The Practice of Living More
I’ve become known in some circles as an avid traveler, but don’t think of myself that way. That’s comparison at work, both theirs and mine, fogging the lens of perspective. Wiping it clear, it’s more that I’m an aspiring traveler immersed in a busy life. That’s not quite the same thing, but better for me at this point in my life. Travel is a choice, and so is building a strong sense of place and contribution. We can have a healthy measure of each applying a little balance and flexibility, but we can’t have it all. What will we choose, knowing this?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle
Aristotle may have also observed that mediocrity is also built on repeatedly doing. We each get our stack of days to work with. Some choices are taken from us, some choices are hidden from us, but most of us in the modern western world have the agency to do with the bulk of our time what we would. Habitualizing excellence seems a prudent use of that time.
The trick in living a life closer to excellence is in the repeatedly doing part. Arete, or excellence in life, is something to aspire to through our daily action. We pay penance to the gods we serve through our habits and applied effort. Put another way, through our practice:
“When an activity becomes a practice, it shifts from something that you are doing at a point in time to an ongoing process of becoming.” — Brad Stulberg, The Practice of Groundedness
The practice of daily living is ongoing, but with an expiration date we either reconcile ourselves with or distract ourselves from. Stoicism is holding on to that realization that this all ends one day and making the most of the time. How we live matters a great deal when we feel the urgency of an expiration date. Continuous improvement and living with intent are a prudent use of that urgency. The practice of living more means working to realize the things we aspire to, while savoring the life we’ve already built for ourselves.