I love puns. I hope you don’t mind the title. If you’ve read a lot of my blog posts, you’ll know that I love playing with words in different ways.
The write way. The right way. I consider myself to be someone with a strong moral compass. I do my best to be my best, but one of the oldest philosophical debates is one that aims to answer the question of what the ‘good life’ is. I wish I knew.
As it is such an ancient question, it is one that has a plethora of different answers. Many common answers stem through religion, and I can certainly say that I’ve drawn a lot of my personal moral code from this. I would, quite gently, say that no religion is perfect. Not on the face of the deity or deities that are worshipped, perhaps, but rather because all religions are made up of people trying to interpret the divine, and people are exquisitely imperfect.
Determining the right way for me has been an everlasting adventure. Seneca once wrote that “learning how to live takes a whole lifetime and – what will surprise you more – it takes a whole lifetime to learn how to die.” I’ve been reading a lot of Stoic philosophy lately. Though I find Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius to be particularly positive and encouraging, I find Seneca to have a separate allure, for when I’m in one of the poorest moods.
Seneca strikes me as an unhappy person, which is something I believe is reflected quite closely in his philosophy. There is much negativity to be found, but at the same time, much truth. It is as though being so negative, so pessimistic, somehow opens one’s eyes to some otherwise indiscoverable well of wisdom.
I have found the very positive times in my life open me to great idealism, to great hope, and to the very best of intentions and moral standing. I have also found that the very worst times of my life have given me a dull, aching realism. It is in the former times that I feel sure of how humans ought to live, but it is in the latter times that I feel sure of how humans really do live. In this way I feel like any human being can experience the extremes of both hope and despair.
This feels very relevant to the neverending search for the good life. In a sense, one could say that there are as many ideals of living as there are people on the planet. But there are a broad range of common factors between many of these. Love, friendship, family, stability are all important to maintaining a good life, with a plethora of ethical truths that go with them.
But this frustrates many philosophers and theologians to no end. That makes for ‘a’ good life, not ‘the’ good life. So how do we go about this?
My opinion is one drop in a vast ocean, but it is based off our thoughts and emotions at our best, as well as those at our worst. We should always strive for ideals, while doing out best to curb what we feel are the miserable realities of a negative world view.
We should always be hoping for the best but expecting the worst. After all, if you give up on your ideals, you have everything to lose in terms of living the good life. If you hold onto them… how much do you have to gain?