047 | Staying Undefeated

Greetings, hero!

I’ll keep this short and to the point, because we only have a moment.

How long this moment lasts is up to you. Life is about more than reading, and those who skim over words typically don’t need them at the moment.

But you’re still reading—which means today, you probably need this moment.

You see, our lives are perpetually divided, often by arbitrary standards. For right now, your life is defined by this letter. It starts with the moment before you started reading, and ends with the moment you close it out. By the time you’re done reading, the future will be upon you, and this brief moment will be relegated to the past.

In my experience, it’s far too easy to fall into three camps. The first camp is living in the past. I admit, that’s hard to resist. The past is defined. It’s like normal life without the constant changes and pivots that keep you on your toes. It holds all of the greatest lessons humanity has to teach us, the best art, and the “good old days” when people seemed to have life figured out. Even though the past isn’t all good, and holds plenty of pain and sorrow, at least it’s known pain and sorrow.

By contrast, the other camp is living in the future. The future is different. It’s where all human potential is. It’s where you can be a different person. A new career, body, hobby, dream house, dream job, dream partner–they all live in the future. And yes, so does a whole lot of other things—breakups, firings, sickness, pain, but isn’t it worth enduring future evils in exchange for all the untapped potential?

And then there’s us, sitting here now, reading these words, stuck in the present moment.

The past is attractive because it’s unchanging and immovable. It won’t surprise you or let you down. But without the potential for change, it’s a dark, stagnant place to get stuck. The future is bright and new and fascinating. But without the past to root you in place, the future is always a fantasy that never solidifies into the present.

That’s why the present moment is so important: it’s the only place where both the wisdom of the past and the potential of the future can coincide. It’s the only time when we can really act. It’s why, in Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot writes, “right action is freedom, from past and future also. For most of us, this is the aim never here to be realised: who are only undefeated because we have gone on trying.”

Well, this letter is coming to an end—the future is upon us. I’ve enjoyed this moment with you, and another moment is here. So remember: deep breath in, deep breath out.

You are undefeated, so long as you keep on trying.

May the road rise up to meet you!

The Mentor

The Letter from the Mentor is a weekly letter of encouragement and inspiration from your favorite old wizard, archetypal figure The Mentor. Full of advice, stories, and cheerful good will, the Letter from the Mentor is a weekly reflection on the greatest heroes of our time and those times before. You can read more letters below or sign up to get them in your inbox every Tuesday morning here:

052 | There Is No Try

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