September 07, 2013
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.
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 human beings. Do see this important piece by an optimistic and well-read Umair Haque in the May 2011 issue of the increasingly-eclectic 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, people 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 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 Westerners.
What ever happened to Well-Roundedness?
"Fragmentation" became one word philosophers and writers often used to describe the real price paid for our "progress". People became cut off from the natural world, their own innate spirituality and he meaning of a true education. We drifted away from physical culture, real health, exercising our bodies and eating correctly. Notions of friendship and bonds with others changed and, in my view, all but disappeared. As a result, we became less useful to others, friends and family, clients and customers, co-workers and ourselves. We are more alone than ever. We lead paltry, under-achieving and often miserable lives. Many of us are, most of the time, "hatin' life".
In short, we have lost our very souls. 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 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. 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.
Work at a life more complete: one that "adds up".
Posted by JD Hull at September 7, 2013 11:59 PM