A Personal Relation on the Concept of "Living a Good Life" Backed by International Literature

Published: 2021-09-23 05:05:12
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Finding and Achieving “the Good Life”
What is the good life? Is it kicking back on the beach without a worry in the world? Is it freedom to do whatever one wishes? Or is it something more complex and meaningful than these? I believe that the good life can be defined as the pursuit of happiness and democracy while living a life as simple as possible. Texts throughout western history support this, such as Into the Wild, Boethius, and Democracy in America.
In Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild, Chris McCandless, a young man who travelled North America living off the barest of essentials and in most cases, leaves behind his relatively well-off family along with his worldly possessions in order to travel to Alaska and live off the land. McCandless wanted to live out the adventures highlighted in the novels of Jack London. Essentially, Chris McCandless was seeking to eliminate unnecessary temporal goods to find happiness in the simplicity of the wilderness. Krakauer said that, “McCandless went into the wilderness not primarily to ponder nature or the world at large, but rather, to explore the inner country of his own soul” (Krakauer 1997, 183). In saying this, Krakauer meant that Chris wasn’t lost, he wasn’t looking for attention, and he wasn’t suicidal. He was looking for happiness, and for him, the pursuit of happiness was his idea of the good life. This is why pursuing a personal happiness is appropriate. I believe that Chris was very much aware of how lucky he was, to have a strong family, to have had the opportunity to attend college, and to be able to do what made him happy. Most people find it more practical to pursue a life of stability than a life of happiness. Though his main goal was to find happiness in the Alaskan wilderness, he seems to find an ample amount of happiness in his journey there. While happiness is something that everyone wants, not everyone is able to pursue it. When describing McCandless, Jan, a woman that McCandless encountered at a trailer park says, “He had a good time around people, a real good time” (Krakauer 1997, 44). McCandless, while literally pursuing Alaska, found happiness on the journey there. Everyone’s idea of what happiness is can vary significantly. Whether it is surrounding oneself with family, or venturing on a hitchhike trip to Alaska, the pursuit of happiness is one essential factor to living the good life.Another way to achieve the good life is to live a life of simplicity. In a world where we are surrounded by technology, it may sometimes be hard to disconnect in order to appreciate the greater things in life; however, goods such as our cell phones, money, even our GPAs, are temporal. Temporal goods such as these are not everlasting. In Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, discusses the idea that one does not need material goods in order to achieve happiness. In the book, Boethius is visited by Lady Philosophy who tells him that he is too attached to earthly possessions. Boethius protests that he is the victim of woe and misfortune, but Lady Philosophy tells him that Lady Fortune visits everyone and that he is by no means her worst victims. She explains that the gifts given to him by Lady Fortune are not really his to keep, but were lent to him. Wealth, honor, and power are things that do not truly belong to anyone; they are gifted to them on the wheel of fortune but are taken away. Therefore, it is not wise to become overly attached to anything temporal. Temporal goods are not necessarily evil or bad, they are merely mortal possessions that you cannot take with you to the afterlife. Eternal goods, however, cannot be lost. Living a life that does not rely upon technology or luxurious privileges and, instead, trying to focus upon doing the morally right thing and being a decent human being in general is a key ingredient to living “the good life.”
While living a life of simplicity and pursuing happiness are two essential elements of the good life, freedom, in my opinion, is the most important part of the good life. I am lucky enough to have been born in a country where the law upholds the belief that I am entitled to “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence). Right in the very document that announced we were no long a colony of Great Britain are three key words. These words that sum up what it means to live the good life: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Tocqueville says, “The cares of political life engross a most prominent place in the occupation of a citizen in the United States, and almost the only pleasure of which an American has any idea is to take a part in the Government, and to discuss the part he has taken.” (Tocqueville 1). Right away Tocqueville notices something different about the American people. They were much more involved in their government than any other group of people he had previously experienced. He goes on to say;
He will inform you what his rights are, and by what means he exercises them; he will be able to point out the customs which obtain in the political world. You will find that he is well acquainted with the rules of the administration, and that he is familiar with the mechanism of the laws. The citizen of the United States does not acquire his practical science and his positive notions from books; the instruction he has acquired may have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but it did not furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government from governing. The great work of society is ever going on beneath his eyes, and, as it were, under his hands.
The best form of government for protecting its citizens’ freedom is democracy. Democracy requires the participation of its citizens. Therefore, democracy is the best form of government under which to pursue and achieve the good life. Still just a newly-formed democratic republic, America was a place where freedom of speech, representation, and so many other rights were being embraced. Tocqueville is expressing his admiration for the Americans and their pursuit of their natural, God-given rights. In my opinion freedom, especially freedom in democracy, is a crucial step in the acquisition of the good life.
The good life is pursuit of happiness and democracy while living a life as simple as possible. It is important to live a good life because if you don’t, you’ll never truly be fulfilled. Saint Augustine believed that in order to live a good life, you needed to focus less on temporal goods and focus more on eternal goods. Chris McCandless’ pursuit of his idea of happiness was his definition of the good life. The American quest for freedom and democracy highlighted in Tocqueville’s writings was their idea of the good life. These three concepts combined are, in my opinion, what truly makes up the good life.

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