From the Commonplace Book: Aristotle on the Purpose of a Paycheck

I plucked this from the endnotes of Byung-Chul Han’s The Burnout Societyan analysis of life in an age of continuous connection and unchecked positivity. I’ll be reviewing it later this month, but want to share this gem that Han pulls from Aristotle’s Politics:

“So some people believe that this is the task of household management, and go on thinking that they should maintain their store of money or increase it without limit. The reason they are so disposed, however, is that they are preoccupied with living, not with living well. And since their appetite for life is unlimited, they also want an unlimited amount of what sustains it.”

It’s Aristotle, but it could be one of the Sutras, and it is as relevant today as it was in the 4th Century B.C.

The choice is the same as it has always been. We can either spend our lives in the pursuit of perfect security, which is an illusion, or we can seek out the daily moments of spontaneous connection with the good and bad of life, which force us to spend  some of our time and vitality, and to know in our hearts that both will give out some day.

Even on those days when I wake with a clear mind and a sound body, feeling my best, I feel a moment’s unease, because I am confronted with the question of what’s really worth the use of my energy.

Pleasure? Service to others? Drudgery? Solitary reading? The pursuit of love? And that’s on days when I am fortunate enough to have the choice.

What’s worth it to you today?


  1. I’ve been stuck on the idea of leadership and responsibility of late. Focusing on how I can be the best, least cowardly person I can be. Embracing fear/chaos/possibility with equal verve. I think that IS how you live a life, or can.

  2. “A life spent in preparation is never waisted “.
    I read this statement (author unknown) many years ago and it resonates each time I remember to include it into my daily routine.
    When I do recollect, it cascades into a still pond reflecting a life of self care, love of family, Art and forgiveness of failures.

      1. I suppose preparation for the next best thing. One step ahead. A sound mind.
        Hope. Thanksgiving dinner.

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