Michael Battalio

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

the Good life?

What is the good life?  That is something I've been asking myself lately, although, not directly.  I read a poem in English class earlier today.  (I must admit, if I weren't so terrified by the professor's tests, and if the class were only a fifty minute class instead of 75, I would seriously enjoy it and want to take a class by the same teacher again.)  The poem is by Ben Jonson and called "Inviting a Friend to Supper."  Read it if you get the chance or the desire.  Ignoring all the political stuff in the poem, it describes what the speaker thinks would be the good life:  food, friends, intellectual conversation and so forth.  This has led me to thinking since I got out of class this morning.  I know I'm not happy where I am (by am I don't mean just physical location of my body, but I include that in the word 'am' as well), and I suppose I have a bit of knowledge as to why, namely, I don't do anything worthwhile.  Which leads me to thinking, "What is worthwhile?"  And that leads back to "What is the good life?"  The good life is not a superficial, and usually hypocritical, belief in a deity.  The good life is not sex or drugs or drinking (even though that's what society tells us it is, and I will be the first to admit; it's hard to ignore society).  The good life is not wealth and figuring out how we can be lazy for the rest of the life (that is confusing the easy life with the good life).  The good life is advancing yourself and bringing others along with you as you go.  By advancing I mean not just intellectually, physically or spiritually, but they are terrifically important.  By advancing I mean living up to principles you set for yourself, not ones God or government sets up for you to believe.  I also certainly don't mean to set goals like write a to do list each day; then once you've done that for x number of years, you've led a good life and can die in peace.  I mean the good life is living to the set of values your find honorable and worthy of a sentient human being, i.e. yourself.  What those individual values are is a matter of the individual.  I know, however, that finding those values begins with questioning all the physical and spiritual and intellectual, questioning society, questioning the easy life.  We even need (especially so) to question ourselves, because being fallible predestines us to being wrong just as often as we are right, if not just as often then more so.  The good life is living up to lofty standards you place on yourself and being able, when it's all over, to step back and say, "Yeah, I got it right."  That, of course, is under the assumption that you will be wiser when you die than you are now so you can realize whether or not you got it right.   As for the now, it's worth our time to quit being lazy or getting drunk or high to figure out in what ways we can be more virtuous people.  

All of that is the best answer I have for anything at the moment.  Work with me here I'm struggling with it just as everyone else.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mikie.
Here's a little food for thought. I was reading Marx this afternoon for my Classics of Social and Political Thought class (yep, you guessed it: it's required), and he says some very interesting things about "the good life." He is specifically talking about the worker or the factory laborer, someone who makes something all day long and then goes home in the evening to his home and family. A worker like this puts his labor into his product only to have his product taken away from him. He gets no direct benefit from his labor except wages, which he uses for his home/family life. He hates his work and sees it and endless drudgery. He only does it because it is essential to his existance. Without the job, he would not be able to buy the essentials of life, and he could not have any life at home His "life," then, takes place at home, and his job is only a means to that life. In other words, he spends the majority of his time and devotes all of his labor into doing something he hates. When he goes home all he does are things like eat, sleep, and procreate: all the things befitting an animal. Marx's point is that he in effect loses his humanity this way and becomes an animal. To enjoy life as a human should, to have "the good life," he must put his labor into something he loves so that his "life" takes place not only at home doing all the things that animals do, but also in his labor. His labor should not be the means to having a life at home, but his labor should be his life.
Dunno, struck me as interesting.


PS. This does not mean I subscribe to Marxism.

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