Need for Admiration

There are a lot of bright and capable people who are not happy with their lives. Quite often it’s because they have not figured out what is valuable in life that will make them happy. In the article on happiness I discussed what Aristotle thought was worth pursuing for the sake of Eudaimonia.

One of the things people mistakenly think that is worth pursuing is the admiration of others in their community or becoming famous throughout the world. I say it’s mistaken belief because the costs for the admiration or wanting to be famous far outweigh the benefits. Why is there this need by almost everyone to seek admiration or fame? Is it because in the past there was an evolutionary survival benefit for being famous or admired ? and if there was a benefit does it matter in this day and age ?

Let’s see what are the costs of becoming a prominent individual or to be famous. When we seek social status, we give other people power over us. We do things   calculated to make others admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavour. We make it our goal to please others and we are no longer free to please ourselves, we enslave ourselves. This situation is particularly troublesome when we are trying to seek approval of people whose values we reject because they are different from our own. This situation is not uncommon. It am reminded of my friend who was a MLA, she said she quite often had to curry favour with whose opinion she did not share or respected, just to get things done in a bureaucracy. She did not enjoy these situations and always felt the loss of her power. This sense of power loss I think came from her endorsing others notion of what was right and not being true to herself. She also give them power to annoy and upset her if they did not reciprocate when it was their turn to do so.

If we can become indifferent to what other people’s opinions are of us our quality of life will improve. We have no power over other to stop them from sneering at us, so it is foolish to either stop them or spend time worrying about them. We should instead spend this time on something we have complete control over, that is to cultivate ourselves; practice compassion and loving kindness towards all humankind.

It so happens that sometimes, one becomes famous even when there were no intentions of doing so. In this situation use the popularity to promote goals that would enhance humankind’s well-being and continue to be indifferent to what other people think of you. Your life will be infused with sense of freedom and well-being.

Resources

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine

 

 

Money

Throughout the ages the wise has cautioned humankind about thinking that “it is amount of money and not the state of mind that matters.” The money will not console us in our old age and it will not enable us to live without sorrow. It may buy us physical comforts but it never brings us contentment or banish our grief.

The wise recognized the suffering that comes with the endless pursuit of money. It is our attachment to money and our mistaken belief that money is the key to a fulfilling our life that is the problem, not money itself. When we don’t have enough money we have two options, we can earn more or we can learn to simplify our life. There is a tendency for our expenditure to go up as we earn more, so we may not be any further ahead for having more money.

 

 

 

Living well does not necessarily depend on having more money or more things.It may mean simply to simplify our life. Duane Elgin in his book Voluntary Simplicity says:-

” To live with simplicity is to unburden our lives – to live a more direct, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: consuming, working, learning, relating, and so on. Simplicity of living means meeting life face to face.It means confronting life clearly, without unnecessary distractions, without trying to soften the awesomeness of our existence or masking the deeper manifestations of life with pretensions, distractions and unnecessary accumulations. It means being direct and honest in relationships of all kinds. It means taking life as it is – straight and unadulterated.”

More than thousand years ago the Stoics recommended this kind of life. They warned for example against eating extravagant meals because we will lose our ability to enjoy simple diet. Instead of enjoying wholesome sandwich with a glass of milk, our discriminating palate would want freshly prepared pasta with finest herbs and cheese, accompanied by a brand of sparkling bottled water or a glass of the finest red wine. The sandwich and the milk is probably more healthier and less expensive than the pasta, sparkling water or the red wine. Further, rather than mourning the loss of our ability to enjoy simple things, we take pride in our newly gained inability to enjoy anything but “the best.” The Stoics, however, would pity us. Besides enjoying extravagant diets, those who live in luxury also wear expensive clothes and live in expensive, finely furnished houses. The Stoics warn us to dress to protect our bodies, not to impress other people. Likewise our housing and furnishings, our mode of transport should be functional not for showing off.

The Stoics work hard to avoid falling victim to this kind of connoisseurship. Indeed, the Stoics value highly their ability to enjoy ordinary life – and indeed, their ability to find sources of delight even when living in primitive conditions.

If we take the advise of the Stoics and live simply with intention, we will find that our needs are easily met, for as Seneca reminds us, life’s necessities are cheap and easily obtainable. Those who crave luxury typically have o spend considerable time and energy to attain it; those who forgo luxury can devote this time and energy to other, more worthwhile undertakings.

Gandhi said ”  The essence of civilization consists not in the multiplication of wants but in their deliberate and voluntary renunciation.”

After meeting the King of England, a reporter commented to Gandhi on how scantily dressed he had been in the presence of the King. Gandhi replied, ” It’s okay. The King had on enough for the both of us.”

Gandhi lived a life of simplicity – straight and unadulterated; face to face; unpretentious and unencumbered; without unnecessary distractions; without softening the awesomeness of his existence or masking the deeper manifestations of life with pretensions, distractions and unnecessary accumulation. It takes courage to live simply.

Resources

1. Chop Wood Carry Water, by Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingrasci

2. A Guide to the good Life, by William B. Irvine

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