October 9, 2018
How to Live
In recent times, the US is experiencing an identity crisis. The musical Hamilton is among
many voices that have been raised to offer identity as well as the future of the United States. In
retrospective, the founding fathers narrative is utilized to project an image of the future.
Over the years, people have been trying to answer the question; how should we live?
Socrates attempted to answer this question by incorporating the style of scrutinizing individual’s
beliefs known as dialectic. This style encompassed asking and answering probing questions in
order to justify what people claimed to know about ideal life. It’s important to make a personal
choice on how to live our lives because this decision assists us in setting out the context for
everything else we do.
How I Should live and how I do live are not necessarily the same, but having aspirations
and trying to live up to them is a good starting point. The most important point is that no one
lives in isolation. From our earliest experiences, we interact with others, and the quality of our
lives is largely dependent on that interaction. Beyond this, everyone seeks happiness, and in
modern Western societies, this universal goal is taken for granted. However, Socrates famously
said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. A thoughtful analysis of that code, when applied
to one’s own life, reveals that we usually only examine our lives when we fail. The corollary to
this is therefore that a life without failure is a life not worth living. And this is how wisdom
evolves over a life’s experiences: not through success or study, but through dealing with life’s
trials and tribulations. This is reflected in virtually every story told: how the protagonist deals
with adversity, be it physical or psychological or both. And this is why storytelling is universally
appealing. So I should live my life by realizing that every interaction in my life is an opportunity
to make my life more rewarding by making someone else’s life more rewarding. In any
relationship, familial, work-related, contractual or whatever, either both parties are satisfied or
both are dissatisfied. It is very rare that someone achieves happiness at someone else’s expense
unless they are competing in a sporting event or partaking in a reality TV show.
Happiness is had by individuals, since we are social animals, and so we can achieve it
only within society. This means being moral: we must behave in ways acceptable to others. The
first requirement here is to do no harm. Others will not accept harm to them and will harm you
back. Next, we should always try to be just to everyone, for we want justice for ourselves. ‘Do
no harm’ and ‘Be just’ are both subsumed in the maxim “Do unto others as you would have them
do unto you.” These sorts of maxims of duty are fundamental for a society of cooperative people,
which is required for happiness. We can always avoid unnecessary deliberate harm to all others,
and we can always act with the intention of justice to everyone if we understand what justice
requires. Beyond duty is love. Love wants another to be happy. It naturally motivates our doing
good for others as highlighted in the following phrase “Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up.
Tell your sister that she ‘s gotta rise up”. This implies that individuals need to mind and care
about others in a bit to live a good life.
The society decides how you are perceived since you cannot live in isolation. No one is
really in charge of what happens in society. Arguably, cultures have default contexts which most
people subscribe to. For instance, in the US there is a gross generalization of what an ideal life
is. She focuses on material context; get a job, get a mortgage, have a family, save money and
eventually retire. This implies that you can’t get yourself out of societal constructions as evident
in the following phrase “I’m just like my country I’m young, scrappy and hungry”. The bone of
contention between my story and the narrator is that the narrator wants to get his own context
rather than being dictated by the society on the best possible life. For me, I would rather inherit
the default context of the society and live up to what others expect of me.
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