As I get on in life, I get to spend time with some interesting, clever people. But they can come with sizeable egos. And that can translate into ‘High Status Behaviours’.
That’s not necessarily a problem. ‘Happy High Status’ is feeling good enough about yourself that you can feel relaxed and good about the success and contribution of others. But not everyone manages to keep the ‘Happy’ in High Status.
The alternative is less attractive – being so concerned with your own status that you need everyone else to recognise it. Or worse, to knock down others to assert it. I wonder if there’s a Greek term for that? Narcissism is one.
But whatever you call it, loneliness seems to me to be an inevitable by-product. I think dominant High Status behaviours are completely missing the point of life.
For Aristotle, that central point is to attract and nurture better friends. Friends care for our virtue and excellence, as we care for theirs. The best of friends are the means and end of it all.
But, as Aristotle said:
No one loves the man whom he fears.
He who hath many friends hath none.
No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.
So why do smart, successful, powerful people sometimes behave in ways that seem to get in the way of true friendship?
Seeking power, wealth and acolytes has always been a primal driver. And on the face of it, it helps not to be too sentimental. But an instrumental view of others – that they are means to your end, hammers useful only as long as there is a nail – is missing the point I feel. As Aristotle also said:
My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.
Friendship of this type is earned, nurtured and freely given, not bought, demanded or taken. About the best thing in life, I reckon, is true Aristotelian friendship.
A contented ego is a prerequisite, but a conceited, instrumental or selfish one just gets in the way. Friendship, not conquest, is the purpose of the good life.