“And a virtuous man wishes to live with himself; for he does so with pleasure, since the memories of his past acts are delightful and his hopes for the future are good, and therefore pleasant. His mind is well stored too with subjects of contemplation.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
We all have some kind of interior life. While it might not be readily perceivable by those around us, it is central to our life as a whole. What goes on inside is really the main determinant of how we act and interact with others in the exterior fora of life.
Here Aristotle describes the ideal—how virtuous men keep company with themselves, enjoying an active interior conversation about past, present, or future realities. Such men are great company for themselves, and as a result, also great company for others. They pass their days, both in action and in repose, in varying forms of reflection and of presence.
How does one achieve this? The question is as rich as how one becomes virtuous. We can always benefit from considering basic questions from new angles. It’s always about virtue. In this case we might simply meditate on what such an interior life is like. How thrilling, how challenging, how engaging, how peaceful. How alive.
It is efficacious to begin by picturing what we want. One glorious facet of the virtuous life is the concord one experiences within one’s own self.
To reflect upon the nature of such an interior life, and how to achieve it, is in fact already to have embarked upon it. We can be grateful to Aristotle for pointing to this wonderful aspect of how we can live with ourselves.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his major ethical work.
Image: Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641), Studies of a Man’s Head
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