In search of the good life

What is a good life? What would it look like? And how would we know if we had one?

These are some of the questions which many are forced to consider, at least once in a lifetime. Given the current situation, sometimes I feel like we’re living through a profound time that deserves something profound to go alongside it; refresh an old relationship, a new meaningful hobby, a way of creating joy, a re-positioning of your life goals and path.

But then life gets in the way, even life-from-home. And 2 months into the new normal I’m still living under the oppressive tedium of an English Sunday afternoon, wondering just  where did it all go wrong?

The question I ask myself, I don’t think is unique to me. I think the fear, the existential dread, the terror of staring down the barrel of existence, gets all of us, some day or another. I, for one, don’t cope in particularly ‘healthy’ ways to stress or conflict or other people or annoying little things or existential angst. I drink, I smoke, I buy, I numb, and I hide. My housemates all seem pretty normal- dreadfully, frighteningly, tremendously normal, and sometimes I wonder whether life ought not be better invested in the exalted, the exhilarating, the exotic. Heck, I know life ought better be spent on the side of the living, the carpe diem, the scare-yourself-a-little-every-day. But something, somehow, is keeping me here, at home, on an oppressive English Sunday afternoon. I have onlky a bottle of wine to look forward to.

Sartre might say this is living in bad faith, the belief that we’re tied down by something, an invisible prison to our hum-drum lives. I am innately free and I am kidding myself into believing I’m not. Money, family, love, stability, security, these are all things which come and go and which one should not necessarily impede me from making a move, instantly, to the North Pole, or to Australia.

And talking of other continents, the removal of their option has reinforced our desire to escape, not just abroad but also to the next town. One of the absurdities of humans, at least under capitalism, must be that we are beholden to the need for occasional escapism. We somehow reinforce our bad faith by shaking the bars of the prison of normality in which we believe ourselves trapped. Not only holidays, but weekends, even, just enough time to tie up loose ends and maybe have some rest, enough to keep going, but not enough to really contemplate the absurdity of life. Like pets and zoo animals and children, our worlds have become smaller and we have folded into ourselves. Isolation has not provided the good life, or if it has, I’ve missed the boat. We’ve got comfortable but we’re still not happy.

So the good life, then, is it comfortable? Could this be it? Must it involve the holidays which serve as painful reminders of what could be if-only-i-could. I fail to believe how it could not have been an opportunity to taste the good life for the lucky ones enjoying paid time off, within stable housing amongst loved ones. I imagine this is the opposite of the good life for the many workers still working harder than ever. For the rest of us, though, what have we done with this introspective time? Have our worlds simply shrunk a little, made star jumps newly interesting, or made us thin calls are an adequate replacements for physical contact. As the enthusiasm for yoga and P.E. and gardening wears off, have we learned anything? Or have we just, as usual, learned to live another day?

 

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