“Is Happiness Possible?” by Andrew J. Schatkin
All of us, men and women, want happiness. For some time in the modern world, the chosen route to happiness has consisted of the further and greater acquisition of wealth and material goods. For those who adopt materialism as their philosophical guidepost and benchmark, happiness is found in more and more money and more and more goods. Others seek happiness in sex and sexuality. These modern epicureans hope to find happiness. Others seek happiness in culture and the life of the mind, whether literature, music, art, or philosophy. In today’s world, this group is a somewhat thinner group than it used to be, since materialism has displaced literature, the humanities, and philosophy as the prime end and force of the societal mechanism.
Given these many options, one might ask what happiness consists of and how it may be had and obtained. I suggest five ingredients essential to a happy life.
The first ingredient to happiness is the community and affection that can only be obtained within the traditional family. A fulfilling and happy family life is a basic ingredient of the happy life. It is only in the family structure of wife, husband, and children that there can be that community and exchange of love and affection that largely makes life tolerable.
The second ingredient of happiness is fulfilling work. For many, if not all, work consists largely of sameness and drudgery. For most, work is routine, boring or physical in character. Thus for the factory worker or clerk in a store, retirement as early as possible is a welcome relief. Work which is intellectually challenging and fulfilling but which involves the solution of human difficulties and problems can add a great measure of happiness to the life of any man or woman.
In short, work which enables one to make some sort of positive contribution to society can significantly add to a happy life.
The third ingredient for happiness is some measure of good health. For those who spend and live their lives in constant pain and suffering, life is burdensome and difficult. It is fair to say that without some degree and measure of health, life is and becomes, largely intolerable. Good health increases for some sort and degree of happiness.
The fourth and perhaps the most general basis for happiness and the happy life is the ability to go outside of ourselves, our egos, and our narcissism, and involve ourselves in the lives of others.
It is only by stepping outside of ourselves and touching the hearts and minds of others, if not loving and serving them, that a measure of happiness may be had. Many, if not most of us, spend the large measure of our lives in some sort of constant self-love. We largely wallow throughout our lives in self-love. This leads to misery since self-love and intense self-involvement lead to nothing more than ennui, boredom, and, in the end, gross unhappiness. It is only by stepping outside of ourselves and involving ourselves in the joys the affections, sorrows, and pains of others that some fulfillment, if not happiness, becomes possible.
How, then, can happiness be had? For the happy man and woman, the world is a place of infinite possibilities and treasures. The contented, if not happy, man or woman, as they go through life, involve themselves mightily and completely with what life may happen to offer to them. The happy man and woman take from day to day and from year to year what life may offer them, always seeking involvement in love and affection with their fellow human beings. The happy man or woman grasp the goods of life as they come, always seeing in every circumstance, situation, and person endless possibilities for interest, affection, and involvement.
The happy man or woman go through life with zest, taking what may be before them or may be offered them, declining none and embracing all, seeing in every person, creature, rock, flower, or stone the variety and infinitude of the creator and the creation, seeing in everyone the chance and opportunity for involvement that by taking the person outside of himself or herself offers the only chance for happiness.
Finally, I think there is a fifth ingredient for happiness, which is a sense of the transcendent. The happy man or women desires possibilities beyond his or her immediate material environment. The happy man and woman has a feeling and sense of the transcendent and spiritual that on some level and basis give him or her a feeling that every man and women will be in community with Him or Her in spirit. Thus, the happy man and woman sees value and importance in every man, woman, or child, whatever their race, class, or sexuality, knowing that in their connection with spirit, he will be with them and beyond them.