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October 07, 2012

And in Praise of Well-Roundedness: Toward Making Your Life a Work of Art.

I believe the quantum leap from opulence to eudaimonia is going to be the biggest, most significant economic shift of the next decade, and perhaps beyond: of our lifetimes.

--Umair Haque

About half the people you meet live from one day to the next in a state of such fear and uncertainty that about half the time they doubt their own sanity. Their boats are rocking so badly that all they want to do is get level long enough to think straight and avoid the next nightmare.

--HST, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

Don't worry about the meaning of the Greek word "eudaimonia".

It's the easiest concept to understand--and the hardest thing to achieve--for post-modern humans. Do see this important piece by an optimistic and well-read Umair Haque at the increasingly-eclectic and person-building Harvard Business Review: "Is a Well-Lived Life Worth Anything?". Please read the article.

But let me add a wrinkle to it. For the past two centuries, starting just about the time the world started feeling the effects of morphing from farming to industrial economies, humans got more out of whack than ever. Many historians think the industrial revolution started as early as the mid-18th century--when Brits learned how to to do machine-based manufacturing--but it took a few decades for the world to lose its way while it enjoyed and celebrated labor-saving devices, increased wealth and higher standards of living for most people.

"Fragmentation" became one word philosophers and writers often used to describe the real human price paid for our modernity. What it means is that people, and Westerners in particular, got so "cut off" from nature, our own innate spirituality, true education (and what it should do for us), physical culture, real health, exercising our bodies, eating correctly, a true (and non-digital) notion of friendship and bond with others, other humans and, ultimately, ourselves. As a result, we are correspondingly less useful to others, friends and family, clients and customers, co-workers and (again) ourselves. We lead paltry, under-achieving and often miserable lives. We are, most of the time, "hatin' life".

In short, we have lost our very souls.

The vast majority of us are not happy. We feel isolated from life itself and we feel alone. We are ignorant of the history that got us here, watch television mindlessly and by default, wax patriotic or tribal as a substitute for thinking, are unaware of that happens in the rest of the world (Americans are easily the worst offenders), take pills we don't need and often are getting fat enough to have our own zip codes. We don't even venture outside and into the natural world that much. We think we'll be and feel better if we "buy more stuff". Perhaps worst of all, even the most talented of us no longer think for ourselves. We follow. We run in mindless packs.

Fragmentation, isolation, unthinking conformity, chronic unhappiness or being "fucked up"--whatever you want to call it--is true of most of us, in varying but substantial ways, regardless of race, class or level of education. About ninety percent of us are so angry, hateful, scared, sick or stoned that we no longer know our ass from deep-center field. The unhappiness covers us all. We are not "putting it all together" to form (to take a musical conceit) one major chord. Doing that starts with each human--and it takes work. Work we should be anxious to undertake.

What ever happened to "well-roundedness"?


Work at a life more complete: one that "adds up".

Posted by JD Hull at October 7, 2012 11:59 PM


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