Trying

Maarten van Doorn
Oct 11, 2018 · 3 min read

“If it doesn’t matter to you, then what’s the fucking point?”, he spat across the table, giving me an incredulous stare.

Believe it or not, but my colleague is actually nice. He has twinkly eyes that look at you through a pair of small, round and funny glasses, they remind me of Gyro Gearloose. He is short and bald and goes through life laughing a lot. When he sees me, he greets me by hitting me enthusiastically on my shoulder.

We were watching football in Budapest’s Irish Pub. The match was boring. My night was terrific.

I thought about the question. When it comes to devoting your waking hours to philosophy, it seemed urgent. One becomes a philosopher to think about an issue one cares about. If this problem doesn’t matter to you, then why are you spending your time on it?

My fellow PhD-candidate in philosophy is about 60 years old and has been working on the same topic for many years now. It must mean something to him.

Last year, I overheard the best philosopher I know informing a younger student that “if you want to be a good philosopher, you’ve got to live and breathe philosophy. It has to be your life”.

By this, he didn’t mean that you should be a hamster wheel in today’s ratrace. Quite the opposite. What he gets at is that your subject must be important to you.

I had him on my upcoming podcast, and we talked about the meaning of life. Afterwards, he told me: “You’ve got to find something for which you’d be willing to get up in the morning for, every day.”

You must try.

When I read such ideas in self-improvement articles, they sound exaggerated. When I talk about these things with friends and mentors in real life, I realize that they are not.

If the bullshit-job polls are correct, many people spend their time on something that’s not worth it in itself and/or doesn’t matter to them.

They don’t try.

Back at the bar, the match still failed to entertain.

We ordered another beer and I confessed that I’m not sure how much I really care about my research.

I get up every day because I enjoy thinking, learning, writing. I’d like to make a difference in some way or other, but I would be lying if I said I have a grand dream driving me. There is not a something for which I get up every day — and I doubt whether that’s the right way to look at it.

Sometimes I wonder whether pursuing a PhD in philosophy is the right way to spend my time. I don’t think that I want to work in academia later. I enjoy blogging a lot. Do the math.

Whatever. I don’t know.

At least I’m trying.

I like to surround myself with people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Their goals are not all that matters to them in their life, but because respect themselves, they try their hardest to achieve them anyway.

My colleague seems to have found his thing. Since he is in Budapest most of the time, he doesn’t get to see his family as much as most fathers do. Yet he is a light-hearted man. I admire this blend of cheerfulness and dedication.

That is how I’d like to be.

How I try to be.


There’s more to that

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Maarten van Doorn

Written by

PhD candidate in philosophy. What do you think you know, and how do you think you know it? Get ideas that make you think: maartenvandoorn.com

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