Delight Springs

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The good life

What does it take to live the good life? That was our wander-topic yesterday in CoPhi. Many of us agreed with Aristotle, that a good life revolves around the cultivation and habitual exercise of virtue, character, and one's personal potential. And we must be "sufficiently equipped with external goods" to be happy (eudaimon), but how much is sufficient? How "fashionable" must we be?

Many also indicated a preference for "nice things" and name brands, regretting the expense of clothes and other shiny signals of status in this society but unsure how to disengage from the consumer chase. "Beware all enterprises that require new clothes," said Thoreau. Simplify, simplify.

Epicurus is on deck for next time, not a moment too soon. The mania for things can seem inescapable, until you see how others have escaped. You don't have to join a Garden commune to begin the process of simplification, you just have to form a habit of closer scrutiny: is the appeal of this apparel real, or is it socially constructed and hence de-constructible? How much of my valuable time, how much irretrievable life, is this bauble really worth? Do the people I care about really care about the brand I wear? When was the last time one of my consumer purchases made my life really flourish?

But, we must be sensible about simplicity. There's some truth too in Mark Twain's observation: "Clothes do make the man. Naked people have very little influence in society."

5:30/6:31, 55/83

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