Our lives: pleasant, good or meaningful?

Our lives: pleasant, good or meaningful?

Clive Hamilton (2008. P4) in “The freedom paradox. Towards a post-secular ethics.” asks:

“If the barriers to flourishing of our potential have been removed but we fail to flourish, depression would seem a natural response. Moreover, the liberation movements have ceded to us unprecedented moral confusion. The ‘ethic of consent’ that replaced the strictures of conservative morality has led to forms of behaviour raising deeper questions about personal responsibility that we have scarcely begun to understand.”

And he speaks of three ways in which we might live our lives. Put rather simply by me here, they are the pleasant life (doing that which brings joy, happiness, pleasure), the good life (achieving, developing our talents), the meaningful life (a life committed to something larger than oneself). I’m not sure I quite agree with all the positions Clive adopts in his book, but that doesn’t matter, his question about what sort of life we might lead is a good one.

And (P 247) he says:

‘Consumer culture has subsumed the individual in the grand, unifying vision of the market and has succeeded where all the despots failed; instead of forcing submission it gilded the cage and persuaded us to enter and lock the door behind us.’

Despite this Clive seems to remain optimistic, and the final words of his book are these:

‘Within each day lies dormant the possibility of attaining inner freedom, of finding our purpose.’

Lately there have been daily photos in newspapers of the nightmare produced by the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Hard-to-imagine tragedy. And I count myself more than lucky to have had a wonderful Christmas with my family and friends. So as the new year kicks off, let me wish you a good one, and at the risk of being cute, here is a picture of my son. He and I engaged in what I would like to think of as something meaningful. (It probably happened to be pleasant and good as well.) Between chrissie and new year’s, my son and I finally found a purpose for the couple of hundred telephone books that have been sitting in the foyer of our building.


Go well. I look forward to our new year.


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