|Socrates - What is the good life?|
How can I be good person?
These were the questions that Socrates asked in Plato's dialogues, 300 years before Christ. Being good mattered to him. He wanted to know what being good looked like and how to become that kind of person.
His own conclusion was that the good life was to live virtuously -- that is, according to the ancient virtues of prudence [wisdom in action], justice, temperance [i.e. self-control] and courage. Not bad, I'd say. The world would no doubt be a much better place if we all lived by such standards.
You get similar lists in the Scriptures as well. Think of Paul's so-called 'theological virtues': faith, hope and charity (or love in the modern translations) from 1 Cor. 13:13. Or his list of things to focus on in Phil. 4:8, namely whatever is true, honorable, right (just), pure, lovely or of good repute. Excellent! And I honestly even know some people who could be described that way. And don't mean they just act that way. I think it emanates from the inside -- it's what we call 'character.'
These kind of lists actually abound in the New Testament. I think too of the 'Beatitudes' of Matt. 5:1-12, or the 'wisdom that comes from heaven,' at the end of James chapter 3, and of course the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It's true, there's no shortage of opinions--even inspired opinions--about what constitutes the good and virtuous life.
Nor are such notions confined to Christianity. Prophets of the various world religions have espoused their own vision of the good life -- Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius all amassed followers in great part because they offered compelling visions of virtue ... the possibility that I could be 'good.' People want that.
As a fan of Alanis Morissette, I was intrigued by how wounded and bitter she could sound on her Jagged Little Pill album. But then after a significant spiritual awakening in India, she returns with a more contemplative tone. We hear someone who's reflecting on this theme of being good, even if ...