What is the Good Life?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question because it lies in that realm of individual perception, otherwise known as “Subjectivity” – a term too often used to excuse ourselves from finding the answer to anything. Finding the answer to this question, however, was and continues evermore to be an everlasting quest. Plato tried to answer it, so did Aristotle, and then Machiavelli, then John Locke, and every other philosopher that has ever walked the intellectual face of the earth. Happiness, money, family, friends, cars, mansions, gold … for all of us the components that constitute The Good Life are different. Few can say they’re close to finding the holy grail of factors, fewer can say that they’ve found it.
The problem with attaining this state of being is not just that it is such an abstract concept that exists solely in the ideal. The problem with getting The Good Life, is that “life” itself is in constant flux. Yesterday we were riding horses, today we have electric cars. Yesterday we followed the stars, today we follow our GPS systems. The ever-changing lifestyle – that occurs more rapidly in this century than ever – implicates that the question shouldn’t be “what is the Good Life?” but rather “what is the Good Life today?”
The world at its basic structure stands so: the industries that are designed to enhance our lifestyles are in actual fact money-sapping machines that try not to self-destruct; the food and education sectors of society have negative side effects including (but not limited to) extreme obesity, extreme famine, debt-creating, hyper-selectivity, and stagnant growth. The medical industry, that aims to keep us healthy so we can live the Good Life when we find it, is a petri dish of growing patients and few doctors. Media doesn’t teach but exaggerates, governments don’t last, banks crash and there’s five new Hollywood movies every week and a new gadget every month. Cars creat pollution, universites are built on bureaucracy, and money has little or no value.
Is this a gross exaggeration? Of course! Yet it implicates the point that the Good Life isn’t constituted by what is seen around you; if it were so, than right now we would all be broken and despondent, financially, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and maybe even spiritually. But, even in today’s messy, chaotic and problematic society there are people content, which leads to the conclusion that perhaps it’s not the Good Life we should be searching for, but a prosperity that leaves us fairly happy. A prosperity defined not by the material world but by living meaningfully; by pursuing something that adds something to your life; by becoming someone better and wiser; by creating something of value.
Yet all this is abstract too, so some will read it and nod their heads in agreement while others will move on to an article about the upcoming iPad 5. Perhaps the core problem is that there is no straightforward recipe; the philosophers of the past tried, yet their methods were never pursued, nor were they made imperative, because of Subjectivity who listens to no-one but itself. There is no right or wrong answer, there is no right or wrong way, but there is choice. To paraphrase the economist Umair Haque, today’s Good Life has been reduced to a frenzied existence of consumerism, void of depth, meaning, humanity and any sense of its betterment. But there’s always tomorrow. Let the quest continue.