Before I try to give a decent answer, I would like to emphasize that I’m glad the question is personal. It refers to me, not you, or someone else. I don’t like moralizing, that is, telling other people how they should live, but I do like the element of self-knowledge and care that this question addresses.

Thus, “How should I live?” should live a joyous life.

Life, of course, is full of both joy and sadness, suffering and pleasure. Some of these are related to individual limitations, e.g. intellectual abilities. Others are related to social or political circumstances, e.g. financial.

Still, a useful guide is to live in a way that enhances a life’s joyous moments regardless of the circumstances.

How do I do that? From the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, I’ve learned that we always have the thoughts and feelings that we deserve. At first this can seem brutally arrogant, but what he aims at is that our mental state depends on how we relate to or approach our experiences. The challenge that we all share, regardless of setback or misfortunes, is how we become worthy of what is happening. This is not acceptance as a kind of resignation; rather, it’s an approach to life that confronts obstacles or setbacks by trying to create a new form of life that minimizes the effects of what is hindering ourselves from living freely.

Therefore, I should live as a compassionate fighter, that is, become a person that fights by exploring what a life may become. What is possible? I fight hate, discrimination, domination, violence, etc. because it kills life. And by involving myself in this fight — although I have to acknowledge my intellectual limitations – I feel better. Actually, I feel alive. And to live a joyous life is to have an intimate affair with life, to experiment, and dance with it.

I remember the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño once said that children typically are full of joy, and then he wondered why it’s so, before answering, that they are alive.

It sounds like a tautology: a joyous life is synonymous with how I should live because joy emerges through appreciation of being alive, which I accomplish by destroying  everything that seem to hinder life from flourishing, just as I create room for things that flourish. Nothing comes for free, except death.

Joy and happiness require hard work.

***

Apropos joy, happiness and hard work. I’m pleased to announce that my new book, ‘When life blooms‘ will be released in October!

It’s both a philosophical biography about the artist Jeppe Hein and his spirituel developments, and a philosophical journey in its own right that deals with the question, “How Should I live?” through the lens of existentialism, Deleuze, buddhism, and mindfulness.

Whenlife blooms_cover