The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 13 - 11/22/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Nellie Steele
What is a good life? Trying to pin that down, I came up with lots of answers, but on examination they seemed flawed. What was wrong? Finally I saw it - my ideas were concerned only with a good life for middle class Americans. What about the billions of other people on the earth? A lot of them must have good lives. Is there a common denominator for all of us? If so, what is it?
From the frozen Arctic, to scorching deserts, to rainforests, to lush farmlands, to the concrete canyons of big cities, one thing almost everyone does is work. They work to exist and some work for the sheer joy of it. Most people identify themselves by what they do for a living and most do it with pride. Surely that is a sign of a good life.
Another thing that everyone shares is that we all live in an environment, widely varied as they may be. The amazing thing is how people have adapted to these environments so that in many instances they live in nearly perfect harmony with their settings. It must be a good life for any person to fit comfortably into his surroundings and not destroy the very thing that supports his existence.
Another universal factor is that the earth is closely shared by humans and other living creatures. Even Robinson Crusoe has his man Friday and his dog. It must be a good life for anyone who commands the respect and affection of many of his co-workers and companions.
These have all been external to lives. Now for the internals, which is where things get a little iffy. Speculating on what goes on in minds can only be a guess at best. For a good life, I believe that the inner life is richer than the outer life. Persons who depend on constant outside stimulants must come up empty if forced to depend on their own company. For a good life, one should be one's best companion. The mind should always be waiting, loaded with ideas and information so that a good argument with oneself is readily available. With imagination, our daydreams can make the most humdrum life exciting and beautiful. Curiosity, learning and dreaming with an active mind are the foundation of a good life.
To live a good life, one should listen to his genes. They shape one's talents and point the way for our desires to run. Then courage is needed, if those desires lead in new directions. To deny moving to new ways of life is to deny a person being his own true self.
Courage is necessary for a life to be good. Lives are ruined by cowering before fears, real or imaginary. It is a poor life that has never dared to overcome obstacles. The satisfaction of doing more than seemed possible is a big part of a good life. Life is good at throwing obstacles in our way so most of us have no problem finding new worlds to conquer.
Empathy needs to have a place in the good life, too. It leads the mind outward to make it a part of the human race. And people respond, enriching our lives. So we grow, and a life that grows is good.
Our young lives are more physical than mental. Young children must have good lives as they are constantly delighted with the motions of their bodies and the wonder of all objects. Time takes its toll of the physical side of life, until, if we haven't learned to substitute thought for action, we are in big trouble. By exercising the mind, we can make old age acceptable.
Photo credits: Sue Sommers
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