Sunday, 14 February 2010

In search of a word

I'm looking for a word.

I just wrote to Alain de Botton to ask him. Then I thought, why ask just one person?

Do you have any ideas?

The question is this:

if we move away from a materialistic life, what is the name for the kind of life we enter into? I don't like 'de-materialised' (so what is it then?), 'simple' (it's not simple), or 'spiritual' (problematic term).   So I am missing a word. Do you have any ideas? 

There's a fleshier version of this question in the last post.

I do very occasionally get the odd comment and it is great to get comments, like nice letters in the post. If you have any thoughts you might perhaps leave one...


  1. maybe a life with enough

    we do still need to have some things, but we only really need to have enough things. Enough for what though? To survive? To achieve full potential and fulfilment? Who is to decide what is enough? Where can the line be drawn between being materialistic and living with enough?

  2. Perhaps a word (a way of life?) starting with "prime"?

    "prime" - (adjective) - of first importance;

    "prime" - (noun) - of best quality (see also John Fowles - The Aristos); a time of vigour in life;

    "prime" - (verb) - to make (something) ready; to prepare (someone) by giving relevant information.

    "primal" - (psych) - related to feelings or behaviour postulated to form the beginnings of emotional life

    "primitive - denoting a preliterate, non-industrial society of simple organisation

    "primeval" - (of behaviour) - instinctive

    "primodial" - existing at the beginning of time

  3. The Good Life 2.0

    Not my idea - this guy's... (

  4. A spent a few hours in the garden yesterday and had time to ponder this.

    Sustainable: quite obvious and somewhat tainted by the idea that it might imply "less" and therefore "less good".

    Transition: meh.. great for towns and to talk of the process, but says little about the quality of the goal.

    Ascetic: technically more accurate ('This is to be understood not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence'), but again hints at emaciated preachers beating themselves with sticks beneath a cold hose.

    Gardeners: careful cultivation, working harmoniously with natural systems, long term thinking... this has a lot to appeal; and also is going to be an accurate description for most who choose this route.

    Extraordinary: literal, and makes it sound more appealing. Hearing envious talk of "your extraordinary life" is something which can't help but stir humble pride.

    Sophisticated: from sophos (wisdom). to refine, make more complex, make more worldly-wise and less naive.

    Philosopher: lover of wisdom (and all the things above). The philosophic life... has a nice ring, possibly too pretentious. Also the people best suited to determine the direction of a nation, according to Plato. (Have you ever noticed how people who develop hierarchies find themselves at the top?)

  5. wow what a lot of wonderful comments

    I like the 'extroadinary' life, and yes, I think the problem with ascetic is that it feels like it doesn't put pleasure on a high enough shelf.

    I got this reply from Alain de Botton:

    Dear Briony,
    I share your feelings that there are so many words missing in our vocabulary - and sometimes, this lack of words hinders us from taking certain feelings seriously and giving them due weight in our personal lives and in society.
    For the specific word you're missing, I have a hard time knowing quite what you're searching for, but philosophical, thoughtful, aesthetic are words that come to mind.
    I can only encourage you in your search - a hugely valuable one for all of us.
    All best

  6. I thought of another one. Something with a 'perma' route. Permagony, The Permacene, Permanthropy, Permaphile, Permasophists.. all a bit pretentious perhaps.

    A Transitive Permaphile

  7. Hmm, good question. You might be better avoiding de-materialised, as it has connotations of Doctor Who and objects vanishing, non-materialism could work though.

    Best other suggestion I’ve thought up so far is perhaps “Qualatism” or “Qualitia”, as in a way of living that focuses on quality of life rather than quantities of possessions/capital?