It’s been sitting in my home library for years. I’ve read it. But something new struck me this last week. Aristotle put so much effort into thinking about every little nuance of interpersonal relationships, marital equity, political or business partnership, friendship evaluation, how long it is reasonable to be angry over an offense, the futility of grudges, and so much more. I don’t agree with many of his conclusions; but he really poured his heart into these observations. And I think most modern readers would be shocked at how much these writings are applicable today.
One of the themes that sticks out in his writing is a hard practicality on managing oneself, which I would argue is the centerpiece of health and fitness. That is, even when you have determined how right your approach is while another person’s is so wrong, is that sentiment profitable? How are you enriching your life or the world by your unerring malcontent? What about a THIRD option?
I’ve seen the notion elsewhere, attributed to Buddha, something like, “the definition of anger is a punishment we give ourselves in return for a mistake someone else made”.
Giving up peace in your heart in order to prove rightness is a bad trade. Many who are thinking they are justice warriors are more often hubris showmen, wielding a sort of “truth” avarice. Rather than think harder about the problem (like Aristotle was challenging himself to do), there’s this tendency to don an unofficial position of apparatchik alongside whatever group of agreeable yes-men we can find.
But that’s so unsatisfying. You can see this. The more combative an individual is, the more unhappy she always is. There are good fights to fight, to be sure. But there are far more ways to think about a disagreement than the two popular ones. We can forgo powerful problem solving by fixating on the fallacy of either-or. Or we can find third, fourth, fifth possible positions to take, freeing our hearts from the insistence on one superior argument versus one inferior argument.