An “Existential Terror and Breakfast” Companion:
The absolute bleakness of an ocean of Wednesdays that Malcolm saw ahead of him in the last “Existential Terror and Breakfast” can actually be counted. According to Joshua Kennon the average lifespan contains 27375 days. Divide that by 7 (the days of the week) and you roughly get 3911 Wednesdays that Malcolm has to suffer through. Of course, Joshua Kennon doesn’t think Malcolm would have to suffer at all and stated in his article “The Average Person Lives 27,375 Days. Make Each of Them Count“:
“If you don’t like how you are spending today, change it. Don’t spend your life stuck somewhere you don’t love, doing something about which you aren’t passionate, surrounded by people you can barely tolerate.”
But how can Malcolm spend his day? A little bit about that later, first here is a visual look at the average lifespan from Tim Urban’s blog “Wait But Why“:
In this infograph each square represents a full week. So, with such a mountain of boring weeks ahead of him, how can Malcolm spend his time and make it worth while? Well…
Let’s talk about “Eudaimonia”…
Eudaimonia is a Greek concept and core concept of many of Aristotle’s philosophies which he believed to be the key to finding meaning in life. In reconstructing an argument based off of his works (here taken from his Nciomachean Ethics) I found that:
Premise 1: Eudiamonia fulfills our telos.
Premise 2: Reaching eudiamonia requires acts of virtue.
Conclusion: Virtuous acts are needed to fulfill our telos.
Premise 1: Virtuous acts are needed to fulfill our telos.
Premise 2: Eudiamonia fulfills our telos.
Conclusion: Reaching eudiamonia requires acts of virtue.
Just what, however, does Aristotle mean by “eudiamonia”? “Telos”? Just what is “virtuous”? “Eudiamonia” is a Greek concept that we have no direct counterpart in English, but it’s most approximate definition is “happiness” (not pleasure). By “telos” Aristotle means “end” (as in a final cause) or “purpose”. Finally, “virtues” are characteristics one gains through habit and practice, it is something that can be pursued for it’s own sake to reach eudaimonia. Thus, reworded with these definitions we have:
Premise 1: Happiness gives us purpose.
Premise 2: Experiencing lasting happiness requires acts of virtue.
Conclusion: Virtuous acts are needed to fulfill our purpose.
Happiness is our purpose in life, who could argue with that sentiment? Indeed, one response to this is that there are shortcuts to happiness, like drugs or simple pleasures. Can we not skip virtuous acts to reach this state of happiness by abusing drugs, over indulging in vices, and spending our time on simply fulfilling pleasures? If the end goal is to be happy, should we not take as many shortcuts as we can and just be happy?
Aristotle would argue that this state of happiness is not akin to “eudiamonia”, that fulfilling vices, as opposed to pursing virtues, are only pleasurable, that “eudiamonia” is lasting. “Ediamonia” is lasting because it is achieved while pursuing it. Vices, however, are fleeting, and only last as long as you indulge in them.
Malcolm, then, at least according to Aristotle, should be filling his bleak Wednesdays with virtues.
Want a more modern take?
Eudaimonia is great, but it is not the most accessible concept. Modern philosopher Susan Wolf believes that we should pursue “…lives of active engagement in projects of worth.” and according to John G. Messerly and his article (Summary of Susan Wolf’s, “Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life”):
“..meaningful lives link active engagement with objectively worthwhile projects. Lives lived without engagement lack meaning, even if what they are doing is meaningful, since the person living such a life is bored or alienated.”
Malcolm needs to stay busy, with projects that are worthwhile, to fend of the crushing boredom of every Wednesday that is ahead of him. Basically: he needs a god damn hobby. Of course, the title of the Series is “Existential TERROR and Breakfast”, so this is not likely to happen.
“Existential Terror and Breakfast” Updates every Wednesday, Its “Companion Piece” updates every Thursday.