Have a conversation with Paul Baumer. Respond to the italicised words printed below. Can you agree with him? Or do you think he is cynical and hypercritical.

They just talk too much. They have problems, goals, desires that I can’t see in the same way as they do. Sometimes I sit with one of them in the little garden of the pub and try to get the point across that this is everything – just sitting in the quiet. Of course they understand, they agree, they think the same way, but it’s only talk, only talk, that’s the point- they do feel it, but always only with half of their being, a part of them is always thinking of something else. They are so fragmented, no one feels it with his whole life; anyway, it is impossible for me to put what I mean into proper words. (p117, Chapter 7, Vintage Books, translated by Brian Murdoch)

I think I understand what you mean Paul. Come to think of it, what you just said is quite profound. It makes you think of how some people can take life for granted, and how people aren’t appreciating the simple aspects of life, like feeling the warmth of the sun, the view of the ocean, and yet these kinds of aspects are miracles in themselves. Also, your criticisms towards humanity’s ignorance reminds me of T.S Eliot’s famous quote in his poem, Four Quartets: “distracted from distraction by distraction“. It’s a similar notion of not living to our full potential in the present, we’re so worried about the future and we’re not making peace with our past.

You’ve honestly encouraged me to think deeply about these important ideas and compare these contrasting attitudes towards life, thank you, Paul!