Torfi Tulinius is a professor of Icelandic Medieval Studies at the University of Iceland. He completed his PhD at the Sorbonne in 1992 and has written extensively on the Icelandic family sagas, with an emphasis on genre and form.
We muse with him on his ideal day and, by extension, the good life.
Waking & remembering
Humanity remembers the past and projects itself into the future. This ability is a blessing and likely one of the reasons for mankind’s success as a species. As all blessings, however, it has negative aspects. Too often, we are so busy mulling over the past or worrying about the future that we forget to seize the moment in all its warmth and beauty.
My best possible day would be one of fully lived moments. Waking up in a bright room and remembering a sweet dream while seeing a loved one still slumbering close by. Enjoying a light and tasty breakfast while following the news, until my thoughts turn to the tasks that await me: writing a paper, preparing a lesson, practicing guitar. Morning is for letting oneself be engrossed by one’s projects, the pleasure of seeing them progress, of getting things done, of acquiring new skills, but also of developing ideas, testing them, seeing where they take me.
Acting & thinking
It is also essential to follow what is happening in intellectual life, to be alert to what can possibly be of use to me in my work. Equally important is to be creative in adapting it to my needs. Working with ideas and managing to explain and illuminate some aspect of reality is a pleasure and a privilege.
I enjoy physical activity, preferably in the form of contest. Midday would be a game of tennis, basketball or, later in the afternoon, golf. I love the exercise, the fun, the joy of winning and the fact that losing does not matter, also the interaction with other players, the camaraderie of sports.
Intoxication & being together
Good evenings are spent with loved ones: my wife, my family, my friends. Exchanging stories, watching a game of football, savoring a good meal, excellent wine, but only occasionally as consuming alcohol too frequently dims the light of being. The same applies to television and the Internet. Though they enrich our lives, they are like memory and anticipatory thinking in the sense that they keep us away from the joy of the moment, as well as frustrating our deep need for community. A perfect evening would be without either of these two fixtures of modern life. It would be spent with friends and family. Instead of staring at screens, there would be conversations, laughter, and love. It would be a moment fully lived.
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