Recently, I had an interesting day. I came across a member of a church whose other members hurt me very deeply a few years ago. This brought up many feelings of pain and anger. It was interesting how bothered I was, given that I don’t think this man, in particular, was involved in the rotten things that happened back then.
The event threw me into my form of mania. I have Bipolar Disorder, and my manias are not the pleasant, enjoyable kind that many have. When I get manic, I get incredibly irritable. Just about anything at all will anger me. I become very difficult to talk to. When I get like this, I generally try to have nothing to do with my housemates, because I know that if I speak, I won’t be very nice. I was afraid that I’d be like this all day, but I didn’t know what to do.
Eventually, I decided to just try to be productive. I sat and worked on my budget and paying bills for a bit. Rather quickly, I began calming down. I was slightly irritable after getting those things sorted out, but I was mostly better. Coming down from the mania, I got very tired and took a nap. When I woke up, I felt all better. I was happy again and visited my parents who live in my city and had a pleasant dinner with them and went with my dad to take the dog for a walk. By now, I was all excited about learning the C# programming language and talked about it extensively. I shared a bit about the struggles of being a landlord, but I didn’t get too down about it.
I share all this to say that even just a little bit of productivity is good for the soul. It’s especially interesting because it works for depression as well as mania. either extreme can be made milder by productivity.
This leads to a greater truth. All virtue is linked together and all vice is linked together opposing it. Aristotle said that all virtue lies between two vices, one excessive and one deficient. Basically everything good is more than too little and less than too much. Take generosity, for example. You don’t want to be a miser and hoard all your money for yourself, but on the other hand, you don’t want to give so much that you starve to death either. Instead, the virtue is generosity. The church’s standard is 10% of your earnings should go to the church. The church then distributes that to serve the world. You can, of course, donate more than that to whatever you like. A very rich man should probably donate much of his money to charity, while a poor man might give only the 10% to the church.
I picture virtue as a ball in the center of a space. The virtue is everything within God. Outside of virtue, in every direction are vices. Virtue is the ultimate balance. When one finds himself on one side of the ball of virtue, he needs only drag himself to the other side to find balance. So if someone spends too much money, he may try to be a miser about things. If his nature is to be a spendthrift, then moving in the direction of hoarding may put him near the balance of generosity.
Both depression and mania take me away from being productive. They are on the opposite side of that virtue. So productivity brings me into that virtue. Being within virtue makes me happier by nature. Of course, if I were careless, I could go too far into being a workaholic. I tend to be lazy enough that that isn’t much of a concern most of the time, but it has happened. I’ve worn myself out by too much work in the past.
To be honest, my church isn’t much for Aristotelian thinking, as they prefer Plato. I’m not really sure what Plato said about it, but now I kind of want to know. Perhaps a future post will be an update on this kind of thinking. For now, though, it’s worth noting that virtue pulls us out of pain.