Good: Your Spontaneous Woo Quotient
by: Maya Talisman Frost
As I was driving to a friend's
house, I passed the Dublin Pub, a local watering hole known for its live music.
On the reader board, one band's name caught my eye: Spontaneous Woo.
I did a little digging and
learned that the band hails from Bay City, Michigan and offers a funk/jazz
blend. The term "spontaneous woo" refers to an audience response
often seen during concerts in which a rising tide of enthusiasm culminates in a
distinctive eruption of happy exclamations.
Now, there’s a universal human
experience. There is nothing quite like letting out a joyous, spontaneous
"Woo!" when things are going our way. We might personalize our woo,
making it come out as "Yesss!" or "Sweeeeeet" or even
There’s an appropriate word for
this in every language. No matter what elicits this response, we know it means
something good has happened. We recognize these woos, whether inspired by
simple pleasures or major milestones, as a celebration of goodness. What makes
us woo tells us a whole lot about what we value, and what we value is all that
What is "good"? How do
we define it?
The British poet, W.H. Auden,
said: "Goodness is easier to recognize than to define." Isn't that
We know "good" when we
see it, just like we know when something is woo-worthy. Putting this into words
in a consistent way is tough. This is where your personal philosophy comes in.
Realize that your ideas of what makes a life "good" come from the people
you know, the books you've read, the movies you've seen, and a host of
influences you can't remember right now.
We use "good" to
describe everything from a haircut to a mathematical theory. Essentially,
something is "good" if it satisfies a certain expectation we have of
it--it hits the target. A "good" cup of coffee could be strong, weak,
bitter, sweet, milky, steaming hot, black, organic, shade-grown, or free,
depending on what you value.
"Good" may be a moving
target, but Aristotle happened to like the whole idea of targets. He used the
Greek word "telos" which was the term used to describe an archery
bulls-eye. It's a simple mental image--a big circle with a dot in the middle.
Teleology refers to the study of
the purpose of things. Aristotle believed that everything in nature has a
purpose, or target. A thing is good if it serves its purpose, fulfills its
mission, or hits its target. The whole world is made up of these interrelated
According to Aristotle, our
purpose is to think in order to live a good life. We're supposed to use our
brains to contemplate, to appreciate the complexity of the universe, to attain
greater understanding of our role as humans, and to be happy. By fulfilling our
role as thinkers, we are living to purpose-we are living a good life.
What does that mean exactly?
What do we use as guidelines or markers to help us determine if we are getting
close to good?
If, as Aristotle says, our
purpose is to live a good life and be happy, why isn't there some simple
formula we can apply to everyone? What's the minimum woo-quotient of a good
life? Can we be happy if we're not living a good life? Can we live a good life
if we're not happy?
How much do we need to be happy?
We all know plenty of people who never seem to be happy no matter how much they
have. One of our greatest challenges as humans is figuring out how much is
Aristotle believed that we need
to use courage, honesty and moderation in pursuing pleasure. He considered
moral goodness and enjoyment in life as the same thing. He believed it was okay
to pursue anything you want, as long as you don't go overboard. This concept of
moderation became known as the "golden mean".
Not surprisingly, this golden
mean became a popular idea, especially among the rich. It was just what they
wanted to hear! Remember that the majority of Aristotle's students were
wealthy--who else had the time to study philosophy all day? Aristotle himself
ended up being handsomely paid--especially for a philosopher!
Aristotle had his work cut out
for him trying to remain moral while becoming wealthy. His most famous student,
the classic overachiever Alexander the Great, clearly never got the point about
moderation. Aristotle's emphasis on the golden mean got lost in all the
excitement about pursuing whatever you like.
Hmmmm. Sounds a lot like modern
life, doesn't it?
What kind of life would
Aristotle suggest we live in the midst of all the stuff of the 21st century?
What does moderation mean now?
Wealthy people are not
necessarily more or less moral than anyone else, but they ARE tested more than
the rest of us. They have the means to live an excessive lifestyle if they
choose to do so. If you live large, your morality--or lack thereof--is
magnified for the world to see. Add a dash of celebrity and a stint on TV, and
you start serving as some sort of example.
This is where we get confused
between "a good life" and "the good life".
We're fascinated by the choices
people make when they have the ability to live any way they choose. We read magazines
featuring photographs of celebrities in their homes. We watch television shows
that give us tours of the properties owned by billionaires. We're both
fascinated and repelled by reality shows that offer riches to those who
Why? It's because we're curious
about the choices made, and we wonder what we would do given the same set of
Seeing the homes, the
furnishings, and the cars gives us an idea of what is valued by the individual.
We watch because we wonder what choices we would make if we had the same bank
account. Would we be extravagant? Would we live simply? Would we be tacky or
tasteful? Would we horrify the neighbors or build a better community? Would our
children be kind, compassionate, and generous, or would they be self-centered
brats with a huge sense of entitlement?
Would we be like Sting--or Ozzy
Osbourne? Would we have daughters like Sofia Coppola--or Paris Hilton?
Most of us have the, uh, good
fortune of not being tempted to live without limits. Without being fully
tested, we don't really know how we'd fare in a world of big money and bigger
The wonderful thing about living
a good life is that it is possible to do it at any economic level. You can live
a good life in poverty or wealth. Though we tend to think it's a lot easier to
be an excellent human when we have sufficient funds in the bank, both
versions--rich and poor--come with plenty of challenges.
It's tempting to put off
becoming your best self until you believe you have the financial support to do
it. "I'll be generous once I get to the top," you think. "I'll
be kinder when I'm not so stressed." "I'll give back to the community
when I retire."
There's no dollar amount that
precludes or guarantees a good life, and there's no reason to postpone your own
greatness. You may win the lottery tomorrow, or you may lose everything.
Despite any dramatic shifts in your personal fortune, you can live a good life
Note and relish your own
spontaneous woos on a daily basis, and look for ways to increase and deepen
them. Think, be happy, and share that wealth in words, wit, and warmth.
The good life never felt so
About The Author
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind
masseuse. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 70 countries. She serves up
a satisfying blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief in her free weekly
e-zine, the Friday Mind Massage. To subscribe, visit http://www.massageyourmind.com.
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