“Have a good day!” We hear this countless times in 24 hours. I wonder when speaking this greeting, how many actually understand what they are saying, and also how many do have a good day because of hearing it. Does wishing it for others enable them to experience a good day? What constitutes a good day? Experiencing some happiness? Getting lots done? Freedom from accident, harm, or any unpleasantness? What is good and how can we keep it?
Good is not easily defined. Though I imagine most of us think we know what it is. Plato wrote that Good is the cause of knowledge and truth. It involves moral rectitude. Aligned with excellence, it signifies something superior. Good is a quality we seek, a preferred way to behave, ethical in motive, of high standard or value. Good is the opposite of whatever is bad, evil, dishonest, harmful, or destructive.
I wandered into one of my Harvard Classics (one of a 50-some volume series I purchased when a library had a sale of old books and which I promised myself I would read before I died) to the sayings of Epictetus, a Greek slave who lived in the first century A.D. After his emancipation he became a teacher in Rome, then, when philosophers were banished from Rome, he moved to Nicopolis in Epirus where he continued to teach. He wrote down nothing, but one of his followers, Arrian, a Greek philosopher and historian, did write down his words. Epictetus is considered an authority on Stoic morals, his main idea being that man must find happiness within himself, listening to the voice of reason in the soul. He said that “where the real nature of God is, there too is to be found the real nature of Good.”
So it seems to me that when wishing one a good day we are wishing them the ability to know God. Epictetus continues: “What then is the real nature of God?–Intelligence, Knowledge, Right Reason. . . . seek the real nature of the Good. “
Good doesn’t usually come running up to us. We have to give it some attention, appreciation, effort. We have to work at it. An athlete practices and struggles to achieve a high standard of performance in his sport. When he is successful, he gets the good he worked diligently to attain. When a student studies earnestly to do well in a subject, she is seeking good and is rewarded when it is accomplished. A parent works to be a good parent, giving the time and effort necessary to raise fine human beings and is pleased by the wonderful people her children become.
Holding in thought the ideal of Good enables it to be manifested. We have to want it, expect it, look for it, honor it, and replace whatever isn’t good with good as much as we can. I love good–good anything–from delicious homemade bread, to a successful painting, to an idea that I hold dear. Now when I hear or say “Have a good day!” I think of God as the good behind the greeting.
Artwork: Rue Charmant, watercolor, approx. 22″ x 17″ SOLD. This painting is an example of good watercolor. It is among my very best watercolors. I didn’t want to sell it but I was convinced to sell it to a good friend, knowing she would love it as much as I. I painted it on location in Antibes, France nearly two decades ago.