What has my life come to

7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose

One day, when my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator. My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

But for fifteen years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with, and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

After almost half a lifetime of work later, he’s the chairman of a major political party and a judge. He also ran for state congress in his 30s and barely lost.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.

Most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives. Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money. Between ages 18 and 25, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a business, it took another four years to clearly define what I wanted for my life.

Chances are you’re more like me and have no clue what you want to do. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through. “What do I want to do with my life?” “What am I passionate about?” “What do I not suck at?” I often receive emails from people in their 40s and 50s who still have no clue what they want to do with themselves.

Part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it. This is the same kind of shitty logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Tuesdays or during full moons).

Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is:

This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the “life purpose” question does. There’s no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Rather, you should be getting off your ass and discovering what feels important to you.

One of the most common email questions I get is people asking me what they should do with their lives, what their “life purpose” is. This is an impossible question for me to answer. After all, for all I know, this person is really into knitting sweaters for kittens or filming gay bondage porn in their basement. I have no clue. Who am I to say what’s right or what’s important to them?

But after some research, I have put together a series of questions to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.

These questions are by no means exhaustive or definitive. In fact, they’re a little bit ridiculous. But I made them that way because discovering purpose in our lives should be something that’s fun and interesting, not a chore.

So whether you’re looking for your dream job, thinking about starting a second career, or you just don’t want to spend your entire life wondering “what if…”, hopefully you find some meaningful answers to these ridiculous—but kind of thought-provoking—questions.

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because eventually, we all get served one.

Mark Manson

Ah, yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time.

Now, that probably sounds incredibly pessimistic. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down. ” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So, the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

And your favorite shit sandwich is your competitive advantage. By definition, anything that you’re willing to do (that you enjoy doing) that most people are not willing to do gives you a huge leg-up.

So, find your favorite shit sandwich. And you might as well pick one with an olive.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What struggles you are willing to tolerate to get what you want
  • What you will likely be better than other people at

Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. And the transactional nature of the world inevitably stifles us and makes us feel lost or stuck.

Mark Manson

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family. Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. And the transactional nature of the world inevitably stifles us and makes us feel lost or stuck.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites—something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that eight-year-old-boy version of me would have probably started crying. That eight-year-old boy didn’t care about Google traffic or social media virality or book advances. He just wanted to play. And that’s where passion always begins: with a sense of play.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What childhood passion you lost to adulthood
  • What activity you should revisit, just for the fun of it

Look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

Mark Manson

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would spend entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget.

I used to be like that with video games. This probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, for many years it was kind of a problem. I would sit and play video games instead of doing more important things like studying for an exam, or showering regularly, or speaking to other humans face-to-face.

It wasn’t until I gave up the games that I realized my passion wasn’t for the games themselves (although I do love them). My passion is for improvement, being good at something and then trying to get better. The games themselves—the graphics, the stories—they were cool, but I can easily live without them. It’s the competition with others and with myself that I thrive on.

And when I applied that obsessiveness for self-improvement and competition to my own business and to my writing, well, things took off in a big way.

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe it’s organizing things efficiently, or getting lost in a fantasy world, or teaching somebody something, or solving technical problems. Whatever it is, don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What you truly enjoy doing
  • What other activities to check out that you might also enjoy

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

Mark Manson

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious. And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks.

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What scares the shit out of you… for good reason
  • That you should stop making lousy excuses and start doing something

You’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Mark Manson

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems. And by “a few problems,” what I really mean is, “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

So pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption. Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment. And importance equals purpose.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Gee Mark, I read all of this horrible stuff and I get all pissed off too, but that doesn’t translate to action, much less a new career path.

Glad you asked…

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What problem you care about that’s larger than you
  • How you can make a difference

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-by-fire process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

Mark Manson

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.2,3

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-by-fire process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

So ask yourself, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to leave your house every day for everything except for sleep, how would you choose to occupy yourself? And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook. You probably already do that. Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. Take yourself back to the 90’s when Facebook, Instagram, all this social media clusterfuck most of us spend half our lives on had yet to be invented. You have to be outside of the house all day every day actively doing something until it’s time to go to bed—where would you go and what would you do?

Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?

What would you do with all of that time? What activity would you choose above all others? We all have only 24 hours in a day, and so we’re back to the all-important question that we all should be asking ourselves:

If it strikes your fancy, write down a few answers and then, you know, go out and actually do them. Bonus points if it involves embarrassing yourself.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What you were passionate about all along
  • How you should spend your time

Ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. Because it’s only by imagining your non-existence that you can get a sense of what is most important about your existence.

Mark Manson

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out. But thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

When I was in college, I used to walk around and ask people, “If you had a year to live, what would you do?” As you can imagine, I was a huge hit at parties. A lot of people gave vague and boring answers. A few drinks were nearly spat on me. But it did cause people to really think about their lives in a different way and re-evaluate what their priorities were.

Ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. Because it’s only by imagining your non-existence that you can get a sense of what is most important about your existence. What is your legacy going to be? What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today?

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you, values that will determine your priorities and guide your actions. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What is most important to you
  • What values should guide your actions

If you enjoyed this and you’re ready to get your shit together, check out my course, Find Your Purpose. We’ll go deep to figure out what really drives you. Then you’ll come up with a step-by-step plan to get off your ass and start going after what you want in life.

It’s part of The Subtle Art School, a collection of courses and tons of other content that teach you to give less of a fuck and live a fuller, more meaningful life.


  1. Sagiv, L., & Schwartz, S. H. (2000). Value priorities and subjective well-being: direct relations and congruity effects. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(2), 177–198.↵
  2. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21–33.↵
  3. Newport, C. (2012). So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Business Plus.↵

Three Simple Ways to Find the Meaning of Life

How to Build a Life

You can make your quest for meaning manageable by breaking it down into three bite-size dimensions.

By Arthur C. Brooks

Jan Buchczik

“How to Build a Lifeis a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his new podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.

Want to live in a directed, resolute way? To always know why you’re doing what you’re doing? There’s a simple way to make your dreams come true: Go find the meaning of life!

People who believe that they know their life’s meaning enjoy greater well-being than those who don’t. One 2019 study found that agreeing with the statement “I have a philosophy of life that helps me understand who I am” was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and higher positive affect.

Lucky you if you were born already knowing what the meaning of your life is. For the rest of us, the search can be difficult and frustrating. Philosophy is often unhelpful, offering abstract ideas such as Aristotle’s human function or Kant’s “highest good” that are hard to comprehend, let alone put into action.

Throwing up your hands and concluding that the question of the meaning of life is simply unanswerable—by you, at least—is the easy response. But you can make your quest for meaning manageable by breaking it down into three bite-size dimensions, and then considering each one in turn.

Want to stay current with Arthur's writing? Sign up to get an email every time a new column comes out.

Many psychologists call knowing your life’s meaning “presence,” and the drive to look for it “search.” They are not mutually exclusive: You might or might not search, whether you already have a sense of meaning or not. Some people low in presence don’t bother searching—they are “stuck.” Some are high in presence but keep searching—we can call them “seekers.”

Presence is highly correlated with well-being, but search seems to have no bearing on it—and pondering your meaning in life too much could even lead you to dissatisfaction. Consider how the paradox of choice leaves people unsatisfied when they’re given too many options in consumer items. Or in love, for that matter: A 2009 study in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior tells a whole story in its title: “More Options Lead to More Searching and Worse Choices in Finding Partners for Romantic Relationships Online. ” Though no study I have seen has specifically examined the issue, we can guess that peripatetic meaning-seekers would suffer in a similar way.

If you haven’t yet found a sense of meaning at all, how do you go about searching for it without searching too much? The answer is to take a sprawling philosophical question and make it manageable. You can do so most effectively—and without too much obsessing—by assessing your life along three dimensions, which the psychologists Frank Martela and Michael F. Steger defined in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2016:

  • Coherence: how events fit together. This is an understanding that things happen in your life for a reason. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can fit new developments into your narrative the moment they happen, but you usually are able to do so afterward, so you have faith that you eventually will.
  • Purpose: the existence of goals and aims. This is the belief that you are alive in order to do something. Think of purpose as your personal mission statement, such as “the purpose of my life is to share the secrets to happiness” or “I am here to spread love abundantly.”
  • Significance: life’s inherent value. This is the sense that your life matters. If you have high levels of significance, you’re confident that the world would be a tiny bit—or perhaps a lot—poorer if you didn’t exist.

You can think of these three dimensions as macronutrients: the elements that we need for a balanced and healthy sense of meaning in life. They might already be part of your spiritual diet. For example, Christians believe that life is significant because God loves us; that our purpose is to love and serve God and other people; and that God has a coherent plan for our lives, whether it is clear to us or not.

Listen as Arthur C. Brooks and Lori Gottlieb explore the key components of happiness—pleasure, joy, and satisfaction in How to Build a Happy Life.

Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google | Pocket Casts

Balancing your macronutrients doesn’t require traditional religion—many secular and even atheist philosophies offer a way to cultivate them as well, focusing on ethical and moral behavior.

To begin the process of discovering the meaning in your life—or to adjust a search that’s gone slightly off course—I recommend following three steps.

1. Check your diet.

If you told me you had just changed your eating habits and weren’t feeling well, I would ask about your macronutrient profile: whether you are consuming enough fats, protein, and carbohydrates—and in the right balance. Similarly, a sense that your life lacks meaning should provoke the question of whether you have a deficit in coherence, purpose, or significance. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel out of control—tossed about in life without rhyme or reason? If so, you need a better grasp on coherence.
  • Do you lack big plans, dreams, or ideas for your future that excite you? This is a purpose issue.
  • Do you feel like it wouldn’t matter if you disappeared, like the world would be no worse—or maybe better—if you did? This is a problem of significance.
2. Search in the forest.

If you find a deficit in a particular area of meaning, search for it in a productive way. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out how to do it on your own—philosophical and religious traditions have been doing exactly that for millennia. One of the best organized strategies comes from Hinduism’s concept of the ashramas, or the four stages of a balanced life. The third is Vanaprastha—literally “retiring to the forest,” in Sanskrit—which ideally begins at about age 50 and entails stepping back from day-to-day demands to focus more on life’s deep meaning through reflection, meditation, and study. You can do a version of this at any stage of life by dedicating time each day to the search. For some, this means meditation or prayer. For others, it requires the study of texts or working with masters. It might even involve therapy. But you have to approach it as you would any other important goal—by doing the work.

3. Make sure you don’t search too hard.

Your quest for meaning will be counterproductive if it hinders your happiness. To make sure you’re in the Goldilocks zone, you can take a survey that tells you your levels of presence and search, and compare your scores with others’ on the website of the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness program. If you find that your presence is all right but you are a hyperactive seeker, this is a signal to enjoy the sources of meaning you already have, as opposed to constantly looking for new ones. In this situation, I sometimes offer what I call the “Dorothy Strategy,” based on Dorothy’s famous line from The Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” If you feel lost in your search for meaning, cut yourself some slack and go back to the basics.

All of this advice relies on one very strong assumption—that life actually has meaning. Not everyone agrees with this. Some have built entire schools of thought on the assumption that life is inherently meaningless, and that we can be truly free only when we embrace this truth. “If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever,” the philosopher Albert Camus wrote in The Rebel, “then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.”

Each of us has to decide whether we believe this is true. I cannot say for certain; it is, as we say in my business, an “untestable hypothesis.” The paradox of the untestable hypothesis is that even if we seek, we can never be sure that we have found what is real and true. But one thing is certain: We will not find anything unless we look.

My Rus', my life is Blok. Full text of the poem - My Rus', my life


Catalog of poems

Alexander Blok - poems

Alexander Blok

My Rus', my life

My Rus', my life, shall we toil together?
Tsar, yes Siberia, yes Yermak, yes prison!
Eh, isn't it time to part, repent...
What is your darkness to a free heart? Did you know what? Or did you believe in God?
What will you hear from your songs?
You did a miracle, but Merya intended
Gates, roads and milestones. .. You cut boats and castles along the rivers,
But you didn’t reach the Tsargrad shrines... 'Black sea, beyond' the White sea
In black nights and white days
A numb face looks wild,
Tatar eyes are throwing fires ... Quiet, long, red glow
Every night over your camp ...
What are you looming, sleepy haze ?
Are you playing free with my spirit?

About the homeland

Poems by Alexander Blok - about the homeland

Other verses of this author

o, I want to live madly ...

o, I want to live madly:

All that is perpetuate,

On life

on life Kulikovo field

The river spread out. It flows, lazily sad

And washes the shore.

About the war

When you are driven and downtrodden...

People, care or longing;

About love

Do you remember? In our sleepy bay...

Do you remember? In our sleepy bay

Green water was falling,

About life

When we met with you. ..

When we met with you,

I was sick, with a rusty soul.

About life

I was slowly going crazy…

I was slowly going crazy

At the door of the one I long for.

About Love

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"My life is an anecdote, which means a tragedy" - in memory of Nadezhda Teffi and take a break from everyday life. And they found wisdom, kindness and mercy - and it turned out that this is exactly what everyone really lacked. In very difficult times, she generously gave joy to thousands of her compatriots scattered around the world.

66 years ago, the earthly path of Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, better known as Teffi, ended in Paris.

Laughter instead of tears

Summer 1919. Novorossiysk. On the embankment near the ship "Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich" there is bustle, farewell cries, hasty instructions and promises ... A minute, another - and the steamer, packed to capacity, shudders, begins to sail, leaving behind two lanes - white in the water and black in the sky.

Native shores are already behind us. Ahead, as far as the eye can see, is an unknown distance, a wide, vast expanse. Each of the passengers of this huge colossus in the depths of his soul hopes that the need to break ties with home, relatives, friends, turn his whole life upside down - if not a bad dream, then a temporary measure, and a little more - everything will return to its previous course ... Among the sailors was the famous Teffi, behind whom remained unprecedented popularity and universal love. The past seemed unbelievably brilliant. The future was frighteningly unknown...

Before the revolution, both capitals of Russia - both Moscow and St. Petersburg - were crazy about Teffi. They shot because of her, they admired her, she was a welcome guest at all secular evenings. They recalled that around her even formed a host of fans, nicknamed "slave", who fought among themselves for the right to sit or lie at the feet of the "mistress".

Teffi chocolates sold out instantly, the perfume with the same name was in incredible demand.

What can one say, if Tsar Nicholas II himself, discussing whose works he would like to see in the album for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, exclaimed: “Teffi! Only her. There is no need for anyone but her. One Taffy!

One can only guess about the reasons for such overwhelming popularity. Perhaps the atmosphere was so tense, and the uncertainty of the future was so oppressive, that the "detente" was simply physically necessary for people. Laughter in such cases helps out as well as possible. Perhaps, on the contrary, the carelessness of society has reached its apogee, I didn’t want to think about the complex ups and downs of domestic and foreign policy, but I wanted to live here and now - and if possible - as cheerfully as possible.

However, let's leave these arguments to historians. It is only important for us to fix: although the time for the heyday of satire was not the most suitable (after the events of 19In 05, a streak of gloomy reaction began, which went down in history under the name "Stolypin"), this genre was in demand like never before. In 1908, the Satyricon magazine began to appear under the direction of Arkady Averchenko. The publication quickly gained popularity among the reading public.

As one of the researchers rightly noted, "not Gogol's 'laughter through tears', but laughter instead of tears - such was the position of the satyriconists." Sasha Cherny, Arkady Bukhov, Kuprin with parodies, Green with wonderful stories, almost all the major poets and even Bunin sometimes - everyone found a fee and hospitable shelter from Averchenko. It is not surprising that Teffi was included in the staff of the publication.

One of her favorite aphorisms, which became the epigraph of the first volume of Humorous Stories (1910), was the thought from the sixth part of B. Spinoza's Ethics: "For laughter is joy, and therefore in itself is good."

Presumably 1900. Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya

In her concise stories, written simply and clearly, readers felt the main thing: real kindness. It is difficult to explain to those who are not familiar with Teffi's work what exactly attracts in her short stories: they contain irony over the natural weaknesses of a person, and pity for human nature, and a kind smile, and notes of sadness and lyricism, and compassion, and deep mercy.

A significant milestone in the life of Teffi was the work of another publishing house - the newspaper "Russian Word", which was headed by Vlas Doroshevich. To indignant remarks, “why de Teffi does not write topical feuilletons,” Doroshevich wisely replied: “You can’t carry water on an Arab horse.

“My life is an anecdote, and therefore a tragedy”

Nadya Lokhvitskaya was born on April 24, 1872 in a well-born noble family. Father - Alexander Vladimirovich - was a well-known lawyer in St. Petersburg, orator, professor, author of scientific papers. Mom - Varvara Alexandrovna - "always loved poetry and was well acquainted with Russian and especially European literature." She was French by birth, and, undoubtedly, it was from her that Nadia inherited her playfulness and spontaneity.

The childhood of Nadezhda and her three sisters was cloudless and happy. Parents tried to give them a decent education and upbringing. Teffi's older sister, Mirra Lokhvitskaya, started writing poetry early and very quickly became popular as a poetess. Konstantin Balmont and Igor Severyanin admired her lines. Mirra was twice awarded the Pushkin Prize, she was called the "Russian Sappho". Two other sisters - Varvara and Elena - also tried their hand at literature, not without success. Nadya started her career with poetry. Her poem was first published at 1901 in the journal "North":

I had a crazy and beautiful dream,
As if I believed you,

And life called persistently and passionately
Me to work, to freedom and to struggle.

I woke up... Casting doubts,
Autumn day looked out my window,

And the rain rustled on the roof, singing,
That life has passed and that it's ridiculous to dream!

In this regard, she recalled: “When I saw my first work printed, I felt ashamed and unpleasant. Everyone hoped no one would read it." But the passion for writing hasn't gone away. She composed funny sly songs, came up with music for them and sang with a guitar:

My black dwarf kissed my feet,
He was always so affectionate and so sweet!

My bracelets, rings, brooches
He cleaned and kept in a chest.

But on a rainy day of sadness and anxiety
My dwarf suddenly got up and grew up:

In vain I kissed his feet -
And he left, and took away the chest!

Gradually, Nadezhda Alexandrovna took up prose.

She gave two different explanations for the choice of her pseudonym - depending on her mood, I guess. She said to one that she knew a certain stupid man Stefan, whom the servant for some reason called Steffy. Believing that stupid people are usually happy, she "for the sake of delicacy" shortened this name to Teffi, making him her pseudonym and for the first time signed the one-act play "Women's Question" with him.

In one of the interviews (after the premiere of this very play) she answered differently: this name is related to one stupid person, and, immediately correcting herself, said that this is a surname. The journalist, interrupting her, asked if R. Kipling's song "Taffy was a Walesman / Taffy was a thief" (Taffy from Wales, Taffy was a thief) was meant. Taffy quickly agreed that Kipling was the source of the pseudonym.

In my personal life everything was difficult and even sad. She married a Pole Vladislav Buchinsky and moved to his estate near Mogilev. Family life quickly went wrong. Her husband often reproached her for the fact that she would rather squeeze a teddy bear than caress her own children. Apparently, the reproaches were not unfounded: having somehow been married for about ten years, she left two daughters and a son with a reliable husband and, taking a teddy bear under her arm, fled to St. Petersburg.

Her first book, Humorous Stories, appeared in 1910. The popularity of Teffi only grew every day. Before the revolution, the collection was reprinted 10 times. There were new stories. Theaters willingly staged her plays.

Presumably 1916. At the height of the First World War, Teffi went to the front line many times and worked there as a nurse. In the photo, she shows trophies brought from the war, including a captured German rifle with a bayonet

Teffi is often called the successor to Chekhov's traditions. However, Anton Pavlovich, as the critic R. Dneprov noted, “still created a kind of “judgment from above”, was interested in something better than what he saw, that is, he again demanded. Teffi does not expose, does not call, does not judge, does not demand. She is with people, she does not separate herself from them in anything ... Sadness is the main note of her voice, broken, intelligent. Sorrow and non-judgment, the bitter wind of eternity, the ecclesiastical prophetic simplicity - this is what is closest to her ... "

On the pages of her stories, the most diverse human types are masterfully displayed. Petty officials, journalists, travelers, laundresses, mothers and the most amazing eccentrics are drawn in large strokes, but at the same time amazingly accurate and recognizable.

Teffi really didn't like being called a comedian.

"Jokes are only funny when they are told," she said. - When they are experienced, it is already a tragedy. My life is an anecdote, and therefore a tragedy.” From funny to sad in the pages of her stories - and in her biography - is just one step.

Revolution - roar and whistle

Like most of the St. Petersburg intelligentsia, she hoped that the revolution would bring life-giving changes to the life of the country. February 1917 she met with enthusiasm. But everything that followed October, I could not understand and accept.

“We lived like in a fairy tale about the Serpent Gorynych,” wrote Teffi, “who every year had to give 12 girls and 12 good fellows.”

She recalled: “Along the black night streets, where passers-by were strangled and robbed, we ran to listen to the operetta Silva or in shabby cafes, crowded with people in torn coats smelling of wet dog, listened to how young poets read themselves and a friend friend, howling in hungry voices. (…)

Everyone wanted to be “in public”… Alone, at home, it was terrible.

All the time it was necessary to know what was being done, to learn about each other.

Sometimes someone disappeared and it was hard to find out where he was. In Kyiv? Or where it won't come back?

News came from St. Petersburg: a famous actress was arrested for reading my stories. In Cheka they forced her to repeat the story in front of formidable judges. You can imagine with what cheerful cheerfulness this humorous monologue was read between two escorts with bayonets. And suddenly - oh, a joyful miracle! - after the first quivering phrases, the face of one of the judges breaks into a smile.

“I heard this story at Comrade Lenin's party. He is completely apolitical."

What was happening around was a scarecrow, the uncertainty of the future hung like a sword of Damocles, but despair cannot be found in Teffi's lines. Dmitry Bykov very accurately remarked: “If you now look at Russian literature of all ten years, it becomes clear that Teffi alone was really ready for the coming disasters, who understood everything about humanity and continued to love it.”

Throughout her life, Nadezhda Alexandrovna was rescued by one trouble-free remedy - she rhymed his recipe in her poem:

And if a black shadow rises above us -
We will drown out our lamentations with laughter.

Reflecting on this time already in emigration, Teffi conveys his perception of the Russian intelligentsia in this way:

“Suffering and death, bitterly embracing, hesitated, swirled, capturing new areas, crossing the borders of new states. In the footsteps of tango - everywhere, everywhere.

Revolution - roar and whistle. The underground popped up. Knocked off my feet. Dancing.

A bare-chested sailor with butterfly bangs embraced a street girl. And behind him a speculator, a nouveau riche ... they jumped and danced. And how many of them! The whole world buzzed from their dance ".

In an atmosphere of confusion and general panic, a certain “entrepreneur Guskin” turned up from somewhere with an offer to make a short tour to warm, calm Kyiv. “Such an opportunity will never present itself,” he argued.

“I don’t like the word “never” terribly,” Teffi thought, adding with invariable humor: “If they told me that, for example, I would never have a headache, I would probably be scared.

But she nevertheless agreed to the trip.

Lot's wife

Goodbye, dear Moscow. Not for long. Just for a month. I'll be back in a month, ”Teffi wrote. Thus began her Odyssey. Through Kyiv, Odessa, Sevastopol, Novorossiysk - farther from home, farther from home...

“Now it is difficult to return to St. Petersburg, go abroad for now,” they advised me. You will return to your homeland in the spring. A wonderful word is spring. A wonderful word is the motherland ... Spring is the resurrection of life. I'll be back in the spring."

The memoirs that she will write nine years later in Paris will end with the sailing of that same steamer from Novorossiysk:

“The steamer trembles, beats white foam with its propeller, spreads black smoke along the shore.

And the earth is quietly moving away.

Don't look at her. You have to look ahead, into the blue wide free space…

But the head turns by itself, and the eyes open wide and look, look…

And everyone is silent. Only from the lower deck comes a woman's cry, stubborn, long, with lamentations.

When did I hear such crying? Yes I remember. In the first year of the war. A gray-haired old woman was driving along the street in a cab. The hat is knocked back on the back of the head, yellow cheeks are covered, the toothless black mouth is open, screaming with tearless crying - “aaaa!”. And the driver, sure, is embarrassed that he is carrying such an "ugly" rider, - he urges, whips the horse ... Now take it. Terrible, black, tearless crying. Last. All over Russia, all over Russia… Take it!..

The steamer trembles, black smoke spreads.

With my eyes wide open to the cold, I look. And I won't leave. I broke my taboo and looked back. And now, like the wife of Lot, she froze, dumbfounded forever and forever I will see how quietly my land is leaving me.

Teffi will not return to Russia. She will have to live 32 years in exile.

But she really will not take her eyes off the lost homeland. What is it like to live away from what is dear to the heart - Teffi will write until the end of his life.

Confused and deprived of their roots, emigrants felt like strangers and unnecessary. In the story "The Tower" Teffi writes that only the sky was familiar to them - so they could sit silently for hours in the park on a bench and look up, trying to find the Big Dipper. It seemed to them that if you find this constellation, you will find a life raft in the sea of ​​the surrounding uncertainty. “For some reason, we Russians always think that we must find the Big Dipper. We don’t know what it is for us, but we are looking anxiously, busily turning our necks and pointing our fingers at the constellation Orion.

Nobody knows why we try.”

Nadezhda Alexandrovna discusses the reasons for the unprecedented mass exodus from Russia in her essay “On the Gergesinskaya Rock”, based on the biblical myth about demons entering a herd of pigs:

“In the east there are rarely homogeneous herds. Most often mixed. And in the herd of the Gergese pigs there were, probably, meek, frightened sheep. The sheep saw how the enraged pigs rushed, and they also jumped up.

- Are ours running?

– Run!

And the meek ones rushed after the flock and perished together.

If dialogue had been possible during this frenzied leap, it would have been what we hear so often in recent days.

Why are we running? the meek ask.

Everyone is running.

– Where are we running?

- Where is everyone.

– Why are we with them? They are not ours. It is not good for us that we are with them ... What are we doing? We're lost, we don't know...

But the pigs running nearby know…

–… Who are you running from?

- From the Bolsheviks.

– Weird! - the meek languish, - after all, we, too, are from the Bolsheviks. Obviously, since these people are running, we should have stayed.

...They are really fleeing from the Bolsheviks. But the frantic herd is fleeing from the Bolshevik truth, from the principles of socialism, from equality and justice, and the meek and frightened from untruth, from the black Bolshevik practice, from the terror of injustice and violence ... They are fleeing. They torment themselves, doubt and flee…”

Boarding a steamer in Novorossiysk


At the beginning of 1920, Nadezhda Aleksandrovna arrived in Paris.

Teffi's first work published abroad was the story "Ke fer?" - about an emigrant general who, after admiring the rich mansions and dressed up crowd of careless Parisians, stood at a loss in the middle of a Parisian square and asked in embarrassment: “All this, of course, is good, gentlemen! Everything is very good. But ... ke fer? Fer something ke? Really, what to do? How many Russian emigrants, day after day wandering around a foreign city in search of work, asked themselves this question - and for weeks, years they did not find an answer. Representatives of noble families, smart, well-read, educated - they were forced to work as drivers, waiters, laundresses.

“Our refugees come, emaciated, blackened from hunger and fear, eat, calm down, look around, how to establish a new life, and suddenly go out. Eyes dim, sluggish hands fall, and the soul withers, the soul turned to the east. We don't believe in anything, we don't expect anything, we don't want anything. Died. They were afraid of the Bolshevik death - and died a death here.

Here we are, trampling death with death!

We only think about what is there now. We are only interested in what comes from there.

There is so much to do here. We need to save ourselves and save others. But there is so little will and strength left...” (“Nostalgia”).

In the brilliant capital of France, a kind of "Gorodok" with its own laws and interests unfolded for Russian emigrants. “A river flowed through the town. In ancient times, the river was called Sekvana, then Seine, and when a town was founded on it, the inhabitants began to call it "their Nevka." But they still remembered the old name, as indicated by the existing saying: "We live like dogs on the Seine - it's bad!"

The population was crowded (…). Engaged in crafts. Most of the youth were cart drivers and served as chauffeurs. People of mature age kept taverns or served in these taverns: brunettes - as gypsies and Caucasians, blondes - Little Russians.

Women sewed dresses and hats for each other. The men made each other's debts.

In addition to men and women, the population of the town consisted of ministers and generals. Of these, only a small part was engaged in carting - most of them were mainly debts and memoirs. (…)

At first, the inhabitants of the capital looked at them with interest, studied their manners, art, way of life, as the Aztecs were once interested in the cultural world.

An endangered tribe… Descendants of those great glorious people whom… who… whom humanity is proud of!

Then interest faded” (“Gorodok”).

Fortunately, Teffi's life as a writer in exile turned out well: she worked hard and fruitfully, and was engaged in social activities.

Her strong character, coupled with the ability to surprisingly simply look at herself and ironically - at the surrounding reality - did not allow her to give up and despair.

She was known and loved in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Shanghai, Harbin. For numerous newspapers and magazines, getting Teffi's story into print was considered a real success - because thanks to this, the publication's audience instantly increased.

During this time, she compiled and published nineteen collections of short stories.

Alexander Valentinovich Amfiteatrov wrote to Teffi in 1937: “Darling! I just don't know how we're going to exist without reading you on Sundays. "

Around 1925. Teffi during emigration

Thirteen years old

In the story “Funny in the Sad”, Teffi remarks with her usual prudence: “The time we are going through is difficult and terrible. But life, life itself, still laughs as much as it cries. She something. In a feuilleton ("Sunday") she writes: "Our joys are so similar to our sorrows that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish them." Does this mean that you should not look for joy? Not at all. This means only one thing: joy can be hidden in the simplest things. The ability of Nadezhda Alexandrovna to be sincerely amazed, admired, touched where others see only the ordinary, cannot but surprise. It was as if a small child lived in it, capable of looking at the world with the unclouded gaze of a pioneer.

“I thought. I remembered how I lived last summer with friends on the estate. I remembered how the coachman brought some terribly long horned reed from the swamp and ordered to show it to me without fail. I remembered how a twelve-year-old boy demanded that I go with him for three miles to look at some kind of tree growth, under which, apparently, some kind of animal lives, because it even moves. And, of course, I went and, of course, we did not find either a growth or an animal. Then the shepherd brought wasp honey from the field and again decided that it would be interesting for me. He showed some brown slush on a dirty palm. And every time in such cases, all the servants ran out to see how I would gasp and be surprised. And I was really interested in all this. Yes, my metaphysical age was thirteen."

During World War II, the writer lived in France. The difficulties of the war years, the hardships that she had to endure in occupied Paris, undermined her health. V. Vasyutinskaya recalled that once, after performing on stage at the urgent request of the public, Teffi had to lie in bed for two months. Despite this, she did not mope, did not complain, did not seek help. But the requests addressed to her, almost never refused.

“My ideal,” she wrote, “is one old and retired concierge who pretended to have bijou et economies. Some guy believed, came and stabbed her. Proud death, beautiful. Extraction - 30 francs.

A striking and perhaps unique example in the history of Russian literature: in almost all surviving memoirs - no matter who wrote them, even the most bilious people - Teffi appears almost in an angelic image.

Even the prim and arrogant Bunin, whom many were afraid to approach, did not have a soul in her, loved immensely. “Pleasing others was perhaps the most basic feature of her character ... Her kindness was distinguished by efficiency and was devoid of the slightest shade of sentimentality. She always showed up when she was needed. “Teffi as a person was larger, more significant than what she wrote. Everyone who knew her was struck by her clear, sober, bright mind that exposed all the vulgarity ... "

1946, France, near Paris. Meeting of the Soviet delegation with emigrant writers: Boris Panteleymonov is on the left in the first row, Konstantin Simonov is on his right, Nadezhda Teffi is on the left, Ivan Bunin is on the right, third in a row


magazine” appeared an obituary in memory of Teffi. “We knew that Nadezhda Alexandrovna Teffi did not cooperate with the occupying authorities and, therefore, she lived in hunger and cold ... Meanwhile, Nadezhda Alexandrovna’s health did not recover after a serious illness (inflammation of the nerves of the skin) that she suffered before the war.” The author of the obituary paid tribute to the talent of the “late writer” and expressed the hope that “the legend will live on Teffi as one of the witty women of our time, when her words, essays and feuilletons are forgotten.”

After this memorable event, Nadezhda Alexandrovna lived for another nine years. Every year she got worse, her strength was rapidly drying up. “The toad has bitten my heart,” she wrote to her friend. “According to all concepts - by age (I am older than you think), due to an incurable disease, I must certainly die soon.

But I never did what I was supposed to do. Here I live. But, frankly, I'm tired of it ... "" All my peers are dying, and I'm still living for something. It's like I'm sitting at the dentist's. He calls the patients, obviously confusing the queues, and it’s embarrassing for me to say, and I’m sitting, tired and angry…”

At the end of September 1952, having celebrated her name day, Teffi, as if sensing the approach of death, began to say goodbye to her friends. She was 81 years old. Almost everyone she loved has already left this world. It is impossible to calculate how many she spent on her last journey. Finally, it was her turn.

She died on October 6, 1952. Two days later, she was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris, and then buried in the Russian cemetery of Saint-Genevieve-des-Bois. Over her grave, one of her friends read a poem by Taffy herself:

He will sail at night on black sails,
A silver ship with a purple border.

But people will not understand that he has sailed after me,
And they will say: “Here the moon is playing on the waves…”
But people will not understand that he sailed away with me,
And they will say: “She died today…”

“Tears are the pearl of my soul”

According to the exact remark of Mikhail Zoshchenko, Teffi was discovered "the secret of laughing words. " “In fact, when I sit down at the table, my story is ready in its entirety from the first to the last letter,” she explained. – If at least one thought, one phrase is not clear to me, I cannot take up the pen. In a word, the brightest and most intense process of creativity takes place before I sit down at the table. It's a game. This is joy. Then work begins. Boring. I am very lazy and my handwriting is disgusting. Absent-minded. I skip letters, syllables, words. Sometimes I start to re-read and I don’t understand what’s the matter. In addition, I draw all sorts of physiognomies with a pen all the time ... "

In her best works she was able to combine laughter and tears in unique proportions known to her alone.

The artistic method of Teffi can be roughly described as follows: on the one hand, it brings us as close as possible to the reality of the world, with all its vices and diseases, on the other hand, it dissolves our disgust and even contempt for a person in laughter.

In the autumn of 1914 Teffi's sad and touching story "Yavdokha" was published. It was about a lonely old woman, so dark and incapable of understanding the essence of what was happening that when she received the news of the death of her son, she could not even realize what had happened, she only wondered if he would send her money or not. Accustomed to Teffi's light and humorous stories, the public immediately attacked her indignantly, and one newspaper even devoted two feuilletons to Yavdokha, in which they were indignant at the writer, who allegedly laughed at human grief.

- What's so funny about Mrs. Teffi! - the newspaper was indignant and, quoting the saddest parts of the story, repeated: - And this, in her opinion, is funny?

– Is that funny too?

In the preface to the collection The Lifeless Beast, in which the mentioned story was published, Nadezhda Alexandrovna replied: “The newspaper would probably be very surprised if I told her that I had not laughed for a single minute. But how could I tell?

And the purpose of this preface is to warn the reader: there is a lot of sadness in this book.

I warn you about this, so that those who seek laughter, finding tears here - the pearls of my soul - turn around and tear me to pieces.

*** *** ***

It is often said that a Russian person is too serious. Too focused on global and fateful problems. Too burdened with the awareness of responsibility for a possibly wrong decision. Too self-absorbed. So much so that instead of answering the question “How are you?”, Smiling, rap out: “Just wonderful!” (as all "civilized" humanity does), starts is really to answer, as he is doing! What can you do if we have the best comedies without drama, and our favorite songs are certainly about how “a bullet wounded in the heart”, and “a woman married a friend” ... Therefore, we need laughter as a medicine.

Taking yourself too seriously is costly and dangerous to your health.

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