A Good Life, Part 1 of 2

As I age (as I have aged!), with more life and labor behind me than in front of me, and being a native (Ah, what word shall I employ? Ideologist? Theorist? Or, simply) thinker, I spend a good bit of each day contemplating life.

Life in general. The life of the world. The common life of humankind.

And, more specifically, my life. Long self-identifying as an existentialist, constantly I ask myself three questions. About identity, who am I? About destiny, believing that life, my life is not static, thus, ever-evolving, who am I becoming? About legacy, what will I leave for those who come after me; if not in material substance, then in the record of a life well lived?

In all of this, one idea continues to arise: A good life.

By “good”, I mean fulfilling. A good life is that in and through which one has achieved (or, rather, is achieving) the purpose of one’s existence; whether framed by a religious impulse (“I am becoming who God created me to be”), a sense of community, indeed, communion with one’s heritage (“I am realizing the dreams of my ancestors”), or some other outer-inner drive larger than one’s self (“I am growing into oneness with the cosmos”).

All this said, one thing is obvious to me. A good life is not a homeostatic state or realm to or at which one arrives and, having arrived, never leaves.

At least, not for me. When I was younger, I believed that I always was on the move to get (to be) “better.” Better than I was at any given moment. Smarter. Stronger. Wiser. Happier.

However, over the course of my life, through trial-and-error, successes and failures, prudent choices and grave mistakes (some of which I regret to say, though, honesty compels my confession, have been woefully repeatable!), a good life always is a moving target. Or, perhaps, more truly said, I always am moving toward the target.

Based on my experience, a good life can be symbolized as a tapestry comprised of threads of being (elements of living fulfilled) and of becoming (elements of living yet to be fulfilled).

In a word, a good life is a journey with a beginning though without a destination, for the horizon of the expedition ever evolves.

So, with all this inherent process-oriented nebulosity, I, at least, can ask: What is a (for me, the chiefest) road sign or directional signal throughout the twists and turns, the straight lines and circularities in and on the pathway toward a good life?

More to come…

© 2021 PRA

#agoodlife #goodmeansfulfilling #aging #analyzingandlearningfrommyexperience #experienceisagoodteacher

3 thoughts on “A Good Life, Part 1 of 2

  1. Paul,

    Coincidentally, I spent the morning in a gathering of five women who call ourselves “Dreamers,” because we began together years ago focusing our writing on our dreams (as in what happens when we sleep, not the goal-oriented type of dreamers, although those dreams have also played a role in our lives, of course). Two of the women attended Union Theological Seminary many years ago, and one mentioned today that one of her teachers there posed a question that she has never forgotten: “Are you prepared to understand that you will die in process?” Your piece recalled that acknowledgment very clearly for me.

    “… a good life is a journey with a beginning though without a destination, for the horizon of the expedition ever evolves.” I think it is important to acknowledge that our lives are a journey without a destination, much as we may think there are certain things we want to accomplish in our lives’ courses. The evolution of the horizon is, in the face of all our goals, a fact of all human lives. To me, that is one of the most compelling aspects of the human experience, the never-ending evolution of possibility, necessity, context, opportunity, and ability, all the conditions in which our lives will unfold and reveal themselves and us as individuals. In the moment in which we draw our last breaths, we will still see our selves and our lives evolving to the next condition, the next identity, the next step along the way to…. whatever eternity may hold.

    That you focus on the words “good life” as the target toward which you are always moving, while acknowledging the fact that the target itself is constantly moving as well is key. And thus, we spend each day, and we will also come to the last of those days “in process” within another larger process. Which suggests to me that even once our individual lives have ended, the “processes” in which we participate and which we at the same time pursue, go on and are carried in a larger meaning than we could have fathomed in our human incarnations.

    I look forward to reading Part II of this timely and fascinating exposition of your pursuit of a “good life” and its meaning for you.

    Gratitude and much love to you, Paul,

    Karen

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  2. Thank you so much Paul for this post!! Like Karen I’m wondering what will be in part 2!!

    What are the road or directional signs toward the good life? What an awesome question! For my entire career there have been signs I’ve had to point people to that they were required to follow… going through an X-ray machine, showing an id each time they entered, a reminder that they were always under surveillance etc. It may not have directed them to a good life, but it did control how they behaved while in the office building.

    If I had a directional sign for the amazingly good life I’ve had it would be a “No U Turn” sign. I equate a U turn with a navigation mistake that we want to correct, so we make a U turn and correct our mistake to go the right way again. But I believe we become the people we are supposed to be because we’ve made mistakes and have learned from them. If we could always make a U Turn to avoid making mistakes our life would be boring… mistakes can really shake us up, bring us back down to reality and learn that what we did was dumb or hurtful or harmful. We can also teach others to avoid the terrible mistakes we made so their mistakes won’t be quite as bad as all. If we didn’t make mistakes we wouldn’t be able to practice forgiveness which for me is part of the good life, especially when we forgive others. To use one of your hashtags experience really is a great teacher!!

    Much love!

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    1. Karen, these your words, for me, harbor infinite possibility – “In the moment in which we draw our last breaths, we will still see our selves and our lives evolving to the next condition, the next identity, the next step along the way to…. whatever eternity may hold” – which you, also for me, explicate in your succeeding paragraph. And, in this, though not meaning to be morbid, I find hope. For, yes, I do not want to die (I am not ready nor, at some moments, do I desire to die at all; rather, I’d love to be mortally immortal [although, as I write this, immediately I cringe, for when I think of the woes of life in this world, is this a state of being in which I’d wish to endure forever? Nay!]), yet I, at least, intellectually, relish the idea of an ongoing beingness in some form (to channel my namesake the Apostle Paul) of which I canst not know!

      And, Loretta, I love your examination of the U-turn sign. What if we always could make U-turns, that is, correct our (not make) mistakes? We wouldn’t need forgiveness. Now, that’s a thought! One of the hardest things we humans need to do (that is, to forgive), we would absolve ourselves from having to do. (I must think about that!).

      Love you, each and both, always and in all ways,
      Paul

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