Friday, October 15, 2010

What Do We Mean By 'Well-Being'?

 The word 'well-being' comes into our conversation regularly said the  writer in  the weekly Catholic Times Desk Column. Since  the end of 2003,  Koreans apply the  word  to  apartments, food stuffs, cafes, and the like.  It means happiness, peace, living well. More than honors and the successful accumulation of material goods, the word was used to describe bodily and mental health, which means, for some, leaving the busy life and instant foods for an environmentally friendly world that conduces to a fruitful and beautiful new way of living. 

Recently, the columnist says, the well-being concept is increasingly being criticized, not so much for its attempt to change the quality of life but for its interest only in the material and what money will buy. It is those with the  leisure of  money who can  enjoy well-being--more accurately, perhaps, well-having. He mentions the book written by the German Philosopher Erich Fromm To Have or To Be. When the lifestyle focuses only on the 'to have' it just increases one's greed.

We have to ask ourselves, what is true well-being?   Is it to have more than others, to eat well, to have the goods one wants? The writer thinks it is to have a healthy inner life. There are many who have a strong body but the spirit is not healthy. And just taking care of the body does not necessarily mean your inner life will be healthy.

The well-being comes with a well balanced life. This would also be true in the spiritual life: word and prayer, evangelizing, service, love,  friendship, etc..  When there is a balance we have health. In the Beatitudes, we start with poverty of spirit.   The search for health and leisure that comes with material goods is not bad, but it should be preceded by a care for the health of the spirit if we are to have happiness.   Christians do have a different set of priorities that precede the quality of life that many consider important. Well-being for a Christian has to include God and our relation to him.
Another article mentioned a cartoon in which a member of the well-being advocates was doing everything necessary to achieve this so-called well-being.  After getting up in the  morning, he would do his yoga exercises. He ate organic vegetables and had a healthy breakfast, listened to classical music and went  off to work. During the day in the office, when time allowed, he would do his yoga. He would, obviously not smoke and not have more than a glass of beer or wine when offered and was socially expected.                                                                             
On his way home from the office, he almost had an accident with a motorcycle. He shouted at the cyclist with every foul word that he could bring to mind. The well-being lifestyle that he was hoping to achieve by focusing solely on the external aids to well-being and neglecting the inner life is always going to be a problem, unless we strive for a more balanced approach to life--including the spiritual as well as the material. Not an easy task. With the problems and stress that come with living in this competitive environment, the dream of well-being may not be easily achieved.

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