Should one pursue happiness still?


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Thomas Jefferson sought virtue based happiness. This may have been what he meant when he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the need for the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson’s incredibly extensive education, much of it self-taught, appears to have been included the writings of John Lock, the Utilitarian. Jefferson was also capable in Latin and Greek, so we can assume from this that he was influenced by Aristotle. From this we have the entire concept that the pursuit of happiness endorses the Greek approach of Eudemonia. This has been interpreted to mean happiness, but literally means good guardian spirit. Aristotle’s concept of happiness meant a life well led. Just as you can’t say that an acorn is a tree, one has to look at one’s entire life to determine its’ happiness extent. Essentially a virtuous life can be based on the acts of the soul. So back in Jefferson’s time, he likely meant that overall well-being required someone to flourish as a human being and not this transitory bit of happiness we think of now.

Let’s divide the happiness of an individual into different criteria. One criteria would be to find happiness in the satisfaction of the various desires that individuals have. Therefore an individual could be happy either based on the satisfaction of these desires or the elimination of these desires. However philosophical analysis would also indicate that happiness could be far more complicated. The resolution of various desires would be more clearly defined as contentment. Happiness of the individual would then be dependent instead upon the moral values of that individual and leading a highly moral life. This may be a bit too simplistic since leading a highly moral life is insufficient to some. Ok, most people. Having good fortune is also relatively important. Sickness and poverty are severe overlying factors that can prevent or mitigate against leading a moral life and true happiness.

There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. This shorter approach can be very convenient in a consumer based society if purchasing more stuff makes you feel happy.

A path to happiness used to be assessed at the end of one’s life. Now everyone wants a continual happiness jolt similar to using one of those instant, non-recyclable instant coffee pods. And every day more ways appear to provide those single serve happiness pods.

The happiness discussion will continue…

#happiness #pursuit

Desperately seeking happiness

Henry Thoreau said the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

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You it in the eyes of the men and women that commute to work on a daily basis. Work consumes them. Most look for a way out or wonder if there is something more to life. This makes the pursuing happiness goal seem unattainable. Well, there is an easy answer. Just change the goal. If you are doing what you are doing by choice, then you must be happy. If you weren’t happy, and wanted to be happy, wouldn’t you be doing something else? Or at least trying?

That comes across as a bit mean as opposed to being helpful. Here’s an emoji to soften the wording. 🙂

Does happiness remain in one place like a tree in the forest, or does it race around like a retriever in the field? Does one pursue a tree? One normally chases a dog. The metaphors do not assist in the understanding. But pursuing something suggests that it tries to evade you. Police pursue suspects and leads. Perhaps happiness should be pursued as a thief in the night? Or even better, as a neighbour’s retriever making off with your favorite tree sapling.

The pursuit that people conduct may appear to be somewhat aimless. They shift from new hobbies, sports, religions, partners in order to find what may be missing from their lives and ask what the meaning of life is. But you should consider reversing the question and ask instead how to add meaning to your life. This does not mean adding hot sauce to your nachos as you continue to watch contrived reality TV. Others ruined the term ‘fake’ for me. Sorry.

The US Declaration recognizes certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So, no one guarantees happiness, but the government certainly allows you to pursue it. Up to a point. Public nudity always springs to mind. But back to the point, the government recognizes the journey as opposed to the destination. They held these truths be self-evident, basically meaning that it should be obvious. A little description may have helped future generations a fair bit of angst.

Back in 1776, happiness may have referred more to the Greek concept of Eudaimonia, the good life or flourishing. There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. Very convenient in a consumer based society if more stuff makes you feel happy.

“Greek class is tough!” If Mattel used that line, perhaps it may have saved itself a fair bit of grief and ridicule. The Greek approach to happiness through virtue can be tough.

In psychology, happiness refers to an emotional state of well-being ranging from contentment to intense joy. The emotional state appears to be the more common usage today, so let’s go with emotion and virtue for now using another approach grooved into the population’s psyche.

The Happiness Pursuit shall be a topic for the next few weeks as we look at ways to travel down this path.