“It is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger”

Huh. Well, that’s interesting.

A few weeks ago I wrote this:

When I lived hopefully, though, I lost my ability to live a disciplined life. It was a dilemma. I could live hopefully and sloppily, or I could be determined and bitter. I could get lots of things done with a bad attitude or very little done with a cheerful heart.

This week I read part of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and discovered this:

… it is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger, to use Heraclitus’ phrase, but both art and virtue are always concerned with what is harder; for even the good is better when it is harder.

“It is harder to fight with pleasure than with anger”; i.e., when you’re feeling cheerful, you just aren’t all that motivated to fight.

Aristotle believed, though, that as we grow in virtue we begin to feel pleasure in doing whatever is right, even if it’s fighting. At first, we don’t want to fight, and so it takes anger to push us into it. Eventually we can learn to fight for nobler reasons, without needing anger to motivate.

So this is what happened to me: I needed to wage wars of self-discipline. I already knew how to fight with anger. I had to learn the harder skill of fighting with pleasure.

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