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Aretē & Gratia

Everyone on the planet has been impacted by the current pandemic. This is in addition to the regional wars and natural disasters that seem to come more frequently. In such a world, at such a time - how does one not only survive but thrive? How do we stay happy?

The Harvard Medical School has a brief article explaining how giving thanks can make you happier. The article goes beyond just the idea of thanks to gratitude, which is derived from the Latin term gratia. The article explains how the Latin concept incorporates not only gratitude, but also grace and gratefulness.

It can be difficult to maintain a state of gratitude when one's belongings are frequently lost to fire, hurricanes, flooding, or theft. A good method of relaxation helps - yes, cigars and good company. No matter how good the cigar and/or conversation, that is only temporary respite.

In a recent LinkedIn article Deepak Chopra urges us to connect with the abundance in our lives. Again, often difficult to do in times like these. However, one line resonates -"Life is a field of infinite possibilities."

The key seems to be staying focused on those other possibilities - hope. Hope, though, is not enough. We have to work toward something else, something new. That requires grit!

In 2013 Angela Duckworth gave a Ted Talk about grit. That led to much discussion about perseverance, persistence, and success. An insightful synopsis was published in Forbes. In the article Margaret Perlis goes beyond Duckworth's presentation to provide a basis for self-examination. One of the points Perlis makes is that those with grit strive for excellence not perfection.

Excellence derives from the Greek word arete. Often translated as simply virtue, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes it clear that arete "is more properly ‘goodness’ – the quality of being a good human being." The Oxford Reference also establishes the connection between this Greek concept, Christianity, and Buddhism.

It seems that both gratitude and grit can lead one to happiness. Both, though, require a sense of self and acceptance of one's place in relation to others. Happiness and success don't come from a sense of superiority, but more from a striving for excellence - not alone but with others. Contrary to the general notion that "nice guys finish last," good people seem to do well! There is a skill to being a good human being, and a benefit!

photo - Sisyphus by Jeffery Hummel

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