Daniel Klein’s fans have fallen in love with the warm, humorous, and thoughtful way he shows how philosophy resonates in everyday life. Readers of his popular books Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . . and Travels with Epicurus come for enlightenment and stay for the entertainment.
As a young college student studying philosophy, Klein filled a notebook with short quotes from the world’s greatest thinkers, hoping to find some guidance on how to live the best life he could. Now, from the vantage point of his eighth decade, Klein revisits the wisdom he relished in his youth with this collection of philosophical gems, adding new ones that strike a chord with him at the end of his life. From Epicurus to Emerson and Camus to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—whose words provided the title of this book—each pithy extract is annotated with Klein’s inimitable charm and insights. In these pages, our favorite jokester–philosopher tackles life’s biggest questions, leaving us chuckling and enlightened.
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2015 Daniel Klein
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher
I copied this one into my notebook while I was still in college, long before Iwas old enough to have an old friend. But I may have been prescient: At thetime I had just made a new friend, a fellow philosophy major named Tom Cathcartwho has remained my closest friend for going on fifty‑seven years now.
Through the ages, animpressive number of philosophers— from hedonists to transcendentalists—haverated friendship as life’s greatest pleasure. Not sex, not extreme sports, noteven coming up with an original philosophical insight—but simply having a verygood friend. Epicurus and Aristotle thought so, so did Montaigne and Bacon,Santayana and James. It is a long and impressive list. Given that doingphilosophy is one of the most introverted occupations imaginable, it isfascinating that these folks valued companionship so much. Perhaps it takesbeing a solitary person to fully appreciate the pleasures of friendship.
Of course, there are some philosophers who hold a cynicalview of friendship. The French master of maxims, François de La Rochefoucauld(1613–1680), wrote, “What men have called friendship is only a socialarrangement, a mutual adjustment of interests, an interchange of services givenand received; it is, in sum, simply a business from which those involvedpropose to derive a steady profit for their own self‑love.”
Yes, we all have had relationships like that—relationshipsthat turned out to be more about manipulation than companionship, more aboutbeing treated as a means to an end than as an end itself. But true, open, andtrusting relationships exist also. I know this to be true in my most valuedfriendships and I have the incomparable privilege of being married to someone Itrust with my life.
An insidious form of La Rochefoucauld’s cynical appraisal of friendship is inthe air lately. It is called “setting boundaries,” and mental health tipstersfrom Dr. Phil to the editors of PsychologyToday swear by it. The idea is that you should consciously set limits onwhat you are willing to do with and for your loved ones; that way you will notget riled or burned in your relationships. They tell us to set boundaries onwhat we are willing to sacrifice for our friends, what we will tolerate intheir behavior, even what we talk about with them. That way we will havehealthier, more peaceful friendships.
In Psychology Today’s“10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better,” they list as number 5:“Understand the laws of reciprocity—The best way to receive support, love andfeelings of satisfaction and contentment is to lend it out, offer your help,donate your time, reach out to someone you love.”
In other words, base your relationships on the commercialmodel of quid pro quo: If you do forme, I’ll do for you. It sounds like La Rochefoucauld’s “social arrangement, amutual adjustment of interests, an interchange of services given and received.”Is that what we want to mean by “friendship”?
Recently, a friend of mine told me that she had worked out atidy and workable formula for sustaining her marriage even though she and herhusband had been growing further and further apart for many years. She saidthey no longer shared the same values; in fact, they saw just about everythingin the world so differently that it was impossible to have anything butcontentious conversations with each other. But they had three children and shefelt it was incumbent upon her to keep the marriage going. Hence her formula,which consisted of setting extreme boundaries on what could and could not bediscussed and at what points they would temporarily withdraw from each other.It sounded to me like something one might read in a business manual on how tokeep antagonistic employees from gouging each other’s eyes out. My friend askedme what I thought of her formula and I replied, honestly, that it sounded goodto me, as long as she was willing to completely give up on genuine intimacy.
Surprisingly, my friend was taken aback by my comment. Shehad not thought about her situation in those terms. She had been living withoutgenuine closeness for so long that she seemed to have forgotten how much sheactually valued it and longed for it. And no “boundaries” formula was going tochange that; indeed, it would only codify a way to live without the possibilityof closeness. She realized that what she ultimately needed to decide was if shewas willing to live without intimacy for the rest of her life.
But back to Emerson’s thoughts about the joys of an old friendship. I knowwhereof he speaks. Tom and I have kept in close touch— daily touch since theadvent of email—over the decades. Once or twice a year, we go off together fora few days, stay in a B&B or hotel, and basically just hang out. We talk.We go to a movie. We eat out. We talk some more. It is a treat and a privilege.
Over these years, we have gone through the rough passages ofour respective lives with each other’s counsel and support. The good parts,too, of course. And some of our long, heady discussions on philosophical topicshave taught me more than I learned in any classroom. But if I were to pick outthe most ecstatic times we have shared, those would be the occasions when wewere pickled with goofiness, when we reduced each other to giggling fools. Wetrust each other enough to be able to be seriously stupid together. Totaldumbos. And in the midst of so much laughter, there are sometimes moments whentime seems to stop for a delirious rendezvous with the Eternal Now.
“Our language has wiselysensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created
the word solitude to expressthe glory of being alone.”
—Paul Tillich, Theologian
As much as I cherish the Joys of genuine companionship, I do love the glory ofsolitude. This is a pleasure that has deepened for me with age. Often, solitudecan fill me with peacefulness and a simple gratitude for being alive. Sittingalone in the back of our little house on a summer’s day, a field of long grassand wildflowers before me, I revel in the mere act of breathing in andbreathing out.
On her trips to the vegetable garden, my wife sometimesoffers me an amused smile as she passes by. Once, a few years ago, she asked meif I was thinking deep thoughts out there in my chair. I happily confessed thetruth: I didn’t have a single thought in my head, deep or shallow. That was asubstantial part of what made it so delightful.
Indulging in solitude is certainly selfish, but I do notthink it is egotistical. I don’t sit there congratulating myself on being me.If I congratulate myself about anything, it is on just being. It is a treat tobe able to appreciate simply being alive and usually that treat is notavailable when I am in the company of others. It tends to get lost in thecrowd.
Nonetheless, I am not so sold on solitude as was Henry DavidThoreau, the American philosopher who spent months on end alone on Walden Pond.He, apparently, did have deep thoughts deep in the woods. Wrote Thoreau: “Inever found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
No, I value my time with good friends too much to go thatfar. But Thoreau does get me thinking about an activity that lies betweensolitude and time spent with a truly companionable friend, and that is timespent with people when intimacy is not an option. There is a lot of that in ourlives—for example, a party, the kind where people flit from group to group andshmooze amiably, often entertainingly, but not really personally. At suchgatherings, it is nearly impossible to feel even an intimation of intimacy.
I prefer solitude to that. This may well be an old man thingthat comes from a sense of time running out and not wanting to waste a momentof it. I would rather spend my remaining time breathing in and out in my chairbehind the house than spend it being the life of a party.
I have noticed that as Snookers gets older, he tends to spendmore time alone, too. Rather than go for a walk with me, he often prefers toremain lying beneath a spreading maple tree with his head held up, sniffing thepassing scene, occasionally wagging his tail, perhaps in response to anintriguing smell.
Does this mean that in our old age, Snookers and I arewithdrawing from the world? Letting go of the activities and encounters thatonce enriched our lives so that we can now pass gracefully to a world ofnothingness? I don’t know. But I do know that sitting alone out in the backyardmy life can feel very rich indeed.
Albert Einstein expressed this late‑in‑life phenomenonbeautifully when he wrote, “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth,but delicious in the years of maturity.”
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
—Aristotle, Greek Philosopher (384–322 bc)
If Aristotle had had a clue to how many relationships he would wreck with theseten simple words, he might have reconsidered composing them. In comparison tothis version of Ideal Love, our garden‑variety love affairs and marriages seema pale shade of drab. And inevitably, along with drab comes discontent: “Wejust don’t seem like a single soul, honey. So let’s call it quits.”
I was already a Soul‑Mate Romantic when I copied that linefrom Aristotle into my notebook. We were all romantics then. As kids, we hadheard Rhett Butler in Gone with the Winddeclare to his beloved: “Scarlett! Look at me! I’ve loved you more than I’veever loved any woman and I’ve waited for you longer than I’ve ever waited forany woman.” We totally bought into Rhett’s rhetoric, especially that “waitinglong” part, because clearly if there is only one perfect soul mate to acustomer, we were not going to come across him or her for a very long time, ifever.
We marveled when Daisy Buchanan murmured to Gatsby: “I wishI’d done everything on earth with you,” because we just knew that anyexperience without our perfect matewas merely a warm‑up for the real thing. We listened repeatedly to Sinatracroon that anthem of predestined love to the perfect mate, “It Had to Be You,”in which Frankie declares how fortunate it is that he waited for his one andonly, the one woman who could make him “glad just to be sad thinkin’ of you.”
And in high school we read Byron, pretended publicly that itwas corny drivel, but in private were completely captivated by the poet’sdepiction of profound, undying love: “Long, long shall I rue thee, Too deeplyto tell.”
So by the time I read Aristotle’s definition of love incollege, I was already a goner. And then, seeing my romantic fantasyarticulated so exquisitely by this great philosopher, my fantasy feltvalidated.
In our era, the one‑soul‑in‑two‑bodies credo meant that eachindividual had his own predestined soul mate, that deep down we knew and lovedthis person before we even met her. Further, the search for this person mightbe endless. And most significantly, any lover who was not that perfect soulmate was a bad choice by definition.
The result for many of us was to go through one partnerafter another who didn’t measure up, who wasn’t the perfect soul mate, whoactually had an identity/soul that was solely her own and wasn’t identical toours. It never crossed our minds that we were in love with an ideal that hadvery little to do with flesh and blood— especially not with flesh. Many of uswere deeply disappointed when the earth failed to move, as Hemingway (in For Whom the Bell Tolls) had assured usit would when we made love to our true soul mate. The more analytic among uswent so far as to embrace the then‑popular criterion for a perfect match:simultaneous orgasms. This criterion had the advantage of being as measurableas an Aristotelian triangle; we could determine a perfect match in just a fewovernight experiments, often turning lovemaking into a joyless affair.
Aristotle’s formulation has its roots in a dialogue, The Symposium, written by his teacher, Plato, in which Socrates andsome of his cronies sing praises of Eros, the god of love. One member of thisseminar, Aristophanes (here as a fictional character), declares that truelovers gravitate to one another because our forefathers were androgynous beingswith a face on each side of their heads, so by joining one another lovers wereactually making themselves whole again. Aristotle’s influence could still beseen centuries later in the work of the Roman poet Ovid, who frequentlyreferred to love and friendship in terms of “two in body, one in mind.”
It was not until I was somewhat older that I realized thatAristotle actually did have something instructive to say to modern lovers.Rereading passages about relationships in his Nicomachean Ethics, I began to understand that what he meant by asoul mate was a form of what he called “complete friendship” as compared to“friendships for utility” and “friendships solely for pleasure.” He wrote:“[C]omplete friendship is that of good people, those who are alike in theirvirtue: they each alike wish good things to each other in so far as they aregood.” In short, suitable partners feel drawn to each other’s fundamentalcharacter. “They are disposed in this way towards each other because of whatthey are, not for any incidental reason.” And “Such friendship is, as one mightexpect, lasting, since in it are combined all the qualities that friends shouldhave.” Finally, coming to his concept of romantic love, Aristotle wrote, “[I]ttends to be a sort of excess of friendship, and it is felt towards a singleperson.” There is something charming about that phrase, an “excess offriendship.” It beautifully captures the idea of overflowing with goodfeelings.
I think one thing Aristotle is teaching here is a lessonthat took me and many of my friends a long time to appreciate: For the longhaul, it’s a damned good idea to find a relationship in which you justnaturally want to be good to each other—in fact, a relationship in which youcan be good to one another simply bybeing yourself. If the catchphrase for that concept is “a single soul inhabitingtwo bodies,” I guess I’ll take it after all.
“Nothing happens while you live. The scenery changes,
people come in and go out, that’s all. There are no beginnings. Days are tackedon to days without rhyme or reason, an interminable, monotonous addition.”
—Jean‑Paul Sartre, French Philosopher
This entry appears about halfway through my notebook, written with a Bicballpoint pen as I sat in the Jardin du Luxembourg during my very brief tenurestudying philosophy at the Sorbonne. I find myself both touched and embarrassedby the earnestness of my younger self in the note I scribbled below it:
I have been there, Jean-Paul.I have sung that blues of all blues, the There’s-Nothing-New-Under-The-SunBlues, the Fighting-Vainly-The-Old-Ennui Blues, the Same-Old-Same-Old-ThingBlues. The Existential Blues. . . . I have felt myself drowning in the monotonyof it all. I have despaired of ever finding anything new and meaningful.
I can picture my distant young self sitting alone on a parkbench, the collar of my coat turned up, an unfiltered cigarette dangling frommy lips, my eyes squinted as I took in the dreary predictability of everythingI saw. I grimaced as I beheld the false bonhomie of middle‑aged couples chatting.And I shuddered as I watched young lovers locked in an embrace, totally unawarethat their affair would inevitably turn into mutual contempt or worse, boredom.
It was not pretty. But at those times in my life when I feltthis existential ennui, it was very real. It made me wonder why I should botherto do anything, like get out of bed in the morning.
If I felt and acted that way today, someone would trot meoff to a shrink where I would be promptly diagnosed with Recurrent DepressiveDisorder (Code 296.32 in the Diagnosticand Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and medicated with Prozac. Onething about living in a psychological era is that few people give credence orvalue to a philosophical perspective. In our period, despairing of finding anymeaning in life is rarely considered a sincerely held worldview; no, it is asickness that needs to be cured. If I said to a psychiatrist that by treatingexistential ennui as a disease he is making the gratuitous assumption that thecorrect way to live is cheerfully and hopefully, he would look at me as if Iwas, well, sick in the head. Most shrinks presuppose that the goal of life isto become positive and to have a sense of well‑being and that it is not healthyto feel or think otherwise.
But what if, after philosophical contemplation, a personfinds life empty? What if he cannot find any meaning in life, either rationally or in thedepths of his being? Does that simply mean it’s Prozac time?
The“Nothing happens while you live” quote is from Sartre’s first novel, Nausea. Written in 1938, it was aphilosophical treatise in literary form. The story involves a man who graduallyloses his grip on everything that once had meaning and value in his life; hencethe “nausea” of endless meaninglessness that overcomes him. Near the end of thenovel, this man begins to grasp that he alone can create the meaning of hislife. This freedom is horrifying in both its arbitrariness and its personalresponsibility, but it is also thrilling. The novel’s theme of suffering as aprerequisite for consciousness— that “life begins on the other side ofdespair”—made Nausea an indispensabletext of the Existentialist movement.
I experienced bouts of existential despair for a good part of my twenties.Looking back on that period now, I can see that some of that feeling was mixedup with my gloom over my inability to find a satisfying vocation and my failedlove affairs. But even now I am not convinced that my personal problems wereall there was to my despairing view of life. Indeed, my view of life hadcontributed to my inability to find any kind of meaningful occupation and thebreakdown of my love affairs. It went both ways.
But there is another perspective on this period of my lifethat I only see now: at some level, I found my despair romantic. My upturnedcollar and dangling cigarette are dead giveaways. Very à la mode française. That the most compelling formulations ofexistential despair were French clearly contributed to this romanticism. It wasnot simply that French philosophers such as Sartre and Camus expressed thisdespair better than any other philosophers; this view of life also pervadedpopular French language and art. The Nouvelle Vague films of the day portrayedantiheroes beset by a sense of meaninglessness and the inertia born of thatfeeling. I will never forget the almost unbearable emptiness I felt when I sawLouis Malle’s film Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within) in 1963. The filmrecords the final forty‑eight hours of a failed writer who, overcome with asense of meaninglessness, has resolved to kill himself. I saw the film twice onsucceeding days and felt nauseous both times.
I also remember seeing attractive Sorbonne students in Pariscafés shrugging with soulful resignation and intoning, “Je m’en fous,” a fashionable phrase of the day that meant, roughly,“Not only do I not give a shit, but it wouldn’t make any difference if I did.”As I say, very French and very romantic. I was very young.
Yet even this personal admission does not reduce what Ithought and felt in that period to something trivial. In a far less dramaticway than for the protagonists in Nauseaor The Fire Within, I, too, needed towork my way through my existential despair to get a grip on my life.Fortunately, I did—well, some of the time.
Recently, I have heard young people using the expression, “That’s a First Worldproblem.” Looking up that pop aphorism on the Web, I came across a photographof a poverty‑stricken child in South America and under it the caption, “Soyou’re telling me you have so much clean water that you shit in it?” Theimplication is, of course, that the vast majority of our complaints andanxieties are over First World problems, trivialities when compared to ThirdWorld problems.
Well, these days I often think that sitting on a park benchdwelling on the meaninglessness of it all is a First World indulgence. Thechild in that photograph will probably never become preoccupied with themeaning of his life; he will become preoccupied with finding enough food andwater to simply stay alive. But that said, I still do not begrudge myself thatperiod of existential despair. Or, as Edith Piaf dolefully sang on the radio inthose days, “Je ne regrette rien.”
A note about Prozac: I am absolutely all for taking Prozac if that is the choicea person makes. Even if a person is beset by the existential blues, if hechooses to change the way he feels via medication, he has made a personalchoice I fully respect.
I know staunch Existentialists would disagree. They say thattaking a pill that not only changes your mood, but changes your entire outlookon life, is an act of “bad faith.” This pill‑taker is “unauthentic,” because heis treating himself as an object rather than as a subject. He is acting as ifhis world outlook is just another
“thing” to be manipulated.
Perhaps. But when I read the book Listening to Prozac by Dr. Peter Kramer, I was struck by how manypill‑takers stated that once their depression lifted, they felt more like their“true selves” than ever before.
“The life of man is of no greaterimportance to the universe than that of an oyster.”
—David Hume, Philosopher
(1711–1776), British Empiricist
This is one of the first quotes I copied into my notebook as a young man. Itspoke to me then and it speaks to me now. Indeed, the ultimate insignificanceof my life in the context of the entire universe and time eternal becomesharder to ignore as I near its end. But these days I find a sweet consolationjust beneath the surface of Hume’s assessment.
For starters, I need to check out a bit of ambiguity in Hume’s statement. Doeshe mean that all lives—from oyster to human— are of equal importance to theuniverse, yet they are all of greatimportance to it? That every little thing is absolutely wonderful in God’shandmade universe, like the “It’s all good” message of the Anglican hymn, “AllThings Bright and Beautiful”?
I’m afraid not. It would be unlike Hume, a skepticalphilosopher, to be in such a warm and fuzzy frame of mind when he issued hisoyster ordinance. Rather, I suspect he meant something along the lines of, “Itis all so incredibly big out there and each one of us is so incredibly small,our lives so brief and time infinitely long, so maybe our individual lives arenot the big deals we like to think they are. In fact, our lives are more likean oyster’s.”
At first blush, this is definitely not a feel‑good memo. Itimplies that our individual lives are so puny against the backdrop of thecosmos as to be utterly meaningless. What is more, Hume has us coming andgoing: If the cosmos is operating according to some grand plan, we are simplytiny cogs in the Humongous Machine; but if all is random in the cosmos, ourlives are also random, plus shrimpy on top of that.
I will never forget the time my wife, Freke, and I spent afew days in Corfu on our way from Italy to mainland Greece. Freke has alwayshad a fondness for viewing out‑of‑the‑way historical sites and this time shewanted to see the tomb of a ninth‑century ad potentate who had once ruled allof Asia Minor. We took a public bus to somewhere deep in the island’s interiorwhere the driver let us off beside a copse of ancient olive trees, pointingtoward a long, rocky road. We trekked for almost an hour and then we finallysaw it: a small, toppling cairn bearing a sign in Greek and English with thename of this man who had once been emperor of what was then a sizeable chunk ofthe civilized world. There were a couple of bottles of Hillas beer lying besideit. That was it. So much for immortality via memorabilia. I found the ultimatesmallness of the great king’s life both sad and wryly comical, but mostlydeeply humbling.
This little tableau immediately reminded me of Percy ByssheShelley’s poignant sonnet “Ozymandias,” written upon seeing a statue in theEgyptian desert of the once‑powerful Rameses II. Here are the poem’s last sixlines:
And on the pedestal thesewords appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, kingof kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty,and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: roundthe decay
Of that colossal wreck,boundless and bare,
The lone and level sandsstretch far away.
But there is another way of looking at the oyster enigma,and that is from the point of view of the American pop philosophical schoolknown as the It’s a Wonderful Life theorists. (Okay, there isn’t really alegitimate philosophical school by this name, but that doesn’t stop me fromconsidering it.) According to this thesis, our tiny lives can have a colossalripple effect. Witness the difference it would have made to the people ofBedford Falls if George Bailey had never lived, as demonstrated by ClarenceOdbody, Angel Second Class. For those who somehow missed this movie, It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic FrankCapra film about a man, George Bailey, who contemplates suicide because hethinks he has failed his family and community, but Angel Clarence sets Georgestraight by showing him how Bedford Falls would have turned out if George hadnever existed. Not good at all, and that is because George significantlyaffected the lives around him with his small acts of kindness. The idea is thatevery little thing we do has repercussions that reach far and wide even if wedo appear oysterlike.
The Wonderful Life theory is a social‑behavior variation onthe Butterfly Effect, which suggests that the flap of a butterfly’s wings inone part of the globe can be the determining cause of a hurricane in anotherpart of the globe. Devised by Edward Lorenz, an American meteorologist andchaos theory physicist, the Butterfly Effect basically postulates that overtime a small event can generate big changes. So be it for George Bailey’s smallacts of kindness, not to mention yours and mine. Of course, the problem withany chain of cause and effect is where it all begins. Like, why should the Lorenzchain start with the flapping of that butterfly’s wings? Wasn’t there a causeof that? And of the cause of that cause? Is it causes all the way down? But letus not go down that caterpillar hole just now.
Film culture also offers a more nuanced response to Hume’sinsignificant‑lives paradigm. The Swedish masterpiece Fanny and Alexander suggests that we can take great comfort inacknowledging how small and unimportant our individual lives are because eachlittle life can be seen as a cosmos unto itself. We are all meaningful playersin the Little World.
Ingmar Bergman’s deeply moving film recounts three years inthe lives of an extended, wealthy Swedish family, the Ekdahls, in the early1900s. During the course of the drama, the Ekdahls suffer some great losses—thepremature death of young Alexander’s father and the remarriage of his mother,Emilie, to a clergyman who turns out to be an extremely controlling husband anda cruel stepfather. Near the end, Emilie and the children are rescued andreturned to the family home where they celebrate with a grand dinner.Alexander’s uncle, Gustav, offers a long, sometimes humorous, and altogetherloving toast that concludes with the passage below, an ode to the “littleworld”:
“The world is a den of thieves, and night is falling. Evilbreaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog. The poison affectsus all. No one escapes. Therefore let us be happy while we are happy. Let us bekind, generous, affectionate, and good. It is necessary and not at all shamefulto take pleasure in the little world.”
In short, the little world is his oyster. Sounds good to me.
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Praise for Travels with Epicurus
“An insightful meditation.” - The New York Times Book Review
“Along the way, Klein touches on the ideas of Bertrand Russell, Erik Erikson, Aristotle, and William James. Klein's narrative is a delightful and spirited conversation, offering up the ingredients inherent to the art of living well in old age.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Charming and accessible, this philosophical survey simply and accessibly makes academic philosophy relevant to ordinary human emotion.” – Kirkus Review
“Witty and wry” – Huffington Post
“A lovely little book with both heart and punch.” – Booklist
“A charming meditation on aging. Daniel Klein takes us on a thought-provoking journey.” – The Weekly Standard Book Review
“Reading this book after a period of overwork and high stress, I was bowled over by its easy charm and hard-won wisdom. I shall be buying it in bulk as presents for my equally overburdened peers, and I suspect a few older people will enjoy it, too.” – Markus Berkmann, The Daily Mail
“If you think philosophy is hard stuff that makes your head spin and possibly hurt, Klein is the perfect guide to deep thinking. Being fully aware and wondering how best to spend our time are useful practices at any age, and this warm, thought-provoking book is a terrific introduction to thinking about life philosophically.” – Concord Monitor