Summary: 4 part article on Happiness (pleasure happiness) contrasted with Enduring Happiness (joy). Incuding the "marriage" of longing to joy.
Of Happiness and other Delights, Part 1 of 4
So what of this thing called happiness? Have you noticed we often ponder the nature of happiness when are not experiencing it? I believe this is because as we stop to contemplate happiness while enjoying it, the happiness actually begins to lift away like a mist. We have the remnants of memories and disappearing blissful emotion. It can’t really be trapped and analyzed in its pure experiential form. I think exploring happiness further may take us to new places of understanding and growth. People have been trying to figure it out for eons, so why not give it a try. You may ask, so why are you writing this, Lisa? Are you unhappy? Well, good questions, but get off my back! Just kidding. I’ll be sure to get to that later.
First, how is happiness defined? Is it pleasure, enjoyment, or something else? So much has been written on the subject it was hard to know what not to write and who not to quote for this ethoughts weekly installment. Songs, poems, and movies often focus on this quest to understand, define and attain happiness.
The noun "happiness" has 2 senses at Princeton’s WordNet.
1. happiness , felicity -- (state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy)
2. happiness -- (emotions experienced when in a state of well-being)
What makes you happy? Many people feel most happy in relaxing pleasures. Others are happy when they are helping others, busy or productive. Some people feel time with loved ones is the happiest time. Some say they feel happy only in the absence of discontent and envious thoughts. Some even say the way to find happiness is to simply stop chasing after happiness.
Many theories but similar themes surface when you ask people about happiness, but finding lasting happiness still seems to elude most of us.
I think a radical, fresh view on happiness is in order and next week I will explore it further. Until then perhaps you can weigh whether you are mostly happy or unhappy.
“The happiest people seem to be those who have no particular reason for being happy except that they are so.” W.R. Inge
Of Happiness and other Delights, Part 2 of 4
Last week I closed by asking you to consider if you were mostly happy or unhappy. For many of us, if we’re honest, what is happening in our life on any given day may determine our answer. Sickness, death, loss, stress and troubles can bring about gloom and acute unhappiness.
If in a week’s time we get a big raise, win a vacation trip and celebrate at a Superbowl party happiness may good supply, but maybe not. Are circumstances tied to happiness? Some of us get great pleasure from attaining something we’ve desired. Is this happiness? And how about love? Most likely, someone out there loves each one of us. That is something to be happy about. Why doesn’t love conquer all? Why does this wonderful fact not keep us happy?
For a great many things happiness seems to have a “shelf life” or expiration date just like dairy. After getting that great new job or outfit we may feel unhappy again faster than a yellow banana turns freckly. The fleeting nature of happy emotions may convince us we are unhappy people in general. Why don’t our inward heart lives maintain happy feelings consistently? After all, if we are indeed unhappy within our blessed life of sufficient food, shelter, and even some luxuries something must then be wrong with us, right?
So many questions! To be honest, I’m not sure what happiness truly is in actuality. It seems to me “happiness” such as the emotion one feels when getting a new car, or one’s team winning is different from the kind of emotion one has when achieving a challenging goal or helping someone in need. The confines of our language don’t seem to make much distinction. Each event elicits varying degrees of glad sensation and lasts various lengths of time. Is it all the same thing? It all seems to pass away after a while. Is there really such a thing as true, lasting happiness?
Because so many questions arise, I’ve decided it greatly matters how we define happiness. We must identify “authentic happiness” apart from “pleasure”. Pleasure is great, don’t get me wrong, we should not go through life without having some. But it has its place as a lesser and weaker species among the creatures of the human emotional experience. Just as we wouldn’t hitch up a Shetland pony to plow a field we cannot use pleasure alone to keep us happy. Just ask any celebrity who died of a drug overdose. Oh yeah, you can’t, they’re dead. In many cases pleasure is a substitute for joy.