Friday, July 03, 2015

The Things You Think Are Precious I Can't Understand

John Armstrong:

The ancient Greek moralist Theophrastus coined a useful term, microphilotimos, which means 'attaching importance to unimportant things'.

This begins a brief section of the book in which Armstrong looks at ways we can find meaning and satisfaction in the ordinary details of everyday life. It's misleading here, though, because the image Theophrastus actually intended to convey with that term is not serenity, self-containment, or imperturbable philosophical depth, but vainglorious posturing, the strutting of a cockalorum concerned with status and validation from others. He used the example of a cavalryman wearing his spurs in the Agora; if you prefer a modern version, picture George W. Bush in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier. Anyway, it doesn't have exotic flavor, and it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but I use the term "bonsai minimalism" to symbolize a life concerned with simple pleasures, indifferent to status, wealth and power.