Feelings + Reasoning = Happiness
We’ve heard of Socrates, maybe, Plato and Aristotle, but we’re used to thinking of all this as not relating to our modern lives. It’s the type of stuff you need to learn to pass exams; it’s not actually going to help us with a happier life.
That’s where we are misguided. The first question these old philosophers decide upon is that the meaning of life is happiness. This stuff is actually surprisingly pragmatic and modern. Having settled on that conclusion, they level-heatedly set about deciding how we might actually act in order that this is most often the case.
It helps a lot getting clarity around decision making, this kind of applied-analysis to living that we read here. It gets to the core of the issue with choice; and by this we mean that they they need to work for us. That is the point. Life should work for us, there is nothing we need do to prove ourselves to it.
But this doesn’t mean that we ought to be selfish. Even over 2000 years ago they realised how much our comfort and happiness rested upon the general well-being and stability of all the society in which we live. For this reason, we are better served ourselves if our actions are mutually beneficial. We don’t live alone, and we will quickly suffer the consequences if we only act for ourselves.
Our good actions basically will also make us feel good. People will think of us well and act well towards us, they even appeal to our inner sense of balance and harmony. Seeking equilibrium in life was their guiding principle, the essence of our being for them was a stability between opposing extremes.
Overwhelmed with choices, the Greeks idea of achieving happiness through balance makes sense. If we apply this to moderation in actions it may resolve a lot of confusion for us. We can now approach decisions more skilfully as the attempt in finding a balance between extremes. All we need do is ascertain where the extremes of our choices lie and we can then better find our appropriate action in-between.
Obviously, easier said than done, but basically, it serves to illustrate the power of applying a bit of clear and logical thinking. Reading the Ancient Greeks’ is quite comforting as we get some guidelines for our behaviour in an increasingly chaotic and senseless world.
To be clear, however, that doesn’t mean we should be machines of cold-reasoning. There is nothing wrong with emotion, in fact, nothing else should be more influential for inspiring us in life. On the other hand, If we don’t use our reason and reflection to help inform and guide these raw-qualities, we can end up in a place we didn’t really intend, furthermore, that does not make us happy.
Happiness is our natural condition when we make the effort to lead a balanced and moderate life. In this we need to avoid the pitfalls of restraint as much as that of excess. Stick with these old Greeks and you might stay out of trouble!