Sunday, February 09, 2014

Aristotle Knew

Friendship and Hook-up Culture.

As Aristotle knew, our characters are formed by what we repeatedly do. We cannot just flip a switch when the time is right and care about other people. If we spend the first half of our lives looking out for ourselves and our careers while treating other people like disposable objects that exist to serve our needs, that will influence our characters. Later, if we decide to get married and have children, our spouse, children and co-workers, who interact on a daily basis with a selfish person, will suffer.

There is nothing wrong with women and men striving for fulfilling careers. There is something wrong with an objectivist narrative, which says that the only things worth doing are self-serving. In this narrative all of life becomes a means. Nothing is a good in itself. Everything becomes instrumentalized (sex, kids, job, spouse, house, income). We spend our lives accruing honors trying to prove that we have value, when what truly makes us happy is to contribute to our communities in a meaningful way, to love and be loved.

In a detached environment, the message from the church sounds impossibly strange, and yet it is one worth remembering: It is not unambitious to want to have a good marriage or close friendships or to get along with one’s family or know one’s neighbors. It is, in fact, extremely ambitious. People do not accidentally have harmonious relationships, any more than they accidentally become secretary of state. They put in the hours, and their practices become their habits and their habits become their virtues and their virtues become their lives.

There are many ways to live a happy and fulfilled life: single, married, with children, without them. Goodness is diverse. But we are made for love and friendship. As Cicero wrote, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery,” not by scoring us the corner office, “but by doubling our joys and dividing our grief.”//

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