Sunday morning, 9AM, I settled down with my tea just as the music heralded the sunrise and the start of this Sunday Morning Program. Charles Osgood announced the theme for the day “The Good Life”.
Then questions came….
Immediately, for me a full rich picture emerged on my mental screen-the good life—Joseph Campbell’s follow your bliss—simple congruent living—friends—family—and time and energy to enjoy them---feeling safe, serene and fulfilled………
Then Charles revealed the show’s content. It was to be about the rich and famous, living in the lap of luxury beyond most folk’s wildest dreams.
That’s the story.
I switched my mental model and enjoyed the program along with all the other viewers.
I mused and was amused at how we each have mental models, pictures, and world- views in our heads that are unique to ourselves and how easy it is to assume that others’ are similar.
I wondered also if “The Good Life” has a different meaning than “A Good Life”.
This started a bit of wondering about what constitutes or defines a good life or is it THE good life? And are they different?
I paid closer attention when well known persons’ deaths were announced and occasionally read the obituaries to see how other’s activities, pursuits and relationships were perceived by those left behind.
When one particular person I know died in his late eighties I realized there were as many views of this man’s life as there were mourners. Most would consider him a disappointing husband, father and provider. While his life never was even close to Sunday Morning’s portrayal, and was for the most part a series of false starts, barely making it and broken relationships, in his later years, he had family who cared about him and indeed, he seemed to be at peace with himself-no obvious torment, regrets or conflicts.
Did this later life circumstance make up for earlier experiences and could his life be pronounced “good”?
So I started to gather and sort these concepts of the good life to make some sense of it for myself. When I put aside whether it is THE good Life or A good life the following categories developed:
- Good life as wealth—abundance, wealth, elegance, opulence, luxury- being able to do or have anything that money can provide
- Good life as service—emphasis on good-contributing to society through service to others- one’s main mission as service
- Good life as contentment—inner peace, detachment, non- reactive, no conflict or little self-judgment rather Zen in nature
- Good life as simplicity—uncluttered, unfettered in regards to food, clothing, shelter and activities—clean- pure- sparse
What about “Good enough”?
- How many other views are there?
- Can the categories be combined?
- What about a too rigid attachment to any one life?
- What about relationships? Behaviors? Results?
- How does illness injury or misfortune influence?
- Do we change our ideas/view over time?
- How much are our views (and behavior) affected by outside judges?
- Is good life more about inner states or outside circumstances?
- Are there any universal truths about good life?
And who decides?
I invite all of you for whom this has sparked an interest to share your thoughts and ideas with me and I’ll post them on the website. I would love to hear what you believe defines good life in general and what a good life means for you.
Just email me through the web site. I am eager for the conversation to begin!
One more closing thought—Annie Dillard wrote that how we spend our days is, of course how we spend our lives. We lead our lives every day. How do we know whether each day was good? (Or do we have to wait till the end of a life to label it good?)