The Good Life
I entered college with the intention of majoring in philosophy — an intention which changed to a minor in philosophy fairly early on, when some of my hallmates questioned what I wanted to do with philosophy and I realized that I didn’t have an answer for that question. At least, I couldn't come up with any practical answers, and while I love and enjoy a lot of academia, I don't have much patience for ivory tower scholasticism, which seemed like where I'd be headed if I stayed in philosophy. I don’t regret that decision; it freed up credit hours to take a conglomeration of classes that turned into an independent major in Cross-cultural Studies, which has proved to be pretty perfect for where I am and what I’m doing now.
Yet the urges that drew me to philosophy in the first place still stir in me. One of the foundational questions in Western philosophy has been “What is the good life?” and it’s well worth examination, study, and thought. I think that a lot of my impatience with philosophy as an undergraduate discipline grew out of my feeling that it was too concerned with what the good life was but not necessarily with how the good life is to be lived. Maybe if I had stuck with that major, I would have gotten into classes that were more concrete, but I’m very satisfied with having taken other courses and going down other paths. As I move through the process of getting a master’s degree in TESOL and Intercultural Studies, I have a deep appreciation for the integration of theory and praxis. Brilliant findings in the field of education are of extremely limited use and value without ideas for their application in the real world. The question of what is good continues to be addressed, but the answers are embodied in ways that philosophy so often seemed to lack. It is messy and risky to go beyond the theories, but it’s also beautiful and necessary.
Not only professionally, but in my own life, I continue to ponder how to answer the question of what the good life is. I can attempt to describe it, certainly, or to point to people who live in ways that I honor as full of integrity and beauty and truth and goodness, yet ultimately I am responsible for my own life. In coming back to Sichuan for a second year of teaching at Chuan Wai, I’ve been noticing how there are countless little changes that I want to make to my apartment or to my lesson plans or teaching; in the same way, there are never-ending changes that I want to implement in my own life. I desire to grow, to become more disciplined, more humble, more wise, more generous, more honest, more gracious, more holy.
This is the good life: not that I live perfectly, but that I am being conformed more and more to His image. I don’t always enjoy the process — to be honest, I struggle to get out of bed when I know that the first thing on my list for the day is to exercise — but I am confident that the end will be knowing and seeing Joy Himself.
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Her 12:11)