The Project of Living

It’s always exciting when a project begins. When we first started posting here, at Sweet Talk, for instance—we had been talking about it for weeks, possibly months. The first week of posting marked the point at which it was more than talk but still largely possibility—who knows what Sweet Talk will become? Who knows what we will learn along the way, and who we will draw into our conversations?

The excitement of starting something new can turn into a sickness for many people. Once a project gets off the ground, the tasks required to keep the thing running on a daily basis are, for the most part, mundane. It’s not as bright and interesting as the launch. And so many people chronically start projects and give them up after losing interest.

This tendency extends well beyond starting blogs or taking online coding classes or starting a novel. Adulterers pursue affairs not just because they enjoy having sex, but because long term relationships can never maintain the intense feeling you have at the beginning, when it seems like your life has just radically changed and all you want to do is spend time with that person.

The excitement of the new is of course a part of a good life, because any part of a good life must be new at some point. But it’s not the most important part; indeed in many ways it is the least important part. Falling in love with possibilities is enduring in the young, but pathetic long before old age. How can loving potential over actual and possibility over accomplishment be anything but pathetic? How can the flowering of new love with someone you hardly know compare to a lifetime shared together?

Solon counselled to count no man’s life as happy until he is dead, for happiness is fragile. A project in progress is fragile, and a project just launched is at its most vulnerable. Count no project as worthy until it is complete.

Eudaimonia is nothing but the project of living well. All projects, relationships, accomplishments and joys are subsumed within it. New starts are a natural part of it, of course, as are situations in which you must cut your losses—with regard to a project or a relationship. In order to complete a worthwhile project we have to start it, and in order to learn what is worthwhile we must make many mistakes and corrections.

It is one thing, however, to have the courage to risk making a mistake and then face them once you do. It’s quite another to ditch things when they get hard and become a serial false-starter out of a form of thrill seeking. Accomplishment is what the wise seriously aim for, and eudaimonia is the accomplishment of living well. This accomplishment is embodied in how we live, as well as in the legacy we leave behind.

4 thoughts on “The Project of Living

  1. valkenburgh

    Some choice markov from the existing corpus of sweet talk:

    The whole WORLD knows what I’m learning from the moment that Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web?

    To be perfectly clear, Strauss is a prosocial institution.

    Nevertheless, we must make many mistakes and corrections.

    This is the accomplishment of living well.

    From my point of immorality.

    Lets call it “laissez-faire within rules,” or “planning for freedom,” or “the boundary conditions of EE”: (1) conventional ownership (2) conventional capacity to learn to stop worrying and love what truly matters in life.

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