When is the last time you had a meaty conversation about the meaning of life? Or attempted to think through (much less articulate) what living a good life means to you?
It’s been years for me, frankly. Sure, I know what kind of things deeply please me: downloading a good sci-fi flick (finally discovered Doctor Who!) on my hd 40″ flat-screen TV; a well-crafted, made-in-the-USA weekender bag; a sumptuous supper with good wine at France & Doug’s place (who grow all their own produce and use solar panels for energy and pump in their own water from the lake by which they live).
No doubt you have your own list of good things.
These lists of ours are where we allocate our dollars (just ask Oprah).
While lovely and worthwhile, the sum of those lists don’t necessarily equate to a good life. And there’s no guarantee that at any moment a whole lot of those won’t be removed from us by illness, job loss, or a stock market crash. (Canada’s 2011 election results indicate most of us instinctively understand that, and so we voted in the guy who promised to protect us against the possibility).
A recent HBR article re-challenged me to do some hard thinking about all this. The author writes:
[In contrast to consumerism, there’s] an alternate vision, one I call eudaimonic prosperity, and it’s about living meaningfully well. Its purpose is not merely passive, slack-jawed “consuming” but living: doing, achieving, fulfilling, becoming, inspiring, transcending, creating, accomplishing — all the stuff that matters the most. See the difference? Opulence is Donald Trump. Eudaimonia is the Declaration of Independence.
Figuring out what “living meaningfully well” means to each of us requires quietude and deliberation. It is not about going from pleasurable episode (fun Doctor Who flick) to pleasurable episode (lovely dinner with friends) to pleasurable episode (vacation in England) but an over-arching, continuing, life-long narrative into which the episodes fit, or don’t. On a personal note, I’ve dusted mine off from years ago and mine is simply this: to be and become the most Nancy I can, in this one life (to my knowledge) that I’ve been given.
As we work through these very.big.questions, we will discover we can extricate ourselves from our culture of consumption in favour of living into our very own, unique lives well lived.
Photo Credit: elkit