Last week I unburdened the meaning of the word “Being” - and rather than diving back into the meaning of being, let’s lighten this up a bit with some Aristotle.
Aristotle’s means to be exact.
As a Gen Y, Gen Rent, Gen Homeless, or whatever other stressful title my generation has, I found great comfort in Aristotle’s Theory of the Means.
This ancient philosopher asked us to imagine a ship sailing on the ocean. On either side of the ship are cliffs, or the extremes of emotions or feelings.
These cliffs, or rough seas, are the either side of any virtue. While the “golden mean” can be courage, if taken to excess it would be considered recklessness, and if it’s not enough, it would be cowardice. Therefore, the ideal would be to keep your little ship balanced between the two, and drive it straight through the golden mean of courage.
Let’s see if we can work out any other golden means together. Another virtue that everyone seems to desire is patience. Patience is the golden mean, so the cliffs of excess that our ship has to avoid are “irascibility,” otherwise known as being quick to anger, and the opposite - a complete lack of spirit. In order to avoid these two rough seas, guide your ship down the golden mean of patience.
I find myself applying this to more than just old philosophical virtues, in my everyday life. It is too hard to live life at 100 percent on all your projects, every day. I compare this to sailing your ship into the cliffs of extremity. I find it impossible to be a student, barista, reader, sister, daughter, best friend, yogi, bicyclist, cat mom, and apartment maid, all at full-time hours. There aren’t enough hours in the day, let alone energy in my body.
On those days when I feel like I’m falling short of my expectations, I remember I need to steer my ship down the golden mean, and avoid the extremes. Don’t do too much, don’t do too little - do just enough.
In order to keep everything “smooth sailing,” the ideal course for your life would be straight down the middle. The best life is lived while balancing your little ship as best as you can between the extremes. Aristotle even accommodated for those of us who find ourselves blown into the rocks - just head back towards the middle. Or as Dory in Finding Nemo once said, “just keep swimming.
Emily Towsley, can be found either teasing her cat, or philosophizing with a customer over coffee in her second-life as a barista. Messages of support regarding her addiction to Netflix, and news of vintage teacup sales can be left on her twitter. Her spare time is spent reading copious amounts of books, or working on her latest pinterest project.
Tune in next week on the next philosophical breakdown from your average pedestrian. And feel free to leave her questions on her twitter - she's also up for suggestions on her next topic.