”

A lack of enjoyment and hedonism are both sins of self-obsession.
“Your friendships aren’t there to bolster your confidence or your security or self-image so that you can now go and do something with your life. Don’t use people like that; your friendships are themselves the gift.”

“Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” -Terry Pratchett

The days are long, but the years are short.
“Just as honeymoons are wasted on couples without children, so too, youth is wasted on the young.”

Same circumstances. Different experience. Perspective provides the pleasure.
“When we do not enjoy and savor and love and laugh and delight in the little things, then we are heading toward losing our delight in anything.”

Slippery slope of expectation-induced numbness.
“We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness or out of selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death.”

Work is a good gift foolishly misinterpreted as a punishment.
“Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others.”

Greater purpose extracts self-interest and deposits joy.
“Sinful years put thorns in the pillow on which the head of old age rests. Lives of passion and evil store away bitter fountains from which the old man has to drink.”

Justice is often quietly self-inflicted.

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