What Matters

The best part about Law and Order is that you can turn on any episode, at any point in time, and have everything you need. The show just does what it is supposed to do. This is because Dick Wolf designed the concept around the parameters of the syndication market, which had never been very kind to dramas. They’re too difficult to break apart and air out of order across channels. But not Law and Order. In fact, it is so different that were channels so inclined, they could split each episodes into two independent halves when the show switches from the investigation to the prosecution and have twice as many.

If I wrote a book about stoicism, I would have so much to say that I wouldn’t have any room to waste on ‘catching people up to speed.’ I wouldn’t even mention Zeno or Cleanthes or Chrysippus or Panaetius. Just like Law and Order doesn’t waste time on flashbacks and character romances and plot lines that bridge between episodes. The same should be true for any book, especially philosophy. But so many pages are wasted on dates and places and context and all this crap that nobody needs.

I’ll put it this way. Most times when I finish a book, I still have no idea who the author was or how to pronounce the names of the characters and subjects they wrote about. I will often find myself in a conversation about something I’ve known very well for a very long time and realize I have no idea how I am about to pronounce the word that is going to come out of my mouth.

The message from other people is that this is supposed to be embarrassing. Or insufficient or uneducated. In fact, in school you’re punished for doing so. But it seems to me that this is not only the best way but the way the author would want. Because what matters are the ideas and they only matter now, to you.

The rest is filler and masturbation. Or worse, it’s a ruse.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.