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你永远都不会成名,但这没关系

更新时间:2017-9-9 11:51:18 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.
你永远都不会成名,但这没关系

Today’s college students desperately want to change the world, but too many think that living a meaningful life requires doing something extraordinary and attention-grabbing like becoming an Instagram celebrity, starting a wildly successful company or ending a humanitarian crisis.

如今的大学生们拼命想要改变世界,但是有太多人认为,要想过一个有意义的人生,就需要做一些非同寻常,引人关注的事情,比如说成为Instagram名人,开一个大获成功的公司,或者终结一场人道危机。

Having idealistic aspirations is, of course, part of being young. But thanks to social media, purpose and meaning have become conflated with glamour: Extraordinary lives look like the norm on the internet. Yet the idea that a meaningful life must be or appear remarkable is not only elitist but also misguided. Over the past five years, I’ve interviewed dozens of people across the country about what gives their lives meaning, and I’ve read through thousands of pages of psychology, philosophy and neuroscience research to understand what truly brings people satisfaction.

年轻人当然都会有理想主义的抱负。但是,拜社交媒体所赐,目标和意义已经同魅力混为一谈:非同凡响的生活看上去像是互联网上的常态。然而,有意义的人生必须非同寻常,或者看起来非同寻常,这种想法不仅是精英主义的,还是误导性的。在过去五年中,我采访了来自全国各地的几十个人,听他们讲述自己的人生意义。我还阅读了数千页的心理学、哲学与神经科学研究著作,想了解什么才能带给人真正的满足感。

The most meaningful lives, I’ve learned, are often not the extraordinary ones. They’re the ordinary ones lived with dignity.

最后我明白,最有意义的人生往往不是非凡的人生。而是那些平凡的、有尊严的人生。

There’s perhaps no better expression of that wisdom than George Eliot’s “Middlemarch,” a book I think every college student should read. At 700-some pages, it requires devotion and discipline, which is kind of the point. Much like a meaningful life, the completion of this book is hard won and requires effort. The heroine of the novel is Dorothea Brooke, a wealthy young gentlewoman in a provincial English town. Dorothea has a passionate temperament and yearns to accomplish some good in the world as a philanthropist. The novel’s hero, Tertius Lydgate, is an ambitious young doctor who hopes to make important scientific discoveries. Both hope to lead epic lives.

或许乔治·艾略特(George Eliot)的小说《米德尔马契》(Middlemarch)最准确地表达了这种智慧,我认为每个大学生都应该读一读这本书。它大概有700多页,需要全心投入和自我约束才能读完,而这两点也是本书的主旨。要读完这本书的确很难,需要努力才能做到,拥有一个有意义的人生也是如此。小说的女主角名叫多萝西娅·布鲁克(Dorothea Brooke),是一位出生在英国地方小镇的富有淑女。多萝西娅有一种激情洋溢的气质,渴望做一个慈善家,为世界带来点美好的东西。小说的男主人公特蒂斯·利德盖特(Tertius Lydgate)是一位胸怀大志的年轻医生,希望能获得重要的科学发现。两人都渴望过着英雄史诗般的生活。

Both Dorothea and Tertius end up in disastrous marriages — she to the vicar Mr. Casaubon, he to the town beauty Rosamond. Slowly, their dreams wither away. Rosamond, who turns out to be vain and superficial, wants Tertius to pursue a career lucrative enough to support her indulgent tastes, and by the end of the novel, he acquiesces, abandoning his scientific quest to become a doctor to the rich. Though conventionally “successful,” he dies at 50 believing himself a failure for not following through on his original life plan.

多萝西娅和特蒂斯的婚姻都是灾难性的——她嫁给卡苏朋(Casaubon)牧师,他娶了镇上的美女罗莎蒙德(Rosamond)。慢慢地,他们的梦想破灭了。罗莎蒙德原来是个空虚肤浅的女人,只希望特蒂斯从事一个能赚大钱的职业,以便满足她奢侈的品味,到最后他顺从她的愿望,放弃了自己的科学追求,成了为富人看病的医生。他去世时50岁,虽然取得了传统上意义上的“成功”,但临终前认为自己没有遵循原本的生活计划。

As for Dorothea, after the Reverend Casaubon dies, she marries her true love, Will Ladislaw. But her larger ambitions go unrealized. At first it seems that she, too, has wasted her potential.

至于多萝西娅,卡苏朋牧师去世后,她嫁给了自己的真爱威尔·拉迪斯拉夫(Will Ladislaw)。但她更大的抱负并未实现。乍看上去,她似乎也浪费了自己的潜力。

Tertius’s tragedy is that he never reconciles himself to his humdrum reality. Dorothea’s triumph is that she does.

特蒂斯的悲剧在于,他永远未能同自己生活中的乏味现实和解。多萝西娅的胜利则在于她做到了。

By novel’s end, she settles into life as a wife and a mother, and becomes, Eliot writes, the “foundress of nothing.” It may be a letdown for the reader, but not for Dorothea. She pours herself into her roles as mother and wife with “beneficent activity which she had not the doubtful pains of discovering and marking out for herself.”

在小说结尾,她以贤妻良母的身份安居乐业,艾略特写道,她“没有开创任何东西”。这对读者来说可能很失望,但对于多萝西娅来说并不是。她全心投入母亲和妻子的角色,做着“有益的活动,让她感受不到发现自我或突出自我的那种怀疑的痛苦”。

Looking out her window one day, she sees a family making its way down the road and realizes that she, too, is “a part of that involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining.” In other words, she begins to live in the moment. Rather than succumb to the despair of thwarted dreams, she embraces her life as it is and contributes to those around her as she can.

一天,她从窗户向外看去,看到一家人正在沿着道路往前走,她意识到自己也“是那不由自主的、汹涌向前的生活的一部分,她不能躲在奢华的小天地里,仅仅做一个旁观者,也不能让个人的痛苦遮住自己的眼睛,看不到其他一切。”换言之,她开始生活在当下。梦想受挫的绝望并没有令她屈服,她开始接受生活的本来面目,并且尽可能地为身边的人做出贡献。

This is Eliot’s final word on Dorothea: “Her full nature, like that river which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

关于多萝西娅,艾略特的最后一句话是:“她的完整性格,正如那条给居鲁士堵决的大河,化成了许多渠道,从此不再在世上享有盛誉了。但是她对周围人的影响,依然不绝如缕,未可等闲视之,因为世上善的增长,一部分也有赖于那些微不足道的行为,而你我的遭遇之所以不致如此悲惨,一半也得力于那些不求闻达,忠诚地度过一生,然后安息在无人凭吊的坟墓中的人们。”

It’s one of the most beautiful passages in literature, and it encapsulates what a meaningful life is about: connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, in whatever humble form that may take.

这是文学中最美丽的段落之一,它总结了一个有意义的人生应当是什么样的:以任何谦卑的形式同某种超越自我的东西发生联系,并为之做出贡献。

Most young adults won’t achieve the idealistic goals they’ve set for themselves. They won’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg. They won’t have obituaries that run in newspapers like this one. But that doesn’t mean their lives will lack significance and worth. We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that.

大多数年轻人无法实现他们为自己设定的理想主义目标。他们不会成为下一个马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)。他们的讣告不会被登在《纽约时报》这样的报纸上。但这并不意味着他们的人生将会缺乏意义、没有价值。我们身边可以接触到许多人,他们的生活是我们可以改善的——从中我们可以找到自己的人生意义。

A new and growing body of research within psychology about meaningfulness confirms the wisdom of Eliot’s novel — that meaning is found not in success and glamour but in the mundane. One research study showed that adolescents who did household chores felt a stronger sense of purpose. Why? The researchers believe it’s because they’re contributing to something bigger: their family. Another study found that cheering up a friend was an activity that created meaning in a young adult’s life. People who see their occupations as an opportunity to serve their immediate community find more meaning in their work, whether it’s an accountant helping his client or a factory worker supporting her family with a paycheck.

一项发展中的最新心理学研究证实了艾略特小说中的智慧——意义并不蕴含在成功和魅力之中,而是在平凡中找到的。一项研究表明,做家务的青少年会有更强烈的目标感。为什么?研究人员认为,这是因为他们正在为更大的东西做出贡献:他们的家庭。另一项研究发现,鼓励朋友是一种能在青年人的生活中创造意义的活动。如果一个人认为自己的职业可以为身边的社区提供服务,他或她便能在工作中发现更多意义,无论是帮助客户的会计师,抑或是靠薪水养活全家的工厂女工,都是如此。

As students head to school this year, they should consider this: You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful like. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.

今年,当学生们走进学校的时候,他们应该思考这一点:要想要一个有意义的人生,你不必改变世界,或是找到什么真正的目的。一个善的人生就是好的人生——这是任何人都可以追求的,无论他们有着什么样的梦想,或是处于什么样的环境。

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