Antifragility, Sadness as a mind-opener and Sangoku !

It's so practical to have friends with great ideas. Makes for a great many more blogs. Yesterday, I mentioned mangas and how in some of them the main character gets stronger each time he / she nears death or comes back from the other side. And a friend mentioned NN Taleb's new book : "Anti-Fragile" (Thank you Peter ;) copyrights here for the dot connection) three

NN Taleb apparently differentiates 3 states of fragility:

  • Fragile : Damocles eating at Dionysius II of Syracuse's table with a sword above his head hanging by a horse's hair.

" Damocles was an obsequious courtier in the court of Dionysus II of Syracuse, a 4th-century BC tyrant of Syracuse, Sicily. Pandering to his king, Damocles exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority surrounded by magnificence, Dionysius was truly extremely fortunate. Dionysius then offered to switch places with Damocles, so that Damocles could taste that very fortune first-hand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat down in the king's throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail. Damocles finally begged the tyrant that he be allowed to depart, because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate." Wikipedia

  • Robust : The phoenix. Each time the phoenix dies, he regenerates, only identical to its old self. Robust is synonymous with resilient in many ways.
  • Anti-fragile : The hydra. Each time a hydra's head is cut, two heads grow in its place. Not only does it survive hardships like the phoenix. Hardships make it grow. Being anti-fragile isn't only about being resilient. It is an improved resiliency.

This flips Nietzsche's "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" on its head. What kills the hydra makes it stronger. What destroys us completely gives us window of growth. See death as an opportunity ! But though a hydra might be able to grow a head from nothing, we cannot grow strength from void. We need to absorb the material surrounding us and turn it into new soil for growth. Hence, delving into the concept, anti-fragile seems to mean leveraging the ubiquitous entropy of the universe. Becoming entropic ourselves.


But how does this translate in everyday life ? Obviously, dying on a daily basis doesn't sound ...

mmm ... rather read this:

"The man's sadness points us to a subsidiary claim. It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things. our downhearted moments provide architecture and art with their best openings for it is at such times that our hunger for their ideal qualities will be at its height" The architecture of happiness, Alain de Botton

Sadness is not a pitfall but rather an opening. An opportunity to grow stronger. Same for the rest of life's downfalls. We need to perceive them as windows of opportunity where we can take the world's energy / entropy / beauty in and, with it, grow stronger. This is the anti-fragile way of life.