on happiness

For the past 6 hours I have been trying to maneuver through two semesters of chemistry information and two chapters of calculus problems. I stopped midway through for a run and shower and then retreated back to my homestead of a wooden desk and piles of books. I now lie in bed unashamedly watching High School Musical, only after failed Netflix-attempts to watch The Rugrats Movie and Emperor’s New Groove. The older I get the more contrasting I find my own mind and desires – a delicate balance between MathScienceLogic and ArtFemininePlayful. A dynamic balance I personally adore so greatly. Nonetheless, between glances of dramatized acting and adolescent romance, I thought I would write. Due to the current conditions of a certain inviting twin bed, I thought I would write about happiness.

Aristotle writes in his Nicomachean Ethics about happiness, and I really find it to be quite interesting. In my philosophy class we often discuss happiness and its origins, meaning, and value. Opinions differ widely which adds complexity to the conversation, although not deterring from the importance of the talk. I have found happiness does differ from everyone, but there is something within everyone’s idea of happiness that shares a common thread. This unique quality among all the ideas of happiness is where I believe the meaning remains.

Aristotle writes about happiness as an active condition and as the ultimate end of all human action and life. In philosophical dialect the preceding sentence probably transfers understanding, but to me, and probably most, my questions were “what is an ‘active condition’?” and “what is an ‘end’ and what does it mean to be working towards one?” So these are the questions I will answer.

The first, concerning an active condition, actually makes logical sense. To Aristotle (disclaimer of high likelihood my interpretation is different from others, the beauty of philosophy), happiness is mobile and living. Happiness isn’t something that you have just because you don’t experience sadness, grief, or pain. Happiness isn’t something you have when you only have positive outcomes in life. Happiness resides within all of us. As we are active humans, happiness is active alongside us. To be an ‘active condition’ to me, means that it must satisfy some requirements. Initially, the word active can equate to alive, mobile, thriving, and functional. Next, ‘condition’ can mean a state, a regulation, or something that accompanies other things or has other things accompany it. So for happiness to be an ‘active condition’ means that it legislates the necessity for both of these requisites to be satisfied. Happiness must be living and it must be with us in some way. Happiness is the way in which we shape and mold our views of the world. Before I expand on this, I will answer the second question concerning an end.

Happiness, to Aristotle, is presumably the ultimate end of all human action. For all things in life we are working towards achieving happiness. Whether it be in moments or in years, happiness is undeniably a desirable product of our behaviors. Is everything we do because of a deeper desire to revive our happiness? When you think about the underlying reasons for why we do a lot of our actions (i.e. study 6 hours for exams and gain neck cramps) then it is hard not to realize how motivated our actions are by happiness. I am not fully convinced that happiness is the end, but I think it may be an end. (For clarity, by the term ‘end’ I mean something that people work towards through action and habituation).

There are many things that shape and create our perspectives of the world. I think largely our spirituality and meaning of life is derived from a higher being. I know my personal world and purpose is orchestrated by my Lord Jesus Christ. My inner being, my deepest purpose, my most robust feelings, all of these things are at the core of my belief and faith in Christ the Lord. Evolving from my faith my view of the world been created. Beauty in the ordinary, Truth in the undiscovered, an infatuation with written word, a desire to understand more of the natural world, a sensitivity for other people and their souls, and a deep curiosity. Happiness is at the core of my actions and emotions. As an active condition, happiness remains with me during the worst of times and the most beautiful of times. I am not bereft of happiness when I experience periods of uncertainty or loneliness. Happiness is still with me when I am overjoyed with blessings. Happiness is there through it all.

I think in a way we must find happiness as much as it must find us. Some people neglect the active condition by inactivating it. They resume a less-than-desirable condition (misery, bitterness, envy, or negativity) instead. Happiness will find you when you find it.

Find it in the faces of the people you see everyday. Find it in the moments of burning jealousy. Find happiness in the pain and the pleasure. Find happiness in the joy and in the sadness. Find happiness every day, every moment, every second. When you decide to seek the fullest life and happiness is an integral part of that, I am certain that it will seek you in return. I hope it happens in the most fruitful and endearing of ways.



3 responses to “on happiness”

  1. Hey Mary, it’s Amber!

    I just wanted to tell you that your writing moved me to tears. Actual tears. It’s exactly what I had needed to hear for a very long time. “Happiness isn’t something that you have just because you don’t experience sadness, grief, or pain. Happiness isn’t something you have when you only have positive outcomes in life.” I realized after reading your post that I’ve lost count for how many days, months, even years that I’ve struggled with finding my own definition of “happiness,” and I realized I was settling and have been stuck in this almost lifeless state of being where if I don’t feel heartache or pain, then that means I’m happy. But you’re absolutely right. Not hurting doesn’t equate to being truly, exceptionally happy, whether that is with the people and life around us, or being “okay” with even ourselves.That’s something I really needed to hear. I just wanted to thank you for what you wrote- your work is powerful, and truly enlightened me to reevaluate my current state of mind.

    So, thank you!

  2. Amber-

    Thank you so much for just reading my post! Happiness can seem elusive sometimes, but realizing that we are always capable of attaining happiness no matter what our conditions are at the moment is liberating! Emotions will come and go – we all feel upset, uncertain, anxious, angry, lonely, envious – but happiness is what remains constant when our feelings are otherwise unstable. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, that touches my heart! Thank you.

  3. vincentcarlos Avatar

    that’s awesome you learn about happiness in philosophy. I think more colleges need to teach subjects like this more:) chapter 2 of civilization and it’s discontents by Freud is probably the greatest chapter on happiness that I have ever read,. In the book Freud says, “We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things,” meaning you have to first be unhappy to appreciate being happy. You must first experience the pain of hunger to experience the joy of eating. Happiness is when needs of high intensity are met, therefore they can only be brief experiences. When any desired situation is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild comfort. So to be continuously full on food would rob you from the pleasure of eating the food you enjoy. The reason we struggle to find continual happiness is because happiness is a contrast.Too many people try to pursue happiness, and they overindulge in what they think will make them happy. But overindulging in anything such as food or happiness will guarantee that you won’t find any happiness. We are not made to experience continual happiness, therefore our ability to be happy is limited by our biology. Daniel Lieberman, a biologist and anthropologist at Harvard University, says, “No organism is primarily adapted to be happy.” I also think happiness is in every single one of us, but it is not continual happiness. we should strive to be content and grateful for our lives with bursts of happiness every now and then. you gave me your thoughts on happiness, so just giving mine:) great post:))

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