How to Live Better

Oft are the complaints of poor treatment in the work place. I would say we live in a dog eat dog world, but the workings of the world are more automatic than animalistic. Davenport writes, "We did not listen to the prophets and now we do not even have a diagnostician to specify the name and nature of our enslavement."
If we have guidelines, we have a way to explain things - as well as the freedom to disregard it; if we have none, we are left with chaos. When I was a youth in New York, I used to visit a septuagenarian down by the Grey's Papaya on 72nd. I think I was educated most not in my uptown college but in the tiny room adjacent to the white-painted wooden gazebo in the middle of her living room, walled with books, where I drank coffee from a mug painted in mermaids, with a curved ladder for a handle. She said, knowing we have rules doesn't mean we can't break them, but makes us aware that breaking them means taking responsibility.
Today more seems broken than intact - and isn't that the problem archaeologists have, in trying to recover the context? If matter, not ideas (the realm of guidelines), is seen as the source of meaning, it is harder to see the shared experience needed for catharsis. Which is not to say that one is to ignore matter: our bodies do exist. Gnothi seauton, part of the Greek paideia - or practical wisdom: know thyself.
The universal system of yore had names for self-knowledge, as well as names for abstract things - like καλὸς κἀγαθός - the beautiful and the good/virtuous. But the aspects of virtue, for example, were not to be taken to extremes: the guidelines were to be used, not abused. Ages ago, Aristotle showed us that if we are too zealous in our virtue, we end up in vice. 
There is a lot of vice to be seen today: ranging from people mimicking the poor treatment they get at work within the four walls where they live - reducing their "homes" to "abodes", to people judging each other mercilessly, to excesses of youth becoming bestial through justification from "art". There is a lot of vice and not so much universal medicine. I think part of the problem is in the decay of education: I posit that we no longer have very many academic institutions, which emerged as the Ἀκαδήμεια, first an olive grove dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom (talk about genius loci - the spirit of the place). So many academic institutions are closing their humanities departments, casting out physical education, and exaggerating in the extremes of specialization. Once upon a time, the motto was, Nothing in Excess.
Not that everyone in the ancient world respected, observed, or lived up to these ideals. But they were there for those who needed or wanted them. As Cicero wrote, such "studies sustain youth and entertain old age, they enhance prosperity, offer a refuge and solace in adversity... and are with us at night, when we travel and when we visit the countryside."


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