Sunday, October 11, 2015

Essays on happiness

What is happiness?
Where do you find it?
Is it an end, or is it the most necessary means to reach all our ends or the ultimate end?
What then is the ultimate end?
What if you can't find happiness? Can we humans create happiness?

We all want pleasure. We want wealth so as to lead a comfortable life. We want to maintain a good reputation as it helps us to feel accepted in the society. All these are important to us, and we are too scared to lose them. Still, like an inquisitive innocent child, something in our mind keeps searching for ' an ultimate end' - that something which is  self-sufficient and final,  which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something or someone else, and is yet attainable by us. 

Some 2000 years back, a man or rather a philosopher, called Aristotle claimed that  happiness is that end which meets all these requirements. He gave the logic that it is easy enough to see that we desire money, pleasure, and honor only because we believe that these goods will make us happy. He called it 'Eudamonia' and for him it was the final end or goal that encompassed the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations, in few days like money, or in few years like reputation. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. 

This brings us to this inherent tendency of us humans to keep introspecting our past, our mistakes and achievements, and that realisation is linked to our feeling happy about the good decisions, or at times  miserable about our mistakes and blunders. But the problem is that just like we cannot say of a football game that it was a “great game” at halftime, when can we say this analysis of our life's mistakes or achievements is complete, for life itself is moving on at such a fast pace, and we do not know what the next moment may change in it and in us.

 For the same reason then, we cannot say that children are happy, any more than we can say that an acorn is a tree, for the potential for a flourishing human life has not yet been realized. As Aristotle says, “for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”  But, again a paradox- were not as children, we the happiest beings, and we even miss that time and innocence which seems to have been lost in this fast moving harsh life? What is it then? Children create happiness, in their mind and around it. To them, a small new learning that stars twinkle and humans can create aeroplanes with their skills fills them with awe and gives them a reason to be happy, to smile. They do it everyday!

So then, what I understand is that we, as humans are searching for it as we are growing, evolving in our lives as an ultimate self sufficient end, and in the process we are creating it in and around us every day, in our efforts to reach out to people, making friends, gaining new knowledge, creating a piece of art and sharing ourselves and feeling accepted.

I am peaceful by nature, and so a soulful talk with a friend may make me happy, you may be adventurous and river rafting and mountaineering may make you feel happy. this is how I create my happiness.
Similarly we all have different capacities or potentialities. We have a rational capacity to reason and find our peace, an emotional capacity to connect to our kind of people, and these capacities differ from person to person. For this reason, pleasure alone, whether physical or mental, cannot constitute human happiness, for all humans and even animals seek it. But as humans, and each of us different by nature and in love with that nature, (because that is how we know, understand and accept ourselves and wish to be accepted) each of us have higher capacities, and our happiness is linked to their development and fulfilment.

We do not feel happy if people around us are continuously doubting us, misunderstanding us or trying to change us continuously. The harmony within us ie how we accept us and love us gets disturbed and we start doubting our abilities and even our sense of achievement vanishes.

Probably it is this proper integration of the parts of the self (Introspecting on my life and decisions and learning) and their harmonious functioning within and with the outside world of ours(how i deal with the challenges life gives me each day), something which we may call as finding our peace is then what I would call my happiness. And this integration may come in little moments I experience in real time, or in my search for perfection, my journey. Like the sense of achievement in creating a piece of art, or being understood and accepted in a soulful talk with a friend, or helping and connecting to a stranger, and so on... 

So that makes it both an activity, as well as a state of mind. It is a goal and an ideal I am striving for and which keeps me moving, it is also a process and the real life activity I decide to indulge in or create.
It is not just a craving, it is also living.

Does it mean the same to you?