“All these things are interconnected.”
Xenophon, The Estate Manager
Being intentional about life can be exhausting. Sometimes you just feel like saying: “I’m sick of worrying about this stuff. Can’t I just go with the flow, rather than weighing every little thing in life?”
If you’re a parent then you sift through all the aspects of your children’s lives, agonizing over countless details, saying no to this, and going to great lengths to expose them to that—and then they don’t like that anyway, and they pine away for what you said no to.
Relationships—all the really important ones anyway—usually require much attention and analysis. You think you’re doing alright, only to find out that you’ve been offending those closest to you. Maybe it’s not what you’ve done, but what you haven’t done, though it feels as though you’ve been too busy to have done anything differently. Or perhaps it’s something you did a long time ago, though neither party has a clear recollection of it. So, you feel a bit at a loss.
You’ve been trying to deepen your understanding of important things, and cultivate the life of your mind, but you find it difficult to take much time consistently to do so. The things to which you need to give regular attention seem to take away from your mind, and not put anything back.
Eating well and exercising, which would seem to be more in reach and are objects of recurring resolutions, nevertheless tend to slip away as surely as the flabbiness and torpor migrate across our corporeal selves.
You hear about what they call ‘decision fatigue,’ and are confident that whatever it is you have it. But you’re too tired to figure out how to remedy it.
Life is funny. Discouragement is pretty much always lurking around the corner. So many things seem literally to conspire against us, in a vast spider-like web that can snare and undermine our efforts.
There is something simple and striking in Xenophon’s assertion about interconnection. In context, he is speaking of taking a holistic approach to the good life, wherein a plethora of good things we can enact are in reality intrinsically connected to each other: bodily exercise, mental development, caring for the earth, growing our relationships, good music, times of silence, taking responsibility, fidelity in work, interior peace, order in the household.
The point is not so much “things are interconnected, so you can have it all.” Rather, “things are interconnected, so your prudent attention and fidelity in small things will bear seemingly incommensurate fruits.”
This much is sure: any interconnection of the problems in our life is less significant than the unity and simplicity of the solution to them. The dominant reality is the deep interconnection of the good things in human life: an interconnection that is always at work, able to give power and fruitfulness to our seemingly faltering good efforts.
If as Socrates has it, the unexamined life is not worth living, this must be because a persevering examination will ultimately reveal an astounding truth: reality is a wonderfully woven fabric in which the messy jumble of our efforts at righteousness can be buoyed up and become fruitful.
Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) was a soldier, historian, and philosopher of Athens. Like Plato he wrote dialogues featuring Socrates as a great teacher. Among these dialogues is Oeconomicus, translated as The Estate Manager, in which we get an insight into the structure and principles of the ancient household.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
“Of the art of acquisition [of food] then there is one kind which by nature is a part of the management of a household, in so far as the art of household management must either find ready to hand, or itself provide, such things necessary to life…” Aristotle, Politics...read more
“The hand is a tool of tools.” Aristotle, On the Soul Recently I was watching a blacksmith work. I was mesmerized. There is something so satisfying and so fitting—indeed, so human—about the ability to do that kind of work. What most struck me is how glad he must be to...read more
“Some men are thought to be obsequious, namely, those who to give pleasure praise everything and never oppose.” “And while for its own sake he [the man virtuous in social interaction] chooses to contribute pleasure, and avoids the giving of pain, he will be guided...read more
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. Bacon from Acorns springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.