Living the Sweet Life: Two of the 12 Virtues, the Fifth of Which is Friendship and the Sixth of Which is Magnificence

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and

This year marks my 15th anniversary writing my column Living the Sweet Life. This year also marks my 50th birthday. As a way of reflection and remembrance, this year’s Sweet Life will be a continuous study of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues and how they are applied to my life.

Well my Sweet Life readers, we have been through some interesting times together, haven’t we? If you’re like me, you have been staying at home and finding things to do with all the time on your hands. What this time has afforded me has been remarkable though and much needed – a reset of sorts. I started thinking about all of the things I do and all of the people in my life, and as I started to analyze my life, many things were revealed to me. Aristotle’s Virtues could not be more appropriate to study than at a time right now. The two I want to touch on this month are magnificence and friendship. Both are important and timeless, but as we have been in quarantine and contemplative, they are even more important, and in many cases, as you shall see, revealed themselves prominently.

Alisa Murray preparing for a Zoom call with her friends.

Aristotle’s Virtue magnificence often gets over looked because in its basic form, it comes with the premise that in order to attain it, you have to have large amounts of wealth. To obtain it, one must be able to use their fame, family and money to put forth large quantities of assistance to the common good. Being magnificent is at its core philanthropic. In our times I would argue that is important and there are other ways to achieve it. Take the child who starts A Fiver for Farmers in Australia to provide water after the fires and creates a movement at the age of 10 to provide water to thousands of people, or the mother in New Jersey who gathered small businesses together to feed healthcare workers and sustain both them and the ones standing at the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus. These are individuals who were moved to do something greater than themselves, make a difference and exemplify what is magnificent! I do not think anyone would argue with that interpretation.

Friendship as a virtue is as complex in the way Aristotle defined it with three levels of what it really means to be a friend. The first being someone who you meet and exchange goods with, and I would define that as an acquaintance. The second being persons who you enjoy being with, and because of your common interests, you are bound with them in a time continuum. For example, those friends you played ball with in high school or those who you meet with in book club. They are there for a time, and when the common interests wane, the friendship no longer serves a purpose, so they dissolve. The last and more meaningful are those with whom you have a close and sustained relationship. Many of these are defined as lovers and spouses, and the people who you build a lifelong bond based on a shared interest or mark. The epitome of a good marriage is that of friendship.

In my own life, it has been made apparent even more so during these crazy times, the levels of friendship and made clearer to me the understanding of what a friend is. I came to realize that many of my clients who I had thought of as “friends” were merely acquaintances, and for my part, the delivery of my art or my service was all that sustained and remains to sustain those relationships.

With others I recognized that there was a clear group of friendships that transcended that first level, and in their weekly texts and conversations rekindled and thus sealed our bonds to the obvious point that we will be in touch for the rest of our lives. In the times we have been through recently, those friends have been there for one another in ways that make me marvel and my heart sing. Many old friends whom I had not laid eyes on in 30 years came flooding back into my life. We realized in all of this just how much we mean to one another.

As for marriage, mine is about the best I could imagine ever having. Maybe that is because we have known each other since we were six, or maybe its understanding that the fundamental basis for all deep, long-lasting human relationships begin and end in friendship. This time has given me the opportunity to spend time doing things like visiting that so often we take for granted. It has given me a renewed sense of my tribe and strengthened my marriage, too!

I hope all of you are safe and well, and I look forward to hearing how this time has changed your life for the better.

Take Care of YOU!

(and those you love)


What has this time revealed to you about your friends, and what is important to you? I’d love to hear your stories. Contact me at