That the basis of life is pursuit of happiness is no longer an uncommon idea. It may be physical euphoria, intellectual satisfaction, spiritual transcendence or simply good morale, but it’s all nothing but various ways of experiencing what we refer to as happiness.
With countries going ahead and measuring their prosperity in terms of scales such as the ‘Subjective Happiness Scale’ and ‘Gross National Happiness,’ the question arises: What’s happiness really?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside advocates that 50 percent of a given human’s happiness level is genetically determined, 10 percent is affected by life circumstances and situation, and a remaining 40 percent of happiness is subject to self-control.
But that’s just one theory. There are so many others, made up by psychologists, analysts, spiritual leaders and philosophers. Pretty much every religion in the world is a guide to attain true happiness, definition of which is still anything but consistent.
The Joy of Giving
I’m sure all of us, as kids, were taught to share; to give, and to impart what one had. Consequently, we were also taught that giving away materialistic resource to others is more pleasurable and satisfying than accumulating it for oneself. In essence, to make others happy was considered a fool-proof method of attaining happiness oneself. Popular studies conducted by Harvard University agree with the theory. But how does that work? How is it that it’s okay for your friend to be delighted when you gift him a new vintage fountain pen, while it is more satisfying to you only when you do so and not keep it yourself?
Anyway, how much material does one need to be happy? Is it infinite? Or is it so little that we fail to make note of its saturation during our measurement?
We all are happy when we get what we need, and – of course – seemingly happier when we get what we want. But let’s face it; beyond the point at which people have enough to comfortably feed, clothe, and house themselves, having more money – even a lot more money – makes them only a little bit happier, which is probably what they mean when they say money cannot ‘buy’ happiness.
I like to believe that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit to suppress the intrinsic fear that every human being carries in the dark corners of his mind: fear of being mortal. There is a deep fear that one’s life will be lived in vain – without making a contribution, or a benign difference, to the lives of others. Pursuit of happiness is probably the pursuit towards creating something that adds purpose to life. It probably means getting on with the things that are important for you to do, exercising your capacities, actively trying to “realize” what you care about and bring it into life so that you will be remembered for it.
For man is mortal, and there’s no way around it. And they say that no one truly dies until every last person who remembers them ceases to exist. Perhaps, the pursuit of happiness is an attempt to achieve that state, where one is loved and continues to live in people’s memories – something that can be achieved only by giving; to the society.
But is this personal agenda of any value to the society as a whole? Is the pursuit of this elusive state doing any good to the people around them, or the environment? And if it did, how much does it affect the others’ need to pursue the same?
If the pinnacle of happiness is not materialistic, well, what is it? Is it the end of life itself? And if the end of life is the pinnacle of happiness, how does it make sense to pursue it?
A good life is still a life. It must involve a full share of suffering, loneliness, disappointment and coming to terms with one’s own mortality and the deaths of those one loves. To live a life that is good as a life involves all this. – John Armstrong
Perhaps, the pinnacle of happiness lies in the sense of reassurance that one experiences – the reassurance of being remembered for as long as it can go. Maybe that’s why it feels great to practice arts, or sciences, for it attempts to make the life of people better, and give them the reassurance of living a fulfilling life than what they were looking forward to. Well, it’s the simplest way to experience the joy of living.