Eudaimonia

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I’ve had time to explore recently. I don’t mean going on a physical adventure, but rather a mental one. A mental adventure; that sounds pretty cool. The coronavirus lockdown coupled with the fact that it is Ramadan means that I have a lot more time to relax and reflect than usual. I can’t say that I’ve been as productive as I would’ve liked, but, I set high standards for myself and me falling a little bit short in this moment doesn’t bother me too much.

In my spare time, I’ve started studying ancient Greek philosophy. This wasn’t something I one day decided to wake up and do; this little endeavour of mine was sparked due to a PlayStation game that I’ve been playing. The game is set in ancient Greece in the years 431-422 BCE, the plot tells a mythological history of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. In this game, you encounter a philosopher called Socrates, you’ve probably heard the name. This is something that Socrates said (in the game and in real life) that caught my attention:

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing”

I sat there for a few moments and really thought about what Socrates meant by this. The way I see it, what he means is, know that you know nothing and try to learn as much as you can. My further study into Socrates’ work proved to me that I wasn’t far off in my assessment as he also said:

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”

You will never complete your journey of self development in this world. I delved even deeper into this and that is where I found ‘eudaimonia’. The word ‘eudaimonia’ derives from ancient Greece and appears in many philosophical texts. Most famously, Plato (student of Socrates) and Aristotle (student of Plato) use this in their publications. Socrates also spoke of it (he never wrote anything). Historically, it has been translated as “happiness”, however, in the more modern context, many historians (whom I agree with) believe this to be a constant state of being. Literally, the parts of the word translate into well (eu) and spirit (daimon) – living well.  In other words, eudaimonia means self-fulfilment. I think that in today’s society especially, reaching true eudaimonia/self-fulfilment is a near impossible task and it requires a lot of sacrifice. I couldn’t tell you how to get there because I’m not there myself (quite far off actually) but I do believe you can make plans now and start working on them to achieve some sort of long term self-fulfilment. I can give you three key pieces of advice that I believe could help you on your journey:

(1) Have a set of core beliefs to guide you. In my opinion, these give meaning to your existence and provide you with self-realisation. Personally, mine come from a mixture of (a) my religion, (b) my upbringing and (c) my own experiences in life. For example, my religion has taught me to be kind and non-judgmental, my upbringing teaches me to be respectful and my personal experiences in life have also taught me a valuable lesson, to never feel regret. When I went on a spiritual journey to the cities of Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia last December, I thought about everything that I regretted from the past. Many things came to mind, but, when I actually examined how I felt about it, I didn’t feel genuine regret for anything. I realised that regret is a very unproductive emotion. Rather than dwell on what you can’t change, why not analyse that situation to see what you learned from it and how/if you’d tackle a similar situation differently next time. From every single thing you do in life, there is a lesson to be learned and a quality to be gained. Most people feel regret. You probably do too. Right now, as you read this, think about one thing that you regret. When you’ve thought about it, instead of feeling distraught, think about something you gained from the experience. This is just one of my many core beliefs that I use to guide me through everyday life.

(2) Know what you’re good at, and set goals based on that. This will ensure many things such as (a) long term happiness/satisfaction in your career, (b) the opportunity to reach the true potential of your individual qualities (c) self-actualisation. For example, don’t pursue a career because of the status/pay. You want to enjoy going to work (it’s possible, if you think not, perhaps a change of career may be needed). If your passion is caring for others and you are hard working, by all means, become a doctor. Personally, I enjoy analysing difficult situations and helping others. However, I’m not a huge fan of blood and sharp tools so I decided to pursue a career as a lawyer rather than a doctor. I believe that in my field, I’ll have the opportunity to reach the true potential of some of the qualities I know I possess. Self-actualisation is key, it is one of the most difficult states to master and to reach this I feel like I’m going to need to do more than just be a corporate lawyer. My moral compass always directs me towards helping those in need. Whilst practicing as a lawyer I plan on setting up an initiative to help budding lawyers to break into the profession. Many similar initiatives pre-exist, however, I believe that I will have something unique to offer as mine will be focussed around teamwork and collating ideas rather than promoting competition and further division. I also have many other long term goals, however, I’ll save that for another blog because I realise that I’m straying away from the topic of discussion.

(3) Plato believed that in order to achieve eudaimonia, you need to find what I’m going to call “the missing piece”. Think of yourself as a jigsaw with a hole in the middle. Your partner in life must be that missing piece. In other words, they must possess qualities that you lack and you need to be open minded enough to embed them qualities into yourself. This will help you reach your full potential. I don’t think that love is about finding someone that wants you just the way you are. Instead, work on educating each other and embark on the endless adventure of education and self-development.

Become a philosopher like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Subject your ideas to examination rather than simply acting on impulse. Strengthen your self knowledge so much that you no longer get pulled around by feelings. Plato compared the role of our feelings to being dragged dangerously along by a group of wild horses.

Studying these philosophers’ work has truly broadened my scope of thinking and opened my eyes up to a lot. I’ve learned more about myself and continue to do so gradually. I also do not believe in the current model of democracy anymore. I speak more about that in another blog I’ve wrote which I will publish soon. I hope you enjoyed reading this one and as always, feedback/opinions are much appreciated!