I remember one afternoon upon leaving my home and getting onto the bus to go to work. I was living in Japan at the time. It was in the early 90s. I had a good job, my bank account was sufficiently more than it is now, I had savings, and I could travel. I was living comfortable working 20 hours per week making $2,500 per month.
When I got on the bus I remember my face was just radiating in richness. I wasn't feeling rich because how comfortable I was living or how much money I had. I was feeling rich not from living better in terms of material comfort but from contemplating on living well in terms of having a rich mind and a strong and healthy body.
In this article I maintain that acquiring wealth does not necessarily have to do with possessing material goods to live better but living well; what Aristotle called the "greatest good." The greatest good, accordingly, possesses a contemplative mind that is divine, and I will add, which Aristotle gives examples, also by having a strong and healthy body.
Aristotle is one of the "big three" in ancient Greek philosophy, along with Plato and Socrates. (Socrates taught Plato, who in turn instructed Aristotle.) Aristotle spent nearly 20 years at Plato's Academy, first as a student and then as a teacher.
After Plato's death he travelled widely and educated a famous pupil, Alexander the Great, the Macedonian who nearly conquered the world. Later Aristotle began his own school in Athens, known as the Lyceum.
Aristotle is known for his carefully detailed observations about nature and the physical world, which laid the groundwork for the modern study of biology. Among his works are the texts Physics, Metaphysics, Rhetoric and Ethics.
For as long as I can remember I have always believed acquiring wealth has everything to do with one's aesthetic, not material, pursuits. A person can gain or possess material effects but have muck for their brains and not think or not think well.
It is not how much you have that adds value to your life but how well you live which adds value to living. Like Aristotle's greatest good, bodybuilding fitness pertains to one of those values which is incommensurable to others. If wealth consisted of material possessions alone I would have pursued a "money-making" career and let myself be molded into a system of thought and be cloned as part of the herd.
Making money is neither acquiring wealth nor is it the greatest good. Anybody can make money but not everybody can acquire a sound contemplative mind and possess a fit aesthetic body.
On the one hand, and on one extreme, acquiring wealth can be passive and cause an elated feeling that inspires such as playing an instrument, listening to music, writing an essay, understanding a great thinker, or something less important like establishing an "it's all about me" dot com site.
On the other hand, and on the other extreme, acquiring wealth can be active and cause the same elated feeling such as going out in the world to stake your claim (e.g., the movie Wall Street), educating yourself for a respectable profession not only to help yourself but others in the process, or simply, and the purpose for writing this article, activating a healthy and fit lifestyle, particularly through the bodybuilding/bodysculpting lifestyle.
Between The Extremes:
The mean between the two extremes rests in a mark of divinity: that is, a mind is wealthy insomuch as it acts divinely between these dispositions of extremes. The ancient philosophers agreed that the supreme concern in life is to devote the soul or one's inner being to things divine of what is good.
It is of supreme concern because it is the soul which governs the body. Thus, it is the soul which teaches one to live well in so far as one's soul is just.
Plato is right:
but instead a good soul by its own virtue
makes the body as good as possible."
Therefore, we must devote "sufficient care to the mind, to entrust it with the detailed supervision of the body" so that we can possess a sound mind to have a fit body to live well.
Map To The Soul:
It has been said of Abraham Lincoln that his face was a map to his soul. It is true. One's face reveals a map to his or her soul - of what his or her being is like. This is especially true of the eyes. The eyes reveal the personality or soul behind the face. The eyes reveal the spirit of one's inner being.
For most people it is hard to stop, think, and listen to their soul. When one does not listen to his soul he acts on impulse before he divines the consequences. Acting on impulse, as opposed to acting spontaneously, can have grave consequences. When one does not act he may rob himself of opportunities.
The sequence to getting fit is that before one becomes fit, one's soul must divine one's mind to act for the body. That is to say, it is one's soul that which makes the mind, which in turn acts on the body. Prior to an aesthetically fit body one's mind must be aesthetically fit.
Following a divine soul is a fit and contemplative mind, which is a precursor to a fit body because it is the soul that governs the body. A person can accumulate as much wealth as they can but still live badly or as Democritus says, "A long time dying."
Wealth is not measured by how much one has but rather how well a person lives through having a fit mind and fit body together governed by a divine soul, that is, for goodness for its own sake.
In his essay on Wealth Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche considered a "brother soul" writes,
He fails to make his place good in the world unless he not only pays his debt
but also adds something to the common wealth."
The point of the essay is consumers devour things leaving nothing else for others to chew on. Producers create things leaving a trail for others to follow.
Consumers, on the one hand, are like a virus infecting every natural resource in the world by using up those resources and leaving nothing but artificial constructs in their place.
Producers, on the other hand, are like artists inspiring others to act on themselves by leaving the door open to create. A consumer is one who measures wealth by what he has accumulated through his own consumption and for some consumers beyond what is manageable.
A producer is one who measures wealth that is incommensurable by what he has achieved through his own production and for some producers beyond what is imaginable. That is to say, a producer's influence is still felt even after hundreds or thousands of years (e.g., a scientist or a philosopher or a historian).
American writer, philosopher, and central figure of American transcendentalism. His poems, orations, and especially his essays, such as Nature (1836), are regarded as landmarks in the development of American thought and literary expression.
"People with great gifts are easy to find,
but symmetrical and balanced ones never."
Consumer Or Producer?
Which one are you? Are you a consumer or a producer? To help you, answer this: What resources as a means to getting something else have you consumed in your life thus far that might make you a consumer? What goodness for the sake of the good itself have you produced in your life thus far that might make you a producer?
Do you want to be a consumer or a producer? A career concerned with making money and not producing an aesthetic good for living well is a consumer. A career or a kind of life lived concerned with generating some aesthetic good and not consuming material goods to live better is a producer.
At the end of the movie Wall Street the father (Martin Sheen) admonishes his son (Charlie Sheen) before he goes to jail for his crime and says, "Produce something with yourself instead of living off the buying and selling [i.e., consumption] of others."
The point is clear: Be a producer not a consumer. Produce yourself and not follow every Tom, Dick, Harry, Martha, Jane, or Sally. "Do not follow me: follow yourself!" admonishes Nietzsche.
Producers follow themselves by creating something from nothing (so to speak). Consumers follow others by devouring everything from something. One can acquire wealth in many of the aesthetic arts. Acquiring wealth in bodybuilding/bodysculpting fitness is but one example.
Copyright © 2006 By Randy M. Herring
- Plato, Republic, Bk. I.
- Ibid., Bk. III.
- Time Magazine, July 4, 2005, p. 8.