How To Add and Delete Users on an Ubuntu 14.04

One of the most basic tasks to that you should know how to do on a fresh Linux server is add and remove users. When you create a new server, you are only given the root account by default.

While this gives you a lot of power and flexibility, it is also dangerous and can be destructive. It is almost always a better idea to add an additional, unprivileged user to do common tasks. You also should create additional accounts for any other users you may have on your system. Each user should have a different account.

You can still acquire administrator privileges when you need them through a mechanism called sudo. In this guide we will cover how to create user accounts, assign sudo privileges, and delete users.

How To Add a User

If you are signed in as the root user, you can create a new user at any time by typing:

adduser newuser

If you are signed in as a non-root user who has been given sudo privileges, as demonstrated in the initial server setup guide, you can add a new user by typing:

sudo adduser newuser

Either way, you will be asked a series of questions. The procedure will be:

Assign and confirm a password for the new user

Enter any additional information about the new user. This is entirely optional and can be skipped by hitting “ENTER” if you don’t wish to utilize these fields.

Finally, you’ll be asked to confirm that the information you provided was correct. Type “Y” to continue.

Your new user is now ready for use! You can now log in using the password you set up.

Note: Continue on if you need your new user to have access to administrative functionality.

How To Grant a User Sudo Privileges

If your new user should have the ability to execute commands with root (administrative) privileges, you will need to give the new user access to sudo.

We can do this by using the visudo command, which opens the appropriate configuration file in your editor. This is the safest way to make these changes.

If you are currently signed in as the root user, type:

visudo

If you are signed in using a non-root user with sudo privileges, type:

sudo visudo

Search for the line that looks like this:

root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Below this line, copy the format you see here, changing only the word “root” to reference the new user that you would like to give sudo privileges to:

root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

newuser ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

You should add a new line like this for each user that should be given full sudo privileges. When you are finished, you can save and close the file by hitting CTRL-X, followed by “Y”, and then hit “ENTER” to confirm.

Now, your new user is able to execute commands with administrative privileges.

When signed in as the new user, you can execute commands as your regular user by typing commands as normal:

some_command

You can execute the same command with administrative privileges by typing sudo ahead of the command:

sudo some_command

You will be prompted to enter the password of the regular user account you are signed in as.

How To Delete a User

In the event that you no longer need a user, it is best to delete the old account.

You can delete the user itself, without deleting any of his or her files by typing this as root:

deluser newuser

If you are signed in as another non-root user with sudo privileges, you could instead type:

sudo deluser newuser

If, instead, you want to delete the user’s home directory when the user is deleted, you can issue the following command as root:

deluser –remove-home newuser

If you’re running this as a non-root user with sudo privileges, you would instead type:

sudo deluser –remove-home newuser

If you had previously configured sudo privileges for the user you deleted, you may want to remove the relevant line again by typing:

visudo

Or use this if you are a non-root user with sudo privileges:

sudo visudo

root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

newuser ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL # DELETE THIS LINE

This will prevent a new user created with the same name from being accidentally given sudo privileges.

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How to block unwanted IP addresses on Linux

You may want to block IP addresses on your Linux box under various circumstances. For example, as an end user you may want to protect yourself from known spyware or tracker IP addresses. Or when you are running P2P software, you may want to filter out connections from networks associated with anti-P2P activity. If you are a sysadmin, you may want to ban access from spam IP addresses to your production mail server. Or you may wish to block web server access from certain countries for some reason. In many cases, however, your IP address block list can grow quickly to tens of thousands of IP addresses or IP address blocks. How can you deal with it?

Problems of Netfilter/IPtables

In Linux, banning an IP address can be done very easily with netfilter/iptables framework:

$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -s 1.1.1.1 -p TCP -j DROP

If you want to ban a whole IP address block, you can also do it as easily:

$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -s 1.1.2.0/24 -p TCP -j DROP

However, what if you have 1,000 independent IP addresses with no common CIDR prefix that you want to ban? You would have 1,000 iptables rules! Clearly this does not scale.

$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -s 1.1.1.1 -p TCP -j DROP
$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -s 2.2.2.2 -p TCP -j DROP
$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -s 3.3.3.3 -p TCP -j DROP
. . . .

What are IP Sets?

That is when IP sets come in handy. IP sets are a kernel feature which allows multiple (independent) IP addresses, MAC addresses or even port numbers to be encoded and stored efficiently within bitmap/hash kernel data structures. Once an IP set is created, you can create an iptables rule which matches against the set.

You should immediately see the benefit of using IP sets, which is that you can match against multiple IP addresses in an IP set by using a single iptables rule! You can construct IP sets using combinations of multiple IP addresses and port numbers, and can dynamically update iptables rules with IP sets without any performance impact.

Install IPset Tool on Linux

To create and manage IP sets, you need to use a userspace tool called ipset.

To install ipset on Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt-get install ipset

To install ipset on Fedora or CentOS/RHEL 7:

$ sudo yum install ipset

Ban IP Addresses using IPset Command

Let me walk you through on how to use ipset command using simple examples.

First, let’s create a new IP set named banthis (name can be arbitrary):

$ sudo ipset create banthis hash:net

The second argument (hash:net) in the above is required, and represents the type of a set being created. There are multiple types of IP sets. An IP set of hash:net type uses a hash to store multiple CIDR blocks. If you want to store individual IP addresses in a set, you can use hash:ip type instead.

Once you have created an IP set, you can check up on the set with:

$ sudo ipset list

This shows a list of available IP sets, along with detailed information of each set including set membership. By default, each IP set can contain up to 65536 elements (CIDR blocks in this case). You can increase this limit by appending “maxelem N” option.

$ sudo ipset create banthis hash:net maxelem 1000000

Now let’s add IP address blocks to the set:

$ sudo ipset add banthis 1.1.1.1/32
$ sudo ipset add banthis 1.1.2.0/24
$ sudo ipset add banthis 1.1.3.0/24
$ sudo ipset add banthis 1.1.4.10/24

You will see that the set membership has been changed.

$ sudo ipset list

Now it is time to create an iptables rule using this IP set. The key here is to use “-m set –match-set <name>” option.

Let’s create an iptables rule which prevents all those IP blocks in the set from accessing a web server at port 80. This can be achieved by:

$ sudo iptables -I INPUT -m set –match-set banthis src -p tcp –destination-port 80 -j DROP

If you want, you can save a specific IP set to a file, and then later restore it from the file:

$ sudo ipset save banthis -f banthis.txt
$ sudo ipset destroy banthis
$ sudo ipset restore -f banthis.txt

In the above, I tried removing an existing IP set using destroy option to see if I can restore the IP set.

Automate IP Address Banning

By now you should see how powerful the concept of IP sets is. Still maintaining a up-to-date IP blacklist can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. In fact, there are free or paid services out there which maintain these IP blacklists for you. As a bonus, let’s see how we can automatically translate available IP blacklists into IP sets.

Let me grab free IP lists from iblocklist.com which publish various IP block lists for free or for a fee. Free versions are available in P2P format.

Here I am going to use an open-source python tool called iblocklist2ipset which converts P2P versions of iblocklist into IP sets.

First, you need to have pip installed (see this guideline to install pip).

Then install iblocklist2ipset as follows.

$ sudo pip install iblocklist2ipset

On some distros like Fedora, you may need to run:

$ sudo python-pip install iblocklist2ipset

Now go to iblocklist.com, and grab any P2P list URL (e.g., “level1” list).

Then paste the URL into the following command.

$ iblocklist2ipset generate \
–ipset banthis “http://list.iblocklist.com/?list=ydxerpxkpcfqjaybcssw&fileformat=p2p&archiveformat=gz&#8221; \
> banthis.txt

After you run the above command, you will get a file named bandthis.txt created. If you check its content, you will see something like:

create banthis hash:net family inet hashsize 131072 maxelem 237302
add banthis 1.2.4.0/24
add banthis 1.2.8.0/24
add banthis 1.9.75.8/32
add banthis 1.9.96.105/32
add banthis 1.9.102.251/32
add banthis 1.9.189.65/32
add banthis 1.16.0.0/14

You can simply load this file with ipset command:

$ sudo ipset restore -f banthis.txt

Now check the automatically created IP set with:

$ sudo ipset list banthis

As of this writing, the “level1” block list contains more than 237,000 IP address blocks. You will see that that many IP address blocks have been added to the IP set.

Finally, go ahead and create a single iptables rule to block them all!

Summary

In this tutorial, I demonstrated how you can block unwanted IP addresses using a powerful tool called ipset. Combine that with a third-party tool like iblocklist2ipset, and you can easily streamline the process of maintaining your IP block list. For those of you who are curious about the speed improvement of ipset, the figure below shows the benchmark result comparing iptables without and with ipset (credit to daemonkeeper.net).

Tell me how much you like it. 🙂

A Scientific Genius and “Father of Physics”

Sir Isaac Newton (1642/3–1727)

Isaac Newton is well known as one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. Less well known is his deep belief in God and his conviction that scientific investigation leads to a greater knowledge of God the Creator of the universe.

Isaac NewtonIsaac Newton was born at Woolthorpe, Lincolnshire, England on Christmas Day 1642. On that cold winter night, the sick, premature baby seemed unlikely to live. Gradually, however, he gained strength to survive. But Isaac’s first few years were a struggle. His mother had become a widow two months before Isaac was born. Even with the help of her own mother, she had difficulty caring for Isaac in addition to running their farm while the Civil War in England raged around them.

Several years later, his mother married the minister from nearby North Witham, but Isaac remained at Woolthorpe with his grandmother. As he grew, however, he visited his mother frequently. He eagerly read books from his stepfather’s well-stocked library, in addition to reading the Bible regularly.

Isaac attended school at King’s College in nearby Grantham. Rather than playing outdoor games as a boy, he preferred to make models of such things as windmills and carts. Not only were these in exactly the right proportions, but all of the moving parts actually worked.

Isaac’s mother was widowed for the second time when he was 14 years old. Isaac was taken out of school to run the family farm to support his mother and her three younger children. However, Isaac missed his studies greatly and his mother recognized this. When King’s College offered to waive tuition fees because of his ability and poor circumstances, Isaac returned and completed his schooling. Teachers and other students were impressed with the boy’s knowledge of the Bible.

Intended to become a minister

Isaac then went to Trinity College at Cambridge University with the intention of becoming a Church of England minister. Again, life was not easy for him. As he was unable to afford the tuition fees, he worked many hours each day serving meals and doing other jobs for the professors in order to pay his way. Isaac’s knowledge of the Bible continued to impress those around him.

At that time the ideas of the ancient Greek scholars still dominated what was taught in science, and recent scientific discoveries were largely ignored. This greatly annoyed Isaac Newton who firmly believed that ideas in science should be tested and only accepted if their usefulness could be demonstrated. He was committed to the experimental method of science.

Isaac graduated in 1665, shortly before an outbreak of Black Death swept through London. All universities were closed while the plague raged. During this time, Isaac returned to his family’s farm, now run by his young half-brother. He continued his study and research, working on the binomial theorem, light, telescopes, calculus and theology. After supposedly seeing an apple fall in the garden, he investigated gravity, but was unable to solve the puzzle until some years later. (It should be noted that some authorities question this ‘apple’ story. They say that the first mention of it came through the antireligious French philosopher and skeptic, Voltaire, who reputedly heard it from Newton’s grandniece.)

Revolution in Mathematics

Newton applied his binomial theorem to infinite series and from there developed calculus, a revolutionary new form of mathematics. For the first time it was possible to accurately calculate the area inside a shape with curved sides, and to calculate the rate of change of one physical quantity with respect to another. A similar system of mathematics was developed by German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. For a long time there was great confusion, with each being accused of stealing the other’s work. It was a distressing time for both. Many years later, it was established that each had developed calculus independently at roughly the same time. Neither was a cheat.

Optics

Isaac NewtonSir Isaac Newton used prisms to show that sunlight was made up of all the colours of the rainbow. This proved that the ancient Greeks ideas about light were wrong.

When Cambridge University reopened in 1667, Isaac Newton returned to do a Masters Degree, while teaching and doing research.

Newton used prisms to show that sunlight was made up of all the colours of the rainbow. This proved that the ancient Greeks’ ideas about light were wrong. In Newton’s time, astronomy was severely hampered because lenses in telescopes broke some of the light into unwanted colours, causing a somewhat unclear view. Although not the first to consider using a curved mirror instead of a lens, Newton was the first to successfully construct a telescope using this principle—a principle still used today in many telescopes.

The Royal Society

In 1672, Newton became a member of the Royal Society—a group of scientists committed to the experimental method. He presented one of his new telescopes to the Royal Society along with his findings on light. The Royal Society set up a committee led by physicist Robert Hooke to evaluate Newton’s findings. Hooke was a scientist employed by the Royal Society to evaluate new inventions. However, Hooke had his own ideas on light and was slow to accept the truth of Newton’s findings. This surprised and disappointed Newton, who even considered not circulating his discoveries in the future.

While it is sometimes said that Newton was too sensitive to critical evaluation of his work, he was merely concerned that the time spent justifying past findings was preventing him from making new discoveries.

Political Interference

Isaac Newton lived at a time when politics, religion and education were not separated. King Charles II commanded that everyone who taught at places such as Trinity College, where Church of England ministers were trained, must themselves be ordained as Church of England ministers after seven years. This included people such as Newton who taught only mathematics and science, not theology.

Although a devout Christian, Newton was not in full agreement with all the doctrines of the Church of England. Thus, his conscience would not allow him to accept ordination. 1

He was also strongly opposed to political involvement in both religious matters and education. The only way for Newton to keep his job was for the king to make an exception in his case. Others who had previously asked for this had been refused.

So Newton headed south to London for six weeks to plead his case before the king. During his time in London, he became better acquainted with other scientists in the Royal Society. Those who had known him only through his letters defending his discoveries had mistaken his confidence in his work for arrogance. His impatience to get on with new work had been mistaken for bad temper. Now the scientists realized what a friendly and considerate person he was and they rallied to his aid. Fortunately, for Newton and for science, the king granted Newton’s request to continue at Trinity College without being ordained.

Focused on Gravity

In Newton’s day, many people were superstitious or afraid of what they could not understand—such as the appearance of a comet, which was considered a sign of coming disaster. Even scientists generally considered the motion of planets and the motion of bodies on the earth as separate problems. In contrast, Newton reasoned that since the same God created the heavens as well as the earth, the same laws should apply throughout.

In 1684, Newton again began to consider gravity. He developed his theory of universal gravitation, which used what is known as the inverse square law. He developed his three laws of motion (movement) and proved mathematically that the same laws did, in fact, apply both to the heavens and the earth. His faith had focused his thoughts in the right direction.

When Newton was investigating the movement of the planets, he quite clearly saw the hand of God at work. He wrote:

‘This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratòr], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.’2

‘Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.’3

Again Newton encountered difficulties with his old rival Robert Hooke. A number of scientists believed that an inverse square law probably applied, but they had not been able to prove that this would produce the elliptical orbits observed by famous German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Despite Hooke’s boasts to the contrary he too failed to be forthcoming with proof. In contrast, Newton succeeded; but Hooke wanted some of the credit.

The Royal Society did not wish to be seen to take sides. This, together with shortage of finances, made the Royal Society reluctant to publish Newton’s landmark book Principia Mathematica. Newton’s friend, astronomer Edmond Halley, came to his aid and privately financed the publication of Newton’s three-part book in 1687. (Halley later used Newton’s laws in his work on comets which, like the planets, move in elliptical orbits around the sun.)

Royal Opposition

After 1685, Newton again encountered the problem of a monarch who tried to mingle politics, religion and education. The new king, James II, wanted Trinity College to award unearned degrees to those whose religious beliefs agreed with his own. Because they would not do this, Newton and eight other teachers from Trinity College were brought before the High Court on trumped-up charges. Although the charges were rightfully dismissed, the episode had been a great strain on the men.

Isaac Newton’s times of hardship and struggle throughout his lifetime did not produce bitterness. Instead, Newton’s own words show that this brought him closer to God. ‘Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician gives because we need them; and the proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust his skill and thank him for the prescription.’

Nervous Breakdown

For the next few years, Newton pursued his other great love—studying the Bible.

Isaac Newton represented Cambridge University as a Member of Parliament in 1689 and 1690. In 1690, his health failed. This illness was probably a nervous breakdown brought on by many years of working long hours and enduring too much stress. Eventually he fully recovered. For the next few years, Newton pursued his other great love—studying the Bible. The books he wrote included Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel.In 1696, the government appointed Newton to the post of Warden of the Mint. He supervised the replacement of England’s old and damaged coins with those which were new and more durable, and even helped break up a counterfeiting ring.

In 1701, Newton began another short term as parliamentarian. Two years later he was elected president of the Royal Society. His re-election to that position every year for the rest of his life showed the high esteem in which he was held by fellow scientists. Now that he had returned to science, Newton published his earlier work on light. His book, Optiks, contained both his own findings and suggestions for further research. His country officially recognized his work in 1705 when he became the first person to receive a knighthood for scientific achievement.

Newton died in 1727, at the age of 84. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Isaac Newton’s contributions to science were many and varied. They covered revolutionary ideas and practical inventions. His work in physics, mathematics and astronomy is of importance even today. His contributions in any one of these fields would have made him famous; collectively, they make him truly outstanding. But Newton remained a modest man who loved his Lord and Saviour.

He loved God and believed God’s Word—all of it. He wrote, ‘I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.’

(Quotes by Newton are taken from the book by J.H. Tiner, Isaac Newton—Inventor, Scientist and Teacher, Mott Media, Milford (Michigan), 1975.)

Article by Ann Lamont on June 1, 1990

The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life

1. Examine life, engage life with vengeance; always search for new pleasures and new destines to reach with your mind. This rule isn’t new. It echoes the verses of ancient Greek philosophers and most notably those of Plato through the voice of his hero, Socrates. Living life is about examining life through reason, nature’s greatest gift to humanity. The importance of reason in sensing and examining life is evident in all phases of life– from the infant who strains to explore its new surroundings to the grandparent who actively reads and assesses the headlines of the daily paper. Reason lets human beings participate in life, to be human is to think, appraise, and explore the world, discovering new sources of material and spiritual pleasure.

2. Worry only about the things that are in your control, the things that can be influenced and changed by your actions, not about the things that are beyond your capacity to direct or alter. This rule summarizes several important features of ancient Stoic wisdom — features that remain powerfully suggestive for modern times. Most notably the belief in an ultimately rational order operating in the universe reflecting a benign providence that ensures proper outcomes in life. Thinkers such as Epictetus did not simply prescribe “faith” as an abstract philosophical principle; they offered a concrete strategy based on intellectual and spiritual discipline. The key to resisting the hardship and discord that intrude upon every human life, is to cultivate a certain attitude toward adversity based on the critical distinction between those things we are able to control versus those which are beyond our capacity to manage. The misguided investor may not be able to recover his fortune but he can resist the tendency to engage in self-torment. The victims of a natural disaster, a major illness or an accident may not be able to recover and live their lives the way they used to, but they too can save themselves the self-torment. In other words, while we cannot control all of the outcomes we seek in life, we certainly can control our responses to these outcomes and herein lies our potential for a life that is both happy and fulfilled.

3. Treasure Friendship, the reciprocal attachment that fills the need for affiliation. Friendship cannot be acquired in the market place, but must be nurtured and treasured in relations imbued with trust and amity. According to Greek philosophy, one of the defining characteristics of humanity that distinguishes it from other forms of existence is a deeply engrained social instinct, the need for association and affiliation with others, a need for friendship. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle viewed the formation of society as a reflection of the profound need for human affiliation rather than simply a contractual arrangement between otherwise detached individuals. Gods and animals do not have this kind of need but for humans it is an indispensable aspect of the life worth living because one cannot speak of a completed human identity, or of true happiness, without the associative bonds called “friendship.” No amount of wealth, status, or power can adequately compensate for a life devoid of genuine friends.

4. Experience True Pleasure. Avoid shallow and transient pleasures. Keep your life simple. Seek calming pleasures that contribute to peace of mind. True pleasure is disciplined and restrained. In its many shapes and forms, pleasure is what every human being is after. It is the chief good of life. Yet not all pleasures are alike. Some pleasures are kinetic—shallow, and transient, fading way as soon as the act that creates the pleasure ends. Often they are succeeded by a feeling of emptiness and psychological pain and suffering. Other pleasures are catastematic—deep, and prolonged, and continue even after the act that creates them ends; and it is these pleasures that secure the well-lived life. That’s the message of the Epicurean philosophers that have been maligned and misunderstood for centuries, particularly in the modern era where their theories of the good life have been confused with doctrines advocating gross hedonism.

5. Master Yourself. Resist any external force that might delimit thought and action; stop deceiving yourself, believing only what is personally useful and convenient; complete liberty necessitates a struggle within, a battle to subdue negative psychological and spiritual forces that preclude a healthy existence; self mastery requires ruthless cador. One of the more concrete ties between ancient and modern times is the idea that personal freedom is a highly desirable state and one of life’s great blessings. Today, freedom tends to be associated, above all, with political liberty. Therefore, freedom is often perceived as a reward for political struggle, measured in terms of one’s ability to exercise individual “rights.”

The ancients argued long before Sigmund Freud and the advent of modern psychology that the acquisition of genuine freedom involved a dual battle. First, a battle without, against any external force that might delimit thought and action. Second, a battle within, a struggle to subdue psychological and spiritual forces that preclude a healthy self-reliance. The ancient wisdom clearly recognized that humankind has an infinite capacity for self-deception, to believe what is personally useful and convenient at the expense of truth and reality, all with catastrophic consequences. Individual investors often deceive themselves by holding on to shady stocks, believing what they want to believe. They often end up blaming stock analysts and stockbrokers when the truth of the matter is they are the ones who eventually made the decision to buy them in the first place. Students also deceive themselves believing that they can pass a course without studying, and end up blaming their professors for their eventual failure. Patients also deceive themselves that they can be cured with convenient “alternative medicines,” which do not involve the restrictive lifestyle of conventional methods.

6. Avoid Excess. Live life in harmony and balance. Avoid excesses. Even good things, pursued or attained without moderation, can become a source of misery and suffering. This rule is echoed in the writings of ancient Greek thinkers who viewed moderation as nothing less than a solution to life’s riddle. The idea of avoiding the many opportunities for excess was a prime ingredient in a life properly lived, as summarized in Solon’s prescription “Nothing in Excess” (6th Century B.C.). The Greeks fully grasped the high costs of passionate excess. They correctly understood that when people violate the limits of a reasonable mean, they pay penalties ranging from countervailing frustrations to utter catastrophe. It is for this reason that they prized ideals such as measure, balance, harmony, and proportion as much as they did, the parameters within which productive living can proceed. If, however, excess is allowed to destroy harmony and balance, then the life worth living becomes impossible to obtain.

7. Be a Responsible Human Being. Approach yourself with honesty and thoroughness; maintain a kind of spiritual hygiene; stop the blame-shifting for your errors and shortcomings. Be honest with yourself and be prepared to assume responsibility and accept consequences. This rule comes from Pythagoras, the famous mathematician and mystic, and has special relevance for all of us because of the common human tendency to reject responsibility for wrongdoing. Very few individuals are willing to hold themselves accountable for the errors and mishaps that inevitably occur in life. Instead, they tend to foist these situations off on others complaining of circumstances “beyond their control.” There are, of course, situations that occasionally sweep us along, against which we have little or no recourse. But the far more typical tendency is to find ourselves in dilemmas of our own creation — dilemmas for which we refuse to be held accountable. How many times does the average person say something like, “It really wasn’t my fault. If only John or Mary had acted differently then I would not have responded as I did.” Cop-outs like these are the standard reaction for most people. They reflect an infinite human capacity for rationalization, finger-pointing, and denial of responsibility. Unfortunately, this penchant for excuses and self-exemption has negative consequences. People who feed themselves a steady diet of exonerating fiction are in danger of living life in bad faith — more, they risk corrupting their very essence as a human being.

8. Don’t Be a Prosperous Fool. Prosperity by itself, is not a cure-all against an ill-led life, and may be a source of dangerous foolishness. Money is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the good life, for happiness and wisdom. Prosperity has different meanings to different people. For some, prosperity is about the accumulation of wealth in the form of money, real estate and equities. For others, prosperity is about the accumulation of power and the achievement of status that comes with appointment to business or government positions. In either case, prosperity requires wisdom: the rational use of one’s resources and in the absence of such wisdom, Aeschylus was correct to speak of prosperous fools.

9. Don’t Do Evil to Others. Evildoing is a dangerous habit, a kind of reflex too quickly resorted to and too easily justified that has a lasting and damaging effect upon the quest for the good life. Harming others claims two victims—the receiver of the harm, and the victimizer, the one who does harm.

Contemporary society is filled with mixed messages when it comes to the treatment of our fellow human beings. The message of the Judaeo-Christian religious heritage, for instance, is that doing evil to others is a sin, extolling the virtues of mercy, forgiveness, charity, love, and pacifism. Yet, as we all know, in practice these inspiring ideals tend to be in very short supply. Modern society is a competitive, hard-bitten environment strongly inclined to advocate self-advantage at the expense of the “other.” Under these conditions, it is not surprising that people are often prepared to harm their fellow human beings. These activities are frequently justified by invoking premises such as “payback,” “leveling scores,” or “doing unto others, before they can do unto you.” Implicit in all of these phrases is the notion that malice towards others can be justified on either a reciprocal basis or as a pre-emptive gesture in advance of anticipated injury. What is not considered here are the effects these attempts to render evil have upon the person engaging in such attempts. Our culture has naively assumed that “getting even” is an acceptable response to wrongdoing — that one bad-turn deserves another. What we fail to understand is the psychological, emotional, and spiritual impact victimizing others has upon the victimizer.

10. Kindness towards others tends to be rewarded. Kindness to others is a good habit that supports and reinforces the quest for the good life. Helping others bestows a sense of satisfaction that has two beneficiaries—the beneficiary, the receiver of the help, and the benefactor, the one who provides the help.

Many of the world’s great religions speak of an obligation to extend kindness to others. But these deeds are often advocated as an investment toward future salvation — as the admission ticket to paradise. That’s not the case for the ancient Greeks, however, who saw kindness through the lens of reason, emphasizing the positive effects acts of kindness have not just on the receiver of kindness but to the giver of kindness as well, not for the salvation of the soul in the afterlife, but in this life. Simply put, kindness tends to return to those who do kind deeds, as Aesop demonstrated in his colourful fable of a little mouse cutting the net to free the big lion. Aesop lived in the 6th century B.C. and acquired a great reputation in antiquity for the instruction he offered in his delightful tales. Despite the passage of many centuries, Aesop’s counsels have stood the test of time because in truth, they are timeless observations on the human condition; as relevant and meaningful today as they were 2,500 years ago.

Courtesy:  forbes.com