Aging and Notions About the Past, Eudaimonia, Daimon, Justice, Fearlessness & Introspection

As I have noted in earlier posts, I am going through a period in my early 60s in which memories of the past keep coming up in vivid pictures, resulting in a profound reevaluation of who I was, who I am now, and how I plan on spending the rest of my days on the planet. I’ve been experiencing some rather serious introspection, along with reading plenty of books related to psychology and philosophy. So, at the moment, I am dealing with a kind of basket-case, confusing mindset, while at the same time allowing for extraordinary insights to come to the forefront. This combination of frequent remembrance-thinking and insightful reading from numerous intelligent professionals has brought a wide range of views about my life’s purpose and meaning.

For instance, here are some (not all) of my conclusions thus far, from the perspective of my past:

  1. I used to be fearless as a young man.
  2. As a young man I was also way more accepting of nasty people and never judged anyone.
  3. I have always vehemently despised and been emotionally vocal about injustice, inequality, and lies, which repeatedly has never served me well.
  4. For more than half of my life I was a hedonist.

Starting with number four, in “Life on Purpose,” educator and author Victor Stretcher, in a chapter titled “Origins of Purpose,” refers to an Aristotelian point of view related to how we strive toward happiness along two primary pathways: via “hedonia,” meaning “self-enhancing,” or the “pursuit of pleasure” and via “eudaimonia,” meaning “self-transcending.”

Aristotle “warned against the excess” of hedonistic pursuits, Stretcher explains, adding that too frequently we connect happiness “to the dopamine-driven experiences of pleasure” instead of spending more time exploring “our inner daimon.”

One of my favorite books related to this topic is Thomas Moore’s “A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do.” I have referred to this book in a good number of posts.  In chapter nine, Moore writes about “The Daimon of Work,” explaining that we are all born with a daimon that defines our deepest passions, drives our lives forward, and becomes more prominent as we grow old. Following your daimon is oftentimes not practical because you become more individualistic, free-spirited and inconsistent with the career path you may have landed in over time, especially if you happen to be working for a large corporation that has little regard for humanness. Moore notes that “as a power it tends to urge a person away from the safe and secure life into areas of risk.” People who follow their daimon can expect a struggle. “What for some is instability, for others is loyalty to a daimon.”

Related to daimon is duende, which Moore says is “the ability to put your life on the line for what you do and to do it without regard for the approval of polite society.” One can be led by daimon and filled with duende.

While Moore does not solve the challenges and struggles that come with following your daimon, the fact that he identifies with his daimon with such clarity is enough to create a certain camaraderie-like feeling when you read about it, knowing that there are many people who strive to do great things outside of the callous, materialistic, and overly corporate social constructs that too often define who we are. How much are you willing to follow your daimon? Your answer will say a lot about your meaning and purpose in life.

Getting back to my four conclusions: In relation to three, concerning fairness, my education in journalism taught me a lot about how to be fair and how to expose BS, hatred, misinformation, lies, and other nefarious human activities.  In the process of doing this, however, I typically became angry, even hostile, instead of being balanced. In short, I yelled at people too frequently and was often perceived as overly self-righteous. This is something I have learned how to tone down in my early old-age years, but it is surely being tested like never before in the current political climate we are all experiencing.

In relation to number two, in which I state how I was more accepting of people, even those who frequently exhibited criminal behaviors, I have to acknowledge, almost reluctantly, that time has worn me out and I have become less patient, less tolerant, for instance, of any kind of business or personal relationships that lack significant meaning. I try to maintain relationships with people who are on the same wave length as me in human terms, disregarding many of the superfluous pseudo friendships and business acquaintances I accumulated over a lifetime. There is definitely a certain sense of loneliness that comes with this way of thinking. Suddenly I am down to only a few important people in my life in addition to my immediate family members. They become your travel partners for the rest of your life.

Regarding number one and this notion of being fearless. . .  Early old-age has brought a strong desire to maintain the familiar and not be so risky. Even though I have always adhered to the cliché of “security is an illusion,” I am experiencing solace in the familiar. For example, I was always more than willing to travel, but now I just want to stay in one place and not deal with moving around. Give me a comfortable chair, a book, a nice view, some sunshine, a walk nearby, access to learning on a local level and I am perfectly content. In short I seem to have a need for less and not more. I am seeing the outside world as becoming more chaotic, divisive, and misinformed and no longer have the energy to jump into the ring. I’m not sure if this is a product of these times or simply a product of growing older.

Finally, I’d like to point to a recently published book I am in the middle of reading, “Insight,” by Tasha Eurich. She offers some very sound advice, based on years of research, concerning how we must be careful about being overly introspective and overly confident about our capabilities. “Introspection doesn’t always lead to insight,” she writes, and oftentimes “those who seek the absolute truth about themselves are the least likely to discover it.” Hmmm…. I’ll write more about this after I have finished Eurich’s book. In the meantime, I will take this word of advice she provides: “A true commitment to ongoing learning— saying to ourselves, the more I think I know, the more I need to learn —is a powerful way to combat knowledge blindness and improve our effectiveness in the process.”

Comments as always are welcome.

Thanks for stopping by.


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