Emily Articulated: Eudaimonia

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

What makes your stomach flutter? What makes your heart balloon against your chest? What makes the corners of your mouth involuntarily stretch across your face? What makes you feel alive?

Emily Erickson.

We are living in a time where our wi-fi is more connected than we are to the people and experiences that make our lives extraordinary. We so readily choose unlimited data instead of unlimited moments in a day to make space for the things we love. We order an endless stream of shit to be delivered to our doorstep, instead of truly giving a shit about something. About anything.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In Book One of Aristotle’s “Ethics,” Aristotle contemplated the purpose of life, arguing that as humans, to be purpose-driven is to be perpetually aiming to achieve eudaimonia.

Commonly translated as “happiness,” the Greek word eudaimonia can be understood as something that we desire for the sake of itself, and for no other reason. For example, we can examine the process of going to school when considering this concept.

We go to school for the sake of getting into college. We attend college for the sake of earning a degree. We earn a degree for the sake of landing a job and accept a position for the sake of earning a paycheck. We cash our paycheck for the sake of obtaining all of the things we need to live and more, and we purchase all of the things we need to live and more for the sake of feeling happy. We feel happy for no other reason than to feel happy. In this case, the happiness is eudaimonia.

Being one of the ”Fathers of Western Philosophy,” Aristotle’s theories have stood the test of time, with the pursuit of Eudaimonia being as important today as it was in Ancient Greece. But what Aristotle couldn’t have anticipated are all of the modern-day roadblocks in our way to achieving it. These roadblocks we’ve installed ourselves, repairing them every day by choosing to hang them on our walls or to carry them in our back pockets.

We spend our time scrolling closeout sales and promo-codes to fill our online shopping carts with things we don’t need, or cultivating contrived scenes of laughter with pseudo-friends to be posted on social media. In doing so, we simply tack on unnecessary steps to our pursuit of Eudaimonia.

Additionally, when we fill our days plummeting down hashtag rabbit holes or editing last month’s vacation photos (that happened to make our butt look good), we demonstrate the image of eudaimonia taking precedence over eudaimonia itself. We prioritize making others think we are happy instead of taking the time to actually achieve it.

Every day, we can get swept up in adding more and more roadblocks along our path to happiness, or, we can choose to break our own cycles.

We can focus on making more time to engage in the things we know we love, and exploring more things we don’t know we love yet. We can create space to participate in activities that we do simply for the sake of them bringing us joy.

These choices that we make for ourselves eliminate all of the other aspects of our lives that get in our way, and we get to make them every day.

For me, these activities currently include running on sunny trails with my best friends, reading a book with my toes in the water, splashing colors across a canvas, and taking hoppy sips between laughs and conversation alongside a campfire.

What are yours?

It’s about time to find out.

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