Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Examination of "The Good Life"

Possibly the MOST contentious or dynamic (and subject to constant change) aspect of human culture is the definition of "the good life" and what makes a life "good", no matter the situation.

Unfortunately, over time, many definitions of "the good life" (TGL) have become closely associated with a life of ease or comfort. The reason that this is unfortunate is that life, for the most part is not easy or, for that matter, comfortable (with a nod to The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck). It would seem to make more sense to define TGL in terms of reality and the likelihood of certain things happening, rather than things that are unlikely or even rare. 

So… maybe we need to take a close look at what "good" means… or should mean.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of good (see APPENDIX A below - yes go look at it! This essay originally included it here, but it seriously detracted from the reading flow of the essay, none the less you NEED a sense of it if not a detailed understanding of it, so go look at it and come back here) provides an exhaustive and effective sense of this very useful and flexible word. The dictionary provides 3a - pleasant, pleasing, or enjoyable as one of a number of choices, and then provides a clue in "see also good life".

For the "Good Life" the dictionary provides us with -

GOOD LIFE (noun)
Learner's definition of GOOD LIFE

1  US : the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have
She grew up poor, but now she's living the good life.
His idea of the good life includes owning several luxury cars.
2 : a happy and enjoyable life
She gave up a good job in the city to move to the country in search of the good life.

which explicitly moves us in what can only be seen as a bad direction, if we have any sense of what is sustainable in our world, and what is not, based on the simple notion that its "the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have". Given our well understood distribution of wealth in the U.S. as depicted for 2015 in this Washington Post graphic -
that would mean that only the top 5% have any realistic actuality of TGL. However, this also implies that there MUST be more to this or it would be seen as "beyond the pale" or unachievable for the masses, and people keep thinking that TGL is achievable, so...  The U.S. Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (WikiPedia) which provides us with three specific instances of "inalienable rights" endowed by "man's Creator" that it is the intrinsic role of government to protect and enable, as well as a high altitude sense of TGL in the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This, in other words, means to be alive, to have the freedom to live as one chooses, and to pursue whatever makes one happy.

With this in mind, it immediately becomes a subjective determination for each and every person alive on the planet, relative to their education, their perspectives, their personality, their maturity, their ethical sensibilities, their intrinsic and developed values, and their general state of balance as a human on a finite planet, in a very large cosmos.
 Therein lies the rub…

For humanity to share a common sense of TGL, then, would require that everyone have a credible and roughly equivalent education and life experience, as well as a common understanding and perspective about how life works on a finite planet, which one would hope would lead to a common set of values, ethics, and beliefs. This may be the original "hopium" because, for the most part, they (humanity) do not. There is a substantial probability of being able to identify large generalized groupings of common perspective and belief and thus common sense of TGL, but there would be MANY such groups within any culture or other human organizational framework, which might or might not align with other groups of similar culture but alternative geography.

That said, there are generally understood expressions of TGL such as the term "the American Dream" generally defined as "a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers." In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth." (WikiPedia)

These views would be specifically 20th century views held primarily by Americans and yet the very same America is much closer to meeting, and supporting, the definition of "good life" presented in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (see above). There are, obviously, inherent linkages to a way of life that was perhaps most strongly developed in America - what started as industrial capitalism, morphed into predatory industrial capitalism, and has finally ended up taking the ultimately fatal form of parasitic industrial capitalism. It serves the oligarchy well to have the majority of the population actually think they can achieve the "good life" based on lots of money, because that's the only thing that the oligarchy can give them is money - never a lot, just "enough".

Those who use excesses of hopium are the ones who continue the fiction that "we can beat this addiction by just changing 'what's wrong' " or who say "What addiction?" without being willing to acknowledge that there is one, and that the entire human ecology is based on "wrong" that sustains that addiction. It is not desparium to recognize the nature and scope of the problem and to try to get others to do so as well. As is well known in addiction treatment circles, you can't solve the problem if you fail to understand and acknowledge that there is one.

This IS an addiction problem. Wealth addiction for the few, energy addiction for the many. Until we all take personal responsibility for our own energy use and consumption every day in every way, then you better believe in "desparium" stories, because you're in one. So as not to support either side of what I see as extremes, I think there will be (or maybe not, in which case we die) opportunities to do better than "walk and scratch out a living with your fingers" in this troubled and possibly deeply challenged future, although that's a rather extreme view of a perfectly normal condition for half of the world's current population.

This points up that fully half of the "problem" aka the lack, or insufficiency, of TGL opportunities, is rapid over-population - but we will NOT be able to continue "parasitic industrial capitalism" like we have been for over 200 years. Thus much of what has been defined as "the good life" is based on a dream of a human ecology that is essentially rooted in, and utterly dependent upon, endless and egregious exploitation, consumption, and excess, driven by exponential growth. That means that, when closely examined, The Good Life in the developed world is based on a rather wretched life for many others in the developing or undeveloped world. This is, quite obviously, the very epitome of unsustainable. We're going to need a new definition of The Good Life... for all of us.

The people on this earth who are best adapted to what's coming (as a result of centuries of our over-indulgence) are not our luxuriant, entitled, self-indulgent Global North attitudes in any case. It's the Australian aboriginal cultures and the Kalahari bushman culture, among others who haven't lost (though damn near) the ways of surviving extreme climate change and inhospitable conditions - which does seem to be, despite so many "developed world" people's utter abhorrence of the idea, predominantly "walk and scratch out a living with your fingers". I prefer to think of it as taking personal responsibility for your daily energy generation and resource consumption, whatever form that has to take for you. There is a good life to be had by taking that responsibility and working with one's own hands to create what is needed. Before the current tribulations are over we may need to see "the good life" as ANY life at all, where humanity is concerned, given the conditions we face.

Merriam -Webster Online

Definition of


1 a (1) :  of a favorable character or tendency (2) :  bountiful, fertile (3) :  handsome, attractive
b (1) :  suitable, fit (2) :  free from injury or disease (3) :  not depreciated (4) :  commercially sound (5) :  that can be relied on (6) :  profitable, advantageous  
c (1) :  agreeable, pleasant (2) :  salutary, wholesome (3) :  amusing, clever  
d (1) :  of a noticeably large size or quantity :  considerable (2) :  full (3) —used as an intensive  
e (1) :  well-founded, cogent (2) :  true (3) :  deserving of respect :  honorable (4) :  legally valid or effectual
f (1) :  adequate, satisfactory —often used in faint praise (2) :  conforming to a standard (3) :  choice, discriminating (4) :  containing less fat and being less tender than higher grades —used of meat and especially of beef

2 a (1) :  virtuous, right, commendable (2) :  kind, benevolent  
b :  upper-class  
c :  competent, skillful  
d (1) :  loyal (2) :  close e :  free from infirmity or sorrow

goodish play \ˈgu̇-dish\ adjective
as good as
:  in effect :  virtually as good as gold
1 :  of the highest worth or reliability
2 :  well-behaved
:  very, entirely

GOOD (for learners of English)
1 good /ˈgʊd/ adjective   in the context of better /ˈbɛtɚ/ ; best /ˈbɛst/

1 a  : of high quality
The food was good. = It was good food.
You'll need better tools for this job.
The car is in good condition/shape.
[+] more examples
b  : of somewhat high but not excellent quality
The food was good but not great.
He has done good but not outstanding work.

2 : correct or proper
good manners
good grammar
She speaks very good English. [=she uses correct pronunciation, grammar, etc.]

3 a  : pleasant, pleasing, or enjoyable
Did you have a good time at the party?
We're expecting good weather for the weekend.
The soup tastes/smells good.
[+] more examples
— see also good life, good-looking
b  : not having, marked by, or relating to problems, troubles, etc.
good and bad news
They've been together in good times and bad.
I had a good feeling about the meeting.
[+] more examples
— see also good luck at 1luck
c  : adequate or suitable
It's a good day for a sail.
We need to have a meeting. Is tomorrow good [=convenient] for you?
He's a good person to contact if you're ever in trouble.
[+] more examples
d  : sensible or reasonable
She has a very good reason for being angry.
He showed good judgment in buying a small car.
She gave us some good advice.
[+] more examples
e  : producing or likely to produce a pleasant or favorable result
a good deal/plan
a good risk/investment
a lot of good marketing ideas
[+] more examples
f  : having a desired quality
We paid a good price [=a low price] for the tickets.
The painting should fetch/bring a good price [=a high price] when it's sold.
Did you get good [=high] grades in school?
[+] more examples
g  : expressing approval or praise
a movie that has been getting good reviews
I've heard a lot of good things about you.
h  — used in speech as a response
“I'm ready to go when you are.” “Good. Let's get going.”
“I passed the exam!” “(Very) Good!”
“I passed the exam!” “Good for you!” = (chiefly Australia) “Good on you!” [=well done]

4 a  : not marked or affected by injury or disease : healthy
I went home early because I wasn't feeling too/very good. [=I wasn't feeling well; I was feeling sick]
Her health is pretty good. = She's in pretty good health.
The patient was reported to be in good condition following surgery.
[+] more examples
b  : not causing harm or trouble : causing something desired
a good [=healthy, healthful] diet
good nutrition
You've been a good influence on the kids.
[+] more examples
— often + for
Regular exercise is good for you. [=regular exercise makes you healthier]
Hot soup is good for a cold. [=hot soup makes you feel better when you have a cold]
Being with friends is especially good for him right now.

5 a  : not morally bad or wrong : morally proper or correct
a good person
good conduct/behavior
a woman/man of good character
[+] more examples
— see also good life
b  : kind or helpful
You've always been so good to me.
It was good of you to answer my request so quickly.
— sometimes used to formally make a request
Would you be good enough to show me the way? = Would you be so good as to show me the way? [=would you please show me the way?]
c  : behaving properly : not causing trouble
a good dog
The children were very good today.

6 a  : having or showing talent or skill : doing or able to do something well
She's a very good golfer.
a good musician/doctor/cook
He was really good in his last movie. [=he acted very well]
[+] more examples
— often + at
She's very good at (playing) golf.
He's not very/any good at expressing his feelings. = He's no good at expressing his feelings.
— sometimes used in a joking way
I'm very/really good at saying the wrong thing. [=I often say things that make people uncomfortable, unhappy, etc.]
— see also no good, not any good at 2good
b  : able to use something or to deal with something or someone well — + with
He's very good with his hands. [=he can easily make/do things with his hands]
She's good with children. [=she manages and interacts with children well; children like her and behave well when they are with her]
c  : having a tendency to do something — + about
He's good about writing everything down. [=he usually writes everything down]
I'm trying to be better about exercising. [=I'm trying to exercise more often]

7 a  : happy or pleased
I feel good about what happened. [=I'm pleased by what happened]
She felt good that she had remembered his birthday. = She felt good about remembering his birthday.
Helping other people makes me feel good.
She didn't feel good about having to fire her secretary.
b  : cheerful or calm
She's in a good mood. [=a happy mood]
He has a good temper. [=he is good-tempered; he doesn't become angry easily]
Everyone was in good spirits.

8 not used before a noun
a  — used to say how long something will continue or be valid
This offer is good only until the end of the month.
This offer is good for the remainder of the month.
Our old car should be good for a few more years. [=it should last a few more years; it should continue to operate for a few more years]
b  : still suitable to eat or drink : not spoiled
Is the milk still good or has it gone bad?

9 — used in phrases like good heavens and good God to express surprise or anger or to make a statement or question more forceful
Good heavens! You startled me!
“Do you agree with him?” “Good God, no!”
(somewhat old-fashioned) Good gracious, I completely forgot!
— see also good grief at grief

10 : causing laughter : funny
I heard a good joke the other day.
“He says he's never met her.” “That's a good one. [=that's amusing because it isn't true] I saw them together last week.”
She's always good for a laugh. [=she is always funny]

11 a  : large in size, amount, or quantity
The store has a good selection of products.
She won the election by a good [=considerable] margin.
He makes good money as a lawyer. = He makes a good living as a lawyer. [=he earns a lot of money]
[+] more examples
b  : not less or fewer than a particular amount : at least — used in the phrase a good
He weighs a good 200 pounds.
We waited a good hour. [=we waited at least an hour]
There are a good 80 people here.

12  always used before a noun : forceful or thorough
If you give the machine a good kick, it might start working again.
Give the bottle a good shake before you open it.
Take a good look at this.
[+] more examples

13 : having a high social position or status
He comes from a good family.
She thinks her son is too good for me.
It's a good neighborhood.

14 always used before a noun
a  — used to describe people who know each other well and care about each other very much
She's a good [=close] friend of mine. = She and I are good friends.
my good friend/pal/buddy Joe
b  : showing true and constant support for someone
He's been a good friend to me.
I'm trying to be a better sister.
c  : belonging to and having loyalty to a group or organization
a good party member
a good Catholic

15 not used before a noun - sports
a  of a serve or shot : landing in the proper area of the court in tennis and similar games
I thought the ball/serve was good but my opponent said it was out.
b  of a shot or kick : successfully done
(basketball) The first foul shot was good, but he missed the second one.
(American football) The field goal was good.
(American football) The field goal was no good. [=the field goal was missed]

16 not used before a noun, informal : not wanting or needing anything more
“Would you like more coffee?” “No, thanks. I'm good.”
“Here's the money I owed you. So we're good now, right?” “Yeah, we're good.” [=we have settled our business; there is no longer any problem between us]
all in good time
— see
all well and good
— see
as good as
: almost or nearly
The plan is as good as dead.
Those people as good as ruined the school with their foolish ideas!
(as) good as gold
— see
1 gold
as good as it gets
1 — used to say that nothing better is possible or available
It's not a great restaurant, but in this part of the city, it's as good as it gets.
2 — used to say that something is very good and cannot be improved
There's nothing I enjoy more than spending time at home with my family. That's as good as it gets.
as good as new
— see 1new
fight the good fight
— see 1fight
for good measure
— see 1measure
give as good as you get
— see 1give
good and
chiefly US, informal /ˌgʊdn̩/

1 : very
I hit him good and hard.
He was good and angry.
I like my coffee good and hot.

2 : completely or entirely
We'll leave when I'm good and ready.
good egg
— see 1 egg
good for
somewhat informal
: able to provide or produce (something)
I'm good for a hundred dollars if you need a loan.
— see also 1good 4b, 8a (above)
good for it
: able to pay back a loan
Why won't you lend me the money? You know I'm good for it. [=you can trust me to pay it back]
good graces
— see 1 grace
good old
— used before a noun to describe a familiar person or thing with affection or approval
Good old John: you can always count on him to help.
I don't need fancy shoes. I prefer good old sneakers.
They were talking about the good old days. [=happy times in the past]
— see also good old boy
good riddance
— see riddance
good to go
US, informal
: ready to leave or to start doing something
We have all the tools and supplies we need, so we're good to go.
good word
— see 1word
have it good
: to be in a favorable position or situation
There's no reason for her to be so unhappy. She really has it (pretty) good.
He's never had it so good. [=he has never been in such a favorable situation]
have the good grace
— see 1grace
hold good
: to be true
The advice she gave us 10 years ago still holds good [=(more commonly) holds true] today.
if you know what's good for you
: if you want to avoid trouble, problems, etc.
You'll take my advice if you know what's good for you.
She'll forget about the whole thing if she knows what's good for her.
in good company
— see company
in good part
— see 1part
make good

1 : to become successful
It's a story about a kid from a small town trying to make good in the big city.
◊ If you make good your escape, you escape successfully.
The prisoners dug a tunnel under the fence and made good their escape.

2 : to do something that you have promised or threatened to do
He made good his promise.
— usually + on in U.S. English
He made good on his promise.
They made good on their threat and forced the company to go out of business.

3 a  : to pay for (something) — usually + on
The insurance company was required to make good on the loss.
b  chiefly British : to repair (something)
The contract obliges you to make good any damaged windows.
so far, so good
— see 1far
too good to be true
— used to say that something cannot be as good as it seems to be
The price of the car is too good to be true. There must be something wrong with it.
If it looks/seems too good to be true, it probably is. [=there is probably some cost or bad part you do not know about]
very good
— used as a response to say you will do something that you have been told or asked to do
“Show the ambassador in.” “Very good, sir.”
what's good for the goose is good for the gander
— see 1goose
with (a) good grace
— see 1grace
2 good /ˈgʊd/ noun
plural goods

Learner's definition of GOOD

1 a  [noncount] : morally good forces or influences
the battle of good versus evil
Teachers can be a strong force for good.
the difference between good and bad
b  [count] : something that is right or good
They had to sacrifice lesser goods for greater ones.
What is life's highest/greatest good?

2 the good
a  [singular] : the pleasant things that happen to people
You have to take the good with the bad. [=you have to accept both the good things and the bad things that happen to you]
b  [singular] : things that are morally proper or correct
Parents must teach their children the difference between the good and the bad.
c  [plural] : morally good people
She believes that the good go to heaven when they die and the bad go to hell.
Only the good die young.

3 [noncount] : the part of someone that is kind, honest, generous, helpful, etc.
They cherished the good [=goodness] in him, overlooking the bad.
She believes there is some good in everyone.

4 [noncount]
a  : something that helps someone or something to be better, stronger, etc.
She did it for the good of the community. [=to help the community]
citizens working together for the common/public good [=to help or benefit everyone]
I know you don't want to do this, but it's for your own good. [=it will make you stronger, better, etc.]
They talk too much for their own good. [=they hurt themselves by talking too much]
b  : a useful or favorable result
What good can possibly come of that?
No good came of our efforts. = Our efforts came to no good. [=our efforts did not produce a good or useful result]
— see also no good (below)

5 goods [plural]
a  : products that are made or grown in order to be sold : things for sale
The store sells a variety of goods.
baked/canned goods
leather/paper goods
[+] more examples
— see also damaged goods, dry goods, durable goods, white goods
b  : things that are owned by a person
He sold all of his worldly goods. [=all of his possessions]
c  British : products carried by trains, trucks, etc. : freight — used before another noun
a goods lorry
— see also goods train
be any good
: to be useful or helpful
Would an apology be any good? [=any use]
deliver the goods
informal or chiefly British come up with the goods
: to produce the desired or promised results : to do what is wanted or expected
We knew we could count on him to deliver the goods. [=get the job done]
do good
1 : to do kind or helpful things : to do things that help other people
She tried to make the community better by doing good.
She has done a lot of good in the community.
— see also do-gooder

2 a  : to be useful or helpful — used with any, much, some, etc.
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it didn't do any good. [=I was unable to convince him]
He's been exercising more and it seems to be doing some good.
You can try, but it probably won't do much good.
It might do a little good.
b  : to be useful to or helpful for someone or something
You should exercise more. It might do you (some) good.
Weeding regularly will do your garden good. [=will improve your garden]
The visit with her grandchildren did her a world/lot of good. = (Brit) The visit with her grandchildren did her a power of good. [=it was very good for her; it made her feel much better and happier]
◊ If you do not think that something is helpful, useful, or worth doing, you can ask What good does it do?, What good is it?, What's the good of it?, etc.
What good does it to do to bring an umbrella along [=why bring an umbrella along] if you are only going to leave it in the car?
What good is a college education when you can't get a job after you graduate?
What's the good of working hard if your boss doesn't give you any credit for it?
I could try talking to him, but what good would that do/be? He has already made up his mind.
for good
also for good and all
: forever
“When is she coming back?” “She's not coming back. She's gone for good.”
have/get the goods on
◊ To have/get the goods on someone is to have/get evidence showing that someone has done something wrong.
We can't arrest her until we get the goods on her.
in good with
US, informal
: in a favored position with (someone)
She's in good with the boss. [=the boss likes her]
it's an ill wind that blows no good
— see 1ill
no good
or not any good
: not effective or useful
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it was no good, he wouldn't listen to me.
It's no good [=no use] talking to him. = It isn't any good talking to him.
— see also be any good (above)
not much good
: not very effective or useful
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it wasn't much good.
to the good
— used to say that a particular result or effect is good or would be good — usually used after all
If the new policy requires the government to keep more accurate records, that's all to the good. [=that's a good thing; that's desirable]
— used to indicate an amount of gain or profit
In the end, we were $100 to the good. [=we gained $100]
up to no good
: doing bad things or planning to do bad things
If you ask me, that woman's up to no good.
3 good /ˈgʊd/ adverb

Learner's definition of GOOD
1  chiefly US : 1well 1
Things have been going good lately.
The team is doing good this year.
“How did you hit the ball today?” “Good.”
◊ The use of good to mean “well” is considered wrong by many people. It occurs mainly in very informal speech.
2  chiefly US : completely and thoroughly
The other team whipped us good.
That was a funny joke you played on him. You really got him good. [=he was completely fooled by the joke]
“They sure soaked you with that bucket of water.” “Yeah, they really got me good.” [=I got completely soaked with water]
(Brit) Clean it up good and proper.
3 — used for emphasis before words like long and many
I haven't seen her for a good long time. [=a very long time]
There were a good many people [=a lot of people] at the meeting.
(chiefly Brit) Not all our students go on to university, but a good few [=quite a few] of them do.

Thanks for being there and being you,

The Smokemaster

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