Achilles was beautiful, strong, unbeatable, adored, a god amongst men. But he was flawed, doomed and destroyed in his prime. He lives on as a legend and a warning to all who followed. Aristotle from what little we know was ‘spindly-legged’, argumentative, cerebral but also deeply worldly. As tutor to Alexander the Great he shaped an empire as well as human thought and ethics ever since.
We are all part Achilles. We are all beautiful, strong, flawed and doomed to die. But we can also be Aristotle: worldly and wise. Through our thoughts and our deeds, we leave a trace on all those around us. And through that trace, we pass on our flame, kindle it in others and shape generations to come. This blog is my choice to seek the best in both Achilles and Aristotle as they are both within me. It is for me and for my family to help us to flourish. But if it leaves a positive trace on you then I am happy for you.
Aristotle and me
I hesitated to start writing this because David Servan-Schrieber, Alain de Botton and John Kay influenced me so much, that simply posting links to their books on Amazon could have seemed enough. But less obvious sources: Philosophy Bites podcasts, iPhone apps, Harvard Business Reviews, other people’s blogs, The New Scientist and more have taught me a lot too. Still, the most important source of inspiration are unique, a handful of people close to me, a unique set of experiences and my own introspection. In other words, a life. Much of what I have come to understand about myself and the world comes unbidden to mind 20 minutes into my morning cycle ride into work.
Mastery of oneself is a personal journey. Aristotle’s concept of eudaemonia or ‘flourishing’ requires, finding and using your talents, maintaining your health and wellbeing, enjoying happy moments and accepting sad ones. It requires learning to understand and respect your own beliefs and accepting the gaps and inconsistencies therein. Forgiving others and learning to forgive yourself are essential to reconciling oneself to oneself. Finally facing-up to the ultimate challenge of our own mortality and accepting the inevitability of our death is a spur to ensure we live fully.
There are as many takes on this quest as there are people. A fresh take adds to the sum of human knowledge and well-being. If the only reader is myself it will through me have affected many lives. If others read it and find something useful, so much the better.