What makes a good life?

Ian Garmaise introduced Lawrence Miller, who
was a wonderful addition the conversation. Talk turned to wisdom. I
asked him, “How do you live a good life?”

He turned the question around, asking, “What is a good life?”

That made me think about what I value and what I want.

One of the things that I want to improve in my life is integrity. I
feel guilty about thank-you cards I haven’t finished and e-mail I
haven’t yet responded to. A friend recently passed away, and I hadn’t
visited her or finished writing the card. I think that going back and
taking care of all of these things would be the best way to spend my
time. I want to get into the habit of keeping my task list sorted out.
I’ll do the bare minimum I need to fulfill my other responsibilities
until I’ve (re)gained a sense of integrity.

I should make that happen. When I do, all other things will be easier.

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  • shergill

    came across your blog via a google search to change the emacs font size (thank you, btw, for sharing that piece of elisp). anyhoo, reading this entry reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:
    ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’
    — Shakespeare (Hamlet)

    • Glad you found that useful, and thanks for exploring other entries in my blog! =) Polonius gave Laertes lots of useful advice along with that line:

      Give thy thoughts no tongue,
      Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
      Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
      Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
      Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
      But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
      Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
      Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
      Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
      Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
      Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
      Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
      But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
      For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
      And they in France of the best rank and station
      Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
      Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
      For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
      And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
      This above all: to thine ownself be true,
      And it must follow, as the night the day,
      Thou canst not then be false to any man.
      Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

      … Ah, Shakespeare, prolific productivity writer and lifehacker… <laugh>

      Thanks for sharing!

  • shergill

    you’re right! each line a gem in and of itself; the bard certainly had talents.
    i have to ask though, especially seeing how it’s been close to four years since you wrote this entry, how did you fair on your resolution? is each day just a priority queue to you?
    you’re a better person than i if you were able to manage that.

  • You’re right, it’s been a while since I wrote this post. =)

    In the past four years, I’ve gotten pretty good at doing the important things on my task list and keeping in touch with people. It’s gotten easier, too. I _enjoy_ doing things that matter, things that make life better. It’s not that I’m a better person than other people are – I think everyone can do this. It’s probably just that I’ve put time into making it easier and more fun to do good stuff.

    Letting go of regular guilt also helps. When you don’t punish yourself for things you haven’t gotten around do, and you focus instead on doing what matters and understanding why you focus on some things instead of others, you can use the formerly wasted energy to do more.

  • shergill

    i think the only difference is that you’re self-aware. you’ve spent time knowing what it is you want, spent time knowing thyself as it were. and that clearer understanding of your own needs and wants is what helps you prioritise things. i agree with you in that everyone can do this, the real hurdle most face, however, is that they don’t even know that this is something they should be doing (or aren’t currently doing). they’ve never really given it a thought

  • That’s true. If you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to make good decisions. The good thing is that when you start learning more about what it is you might really want, you get better and better at recognizing it. Even something as simple as thinking about what you buy and how that affects your life can lead to aha! moments.

    I don’t completely know what I want, but I ask, experiment, and learn. For example, I’m still figuring out what I’d like for my career. =) I’m glad I can share these adventures with people ahead of me, behind me, beside me, and on completely different paths. Other people’s perspectives help me understand, and the similarities and differences point to other things I can learn. I hope I can inspire other people to ask good questions and explore too!