Hong Son

Aristotle’s Advice For A Life Well Lived

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” — Aristotle

If you are taking the time to read this article, you are probably a seeker like me. I love drowning myself in literature, podcasts, and any type of knowledge that will feed my overthinking brain. I have been like this ever since I was a little human. I carefully curated my own library with labels titled “Jessie’s Library” on each book classified by my own version of the Dewey Decimal system. I daydream about living in the library from Beauty and the Beast more than I should. With this lovely ideal in mind, I am still reminded of the pivotal scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams is sitting on the park bench talking with Matt Damon about love, loss, and all the life in between. This is quite literally one of the best moments in cinematic history, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s worth a YouTube search. Robin Williams basically explains one of the most life-changing epiphanies any bookworm has had the pleasure of realizing: No book will ever compare to standing in the middle of the Louvre or the heartbreak caused by kissing someone you are madly in love with for the last time. The human experience cannot be taught, it must be lived. I believe this is what Aristotle was attempting to teach us. The best lessons are learned through our hearts.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — Aristotle

As I was sitting very much alone in my 60 square foot van, I pondered how much of myself I still have yet to know and experience. We are like the ocean. Most of us leave our lifetimes only having explored a small degree of ourselves. I have enjoyed countless hours, minutes, and seconds with just me, myself, and I. However, in a society that drowns itself in distractions, how much of that time is authentically spent getting to know our innermost being? How many of our thoughts are just unconsciously playing on a loop? How many of our actions are running on autopilot? Actively getting to know yourself is like any other relationship. It takes conscious effort. The metaphor of a garden beautifully illustrates the relationship we cultivate with ourselves, our passions, and our most authentic expression. You choose what you plant in your garden and what you neglect. When we take the time to not only smell the roses but know each of them intimately, our lives will begin to truly flourish.

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.” — Aristotle

I am not a full-blown misanthrope, although I would love to meditate for the rest of my life in the Himalayas and contemplate everything under the sun. I find myself in the lucky minority who loves to be alone. Solitude is quickly becoming one of my best friends. It doesn’t judge. It gives me room to breathe. It allows me to hear my thoughts. Solitude can be a wonderful thing. We now find ourselves living in a world that almost demonizes singledom and attempts to amplify the loneliness epidemic. I used to constantly doubt and criticize my love affair with seclusion. That was until I found (by no coincidence) that the happiest person in the world is an unmarried Buddhist monk. Or that the infamous Nikola Tesla advised us to, “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.” I discovered it is in the silence that I find my peace of mind, brilliant moments of clarity, and even talk to God herself sometimes if I take the time to listen.