Is it possible for anything to matter? My teacher always tells me if I do bad in a drama scene, I shouldn't worry about it because no one will remember or care in a few weeks. Doesn't that apply to everything? If I cure cancer, surely that will affect almost everyone on the planet, but will anyone even appreciate it a million years after the fact? A billion? Humans can't last forever, and eventually our species will die - meaning no one will be alive to remember cancer even existed. Even Earth will die eventually. Even the Galaxy!! So how can anything I do be important in the grand scheme of things?

Good question? I have wrestled with this one a lot. Of course, it depends what we mean by "matters" -- if it is an issue of being remembered then there is a good chance that when the earth slips into the sun or whatever, all will be forgotten and in the end nothing will have mattered. When we say that something matters to us I think we mean to say it has value. But just because an event has impact at one time but not at another -- like the play -- does it follow that it never mattered? I don't think so. I can remember playing football in college. Sad to say, it was the most important thing in the world to me. Now, I can barely remember the outcome of some games. But it doesn't mean that those games were meaningless. There is no reason to think that in order for an event to matter it has to have eternal consequences. Obviously, your drama teacher was just trying to help you fit things into perspective. Events that can feel world consuming to us at one time will look differently in the rear...

I have a reoccurance of Base of Tongue cancer, and this is a dehumanizing sort of cancer in that it starts to strip away some our most basic asthetic appreciations: eating food, tasting, swallowing, speaking and sexual intimacy. It is also dreadfully painful. So - I've been having the internal question of, when is enough enough, and I think there was a classical parable of how someone would choose their death.

When is enough enough? Oh my friend, what a hard, hardquestion - a question that when being raised says a lot about life itself. Though I worry about a person being in decent fettle trying to resolve such a question --for me it would be when the pain got so relentless and all consumingthat it devoured my ability to love others – to care about anything outsidemyself – when the pain permanently nailed me to my self.

Why are wisdom and truth important? How does one defend their importance over the superficial like wealth and popularity? What is wrong with the superficial anyway? I like to think that I pursue wisdom and scorn worldly goods, but I can never justify to others why I live this way.

If by superficial you mean something like material wealth, then it is clear that there are many who are possessed of and perhaps by the superficial but who do not lead good/happy lives. Wisdom is a knowledge of how best to live and without that knowledge your Maserati may not mean much. Suppose for instance that the best life involves deep and lasting relationships. Devotion to the superficial can make those relationships and a sense of humanity very hard to develop. I suppose we could put it this way, if the contest is which leads to a better life cool things or wisdom, then I guess it would all depend on what you understood to be the good life. I don't think even Donald Trump would disagree with Aristotle that if the good life is the goal then it would be good to know something about that goal-- and that will require wisdom. Of course, Aristotle comes to the conclusion that some of the things that you might judge to be shallow-- also have an important place -- but he never puts those things...

Why is academic genius valued more highly than sporting genius? This seems pretentious to me.

I'm not sure that this is so in the general public. But the reason would be that some great good can come from "academic genius" e.g. cure for a disease, whereas only entertainment can come from athletic brilliance.

What is the value of hard work?

Here we need to inquire - what is the standard that we are measuring value by and is that standard legitimate? If the standard is building character than I think it could be said that hard work usually works to build character-- though too hard a work and exploitation can also work to harden the soul.

I am sixty and I find myself becoming removed from my life (my very nice life, I might add). I watch, rather than participate. Everything I read about, see, or experience is similar to that which I have read about, seen or experienced before. I've been down that road before, I know where it goes, it's hard to stay engaged. It's hard to care. I know that in the broadest view everything turns out fine- all good things end and all bad things end. I am not unhappy at all. Am I just old?

Thanks for your very well put and honest sigh of a reflection. It does sound as though you are bored and detached. You say that it is hard to care - which is right to suggest that caring is an activity-- not a feeling that washes over. Could you make stronger efforts to care, to get involved? I've often found that Pascal was right - going through the motions can lead to authentic feelings. I'm in the same time territory and sometimes I think that there is nothing to look forward to - nothing good at least - just losing people I feel as though I can't live without, the body breaking down, not being taken seriously, the nursing home. I think it is a scary period. Not that this makes any difference, but it has also struck me how much being in the present, in America at least, depends upon having a future, a dream. It is as though for us, no tomorrow means no today. Sad. And at a certain point our future does in fact become pretty narrow and, well, terrifying. I just try to care - to be as kind as...