What to Prize Above All Else in the World: Lessons from a Soviet Forced Labor Camp
“What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I’ll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusionary — property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night.
Live with a steady superiority over life — don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn for happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken … then whom should you envy? And why?
Our envy of others devours us most of all. Prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it may be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted on their memory.”
–Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation
Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan