Back in March, when I first had the idea to create this blog, I knew that I wanted to call it Flourishing. It seemed like the name just popped into my head from nowhere. In fact, I even wrote it down in my journal just so: "I want to start a blog, and I want to call it Flourishing".
I thought that this word just appeared in my brain out of the ether. But actually, once I started tracking backwards and remembering what I was reading and listening to around that time, it becomes obvious why I chose that name. In that special cosmic kismet that sometimes happens, within the space of a few days I'd encountered the phrase 'human flourishing', and the philosophical idea behind it, from several different sources.
I first heard Steven Pinker discuss it on the Design Matters podcast; he spoke about 'flourishing' as an Enlightenment value, as it applies to human understanding and societal progress through the pursuit of knowledge. Later that week, a video popped up in my Youtube feed that explained the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia, or human flourishing.
I then read an article by Oliver Burkeman in which he talks about pursuing eudaimonia, as opposed to happiness. In his words, its "meaning is no simpler to define than happiness. Yet most of us seem to know it when we see it - and to understand that it involves stepping beyond the self, serving others, connecting to causes larger than ourselves. It's the stuff you know you'd rather be remembered for at your funeral".
In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert talks about eudaimonia as being "the highest degree of human happiness" and equates it with people being "nicely taken care of by some external diving creature spirit guide". She likens it to being lost in creative flow or mindfulness.
I guess after reading and hearing about it from so many different places, it wasn't surprising that when it came to choosing a word to describe what I wanted this blog to be, 'flourishing' was the obvious choice. I knew I wanted the blog to have a philosophical angle; and I knew I wanted it to be personal to me and my experiences. I knew that I definitely didn't want it to be just another trite form of social media content - a pretty picture with a cute caption - and that I wanted there to be some depth to it.
It was also a deliberate decision to call the blog 'flourishing' as opposed to just 'flourish'. That -ing on the end, that's important. That's the part where things get interesting. It's the growth and the blossoming. The journey, not the destination. It's the messiness and the hard parts of life, the questioning and the why. Eudaimonia is a state that encompasses both positive and negative emotions; you can be going through a hard time, you can be angry or sad or anxious, but still pursue a meaningful life by looking beyond yourself - by asking yourself not, 'will this make me happy?' but rather, 'will this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?' (James Hollis).
Happiness is transient, but eudaimonia, or flourishing, is a lifelong pursuit for meaning and connection. A grand claim perhaps, but that's the ideal I'm striving towards.
Plus, the word just sounds pleasing to me. Flourishing.