A former Roman Catholic priest once shared his views about a concept similar to happiness that he learned during his schooling. Edward mentioned eudaimonia during an intimate discussion with my friends group at a birthday party gathering a few years ago. The concept stuck in my brain and has periodically surfaced in the manner that earworms spontaniously appear. Last evening was one of those times.
Edward explained that eudaimonia is a state of mind that can be seen as a life’s goal that is more profound than happiness and more satisfying as well. One of his philosophy teachers in seminary taught that eudimonia is sometimes experienced by priests, monks, and nuns who have discovered that their missions coincide with their deepest personal wishes. In such instances, eudaimonia becomes a means and an end to happiness. It is finding purpose in life without conforming to any particular dogma nor belief system.
After leaving the priesthood, Edward further explored ancient philosophies and gave much thought to the concept of eudaimonia. He concluded that it is akin to living well in the context of a good and happy life and being guided by one’s own positive virtues. Such a state of being comes about as a product of letting go of the struggles to seek honor and existential pleasure. One may define eudaimonia as living in harmony with oneself and society. Edward says that a synonym for eudaimonia is “flourishing”.
In my own readings of literature and practical explorations of this concept, it seems that eudaimonia is a constructive, helpful quality that develops when we realize our highest potentials and apply them in a self-agreeable, expressive manner. It might be compared to a life lived in a constant “Zen Moment”. Such a state of being is acting on purpose without thinking of the purpose nor feeling self-conscious about one’s purpose or actions. Eudaimonia can be approached through mindfulness meditation.
One goes about tasks and challenges in a calm, imperturbable manner. Eudaimonia is not materialistic nor anti-materialistic. It goes beyond materialism by using things as personal tools to attain helpful outcomes that benefit oneself and others. This explanation is merely an approximation, because like many mind-states, eudaimonia is best defined by actually experiencing it. As someone who probably has not attained eudaimonia, I do not have a firm grasp upon it–it’s merely an intellectual concept in my mind.
I phoned to touch base with Edward last night with the purpose of asking about his progress towards deepening his understanding of eudaimonia. He said that it is very important to know who he really is–deep inside. Through his meditations, eudaimonia in his experience, is contemplating upon his core beliefs while owning up to his character, personal strengths, qualities, and weaknesses. This awareness is then applied in a mindful manner without indulging in angst or struggle. With persistance and committed effort towards living his best life as his best self, Edward feels that he understands the concept much better.
After finishing last night’s conversation, I concluded that Edward is closer to achieving eudaimonia than he is willing to admit. He is a big believer in social and individual justice. He has the guts to stand up for goodness and honor. He has retained the temperance that he practiced as a priest. Most importantly, Edward is all about prudence and practical wisdom. His pursuit of knowledge and wisdom is unstoppable. It seems to me that Edward is flourishing in life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Northern Irish poet and writer, Michael Foley. “It is not possible to be original by trying to be original–those who attempt this in the arts will be merely avant-garde. Originality is the product of an impulse so intense and overwhelming that it bursts the conventions and produces something new–again more by accident than design.”