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.

 

 

a reflection

Written below is an essay I was required to read for one of my classes. I always enjoy reading these essays, because even if they are not very enlightening, or liberating, or moderately interesting, they always provide me with some kind of insight – either positive or negative, but always advantageous to some degree. This essay, Happy Like God, is written by Simon Critchley, professor and chair of philosophy at the New School for Social Research.

“What is happiness? How does one get a grip on this most elusive, intractable and perhaps unanswerable of questions?

I teach philosophy for a living, so let me begin with a philosophical answer. For the philosophers of Antiquity, notably Aristotle, it was assumed that the goal of the philosophical life — the good life, moreover — was happiness and that the latter could be defined as the bios theoretikos, the solitary life of contemplation. Today, few people would seem to subscribe to this view. Our lives are filled with the endless distractions of cell phones, car alarms, commuter woes and the traffic in Bangalore. The rhythm of modern life is punctuated by beeps, bleeps and a generalized attention deficit disorder.

But is the idea of happiness as an experience of contemplation really so ridiculous? Might there not be something in it? I am reminded of the following extraordinary passage from Rousseau’s final book and his third (count them — he still beats Obama 3-to-2) autobiography, “Reveries of a Solitary Walker”:

If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul. (emphases mine)

This is as close to a description of happiness as I can imagine. Rousseau is describing the experience of floating in a little rowing boat on the Lake of Bienne close to Neuchâtel in his native Switzerland. He particularly loved visiting the Île Saint Pierre, where he used to enjoy going for exploratory walks when the weather was fine and he could indulge in the great passion of his last years: botany. He would walk with a copy of Linneaus under his arm, happily identifying plants in areas of the deserted island that he had divided for this purpose into small squares.

Our lives are filled with endless distractions, but is the idea of happiness as an experience of contemplation really so ridiculous?

On the way to the island, he would pull in the oars and just let the boat drift where it wished, for hours at a time. Rousseau would lie down in the boat and plunge into a deep reverie. How does one describe the experience of reverie: one is awake, but half asleep, thinking, but not in an instrumental, calculative or ordered way, simply letting the thoughts happen, as they will.

Happiness is not quantitative or measurable and it is not the object of any science, old or new. It cannot be gleaned from empirical surveys or programmed into individuals through a combination of behavioral therapy and anti-depressants. If it consists in anything, then I think that happiness is this feeling of existence, this sentiment of momentary self-sufficiency that is bound up with the experience of time

Look at what Rousseau writes above: floating in a boat in fine weather, lying down with one’s eyes open to the clouds and birds or closed in reverie, one feels neither the pull of the past nor does one reach into the future. Time is nothing, or rather time is nothing but the experience of the present through which one passes without hurry, but without regret. As Wittgenstein writes in what must be the most intriguing remark in the “Tractatus,” “the eternal life is given to those who live in the present.” Or ,as Whitman writes in “Leaves of Grass”: “Happiness is not in another place, but in this place…not for another hour…but this hour.”

Rousseau asks, “What is the source of our happiness in such a state?” He answers that it is nothing external to us and nothing apart from our own existence. However frenetic our environment, such a feeling of existence can be achieved. He then goes on, amazingly, to conclude, “as long as this state lasts we are self-sufficient like God.”

God-like, then. To which one might reply: Who? Me? Us? Like God? Dare we? But think about it: If anyone is happy, then one imagines that God is pretty happy, and to be happy is to be like God. But consider what this means, for it might not be as ludicrous, hybristic or heretical as one might imagine. To be like God is to be without time, or rather in time with no concern for time, free of the passions and troubles of the soul, experiencing something like calm in the face of things and of oneself.

Why should happiness be bound up with the presence and movement of water? This is the case for Rousseau and I must confess that if I think back over those experiences of blissful reverie that are close to what Rousseau is describing then it is often in proximity to water, although usually saltwater rather than fresh. For me, it is not so much the stillness of a lake (I tend to see lakes as decaffeinated seas), but rather the never-ending drone of the surf, sitting by the sea in fair weather or foul and feeling time disappear into tide, into the endless pendulum of the tidal range. At moments like this, one can sink into deep reverie, a motionlessness that is not sleep, but where one is somehow held by the sound of the surf, lulled by the tidal movement.

Is all happiness solitary? Of course not. But one can be happy alone and this might even be the key to being happy with others. Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud when walking with his sister. However, I think that one can also experience this feeling of existence in the experience of love, in being intimate with one’s lover, feeling the world close around one and time slips away in its passing. Rousseau’s rowing boat becomes the lovers’ bed and one bids the world farewell as one slides into the shared selfishness of intimacy.

…And then it is over. Time passes, the reverie ends and the feeling for existence fades. The cell phone rings, the e-mail beeps and one is sucked back into the world’s relentless hum and our accompanying anxiety.”

Essay found on NYtimes.com.

muddy water

One of my greatest dislikes in someone’s character is simply mediocrity. I don’t care who you are or what circumstances you are under, you are worth more than being mediocre. Falling short to the undeniably gifted talents God has given you is sad to me.. I am not trying to be harsh. I just think it is so important to realize talent and utilize it. It is my belief that we are all unique in personality and we are each responsible for contributing to the world something great. Whether that be someone who can bake cakes, care for children at a daycare, treat the sick, create music, entertain with athleticism, WHATEVER your talent is, it is useful. Don’t be mediocre. Don’t fall victim to society’s relatively low standards of talent recognition. Don’t do something because it’s “easy” or “acceptable”. Do what you are good at it. And do a lot of it. And grow a passion for it.

Ahhh, yes. Passion.

Passion awakens the soul. Passion makes life bright. Passion lies within every harbored and complex mind. Passion is within all of us. Some will choose to feed it and water it and love it and create something amazing with it. Others will let it die. Don’t be the latter person. Develop a passion for something, someone, anything. Just be passionate. This world is full of muddy, polluted water.

Don’t be dirty water.

Don’t be the leftovers. Or the one that is left behind after everything else has been cleaned. Be the fresh, pioneering person that creates rare paths and casts new light on existing institutions. Be the person that thinks differently, acts differently. I don’t care if you have a passion for trading baseball cards. Just don’t be a mediocre baseball card trader. Don’t be a casually involved grandmother, if being a grandmother is your passion. Make footprints that don’t get washed away. If you love music, create music. If you love singing, sing. Follow your passions. Follow the things that keep you awake at night but are also the things that illustrate your dreams. Passion makes doing things that are difficult or challenging or, shall we even say, impossible doable. Passion is as strong as “You’re not good enough.” Passion is stronger than “You can’t do that.” Passion prevails.

When I was a sophomore in high school, a lofty two years ago, I was heavily concerned with the fact that I felt as if I didn’t have any passions. Truly. What inspired me? What made me want to be a better person? What made me want to move forward and pursue something? I have always loved science. I have always loved painting. I have not always loved reading or writing or recognizing beautiful things in everyday life. I realize now in retrospect that I was so concerned with others, with relationships, with ideologies, that I didn’t take time to explore what motivated me or made me feel happy. This is so important!! Try new things. Take existing passions (art, for example) and adventure into different areas related to that to see if you like new things (writing and reading, for example). Be passionate people. It is such a flattering quality to possess!

So don’t be mediocre. Don’t be like the rest of the world, because they are average. You are not average. You are worth ten thousand times more than your average self. You are rare. You hold something that is creative and ready to blossom within you. Go swing a bat, take an art class, babysit a child, shadow a doctor, help the elderly, write some poems, go for a run. Be proactive. Be intriguing. Be passionate 🙂


some of my everyday mantras:

  • you are worth more than this
  • you are more than a body
  • God has so much planned for you
  • the hardest day still only has 24 hours
  • love like Jesus
  • the future is brighter than the brightest moment of the present
  • you are different, but you are unique

weighting on the world to change

I am not a writer. I cannot formulate words into the sentences I want them to be read. I hear my thoughts and I want other people to hear them, but it is often hard for me to communicate my thoughts to other people. I am an awkward person. I am a real person who gets uncomfortable in situations. This post is going to be careless. Not careless in the way that I don’t care what I am writing, but careless in the fashion that my grammar may be wrong at times. I may not make sense. Actually, I probably won’t make sense (that is how my brain functions). I am going to write my thoughts as I think them, not as I want them read. I have always enjoyed writing, whether it be prose fiction or research papers. I enjoy writing, but why?

I enjoy learning. I thoroughly enjoy learning. I am a creative thinker. I love to create things in my mind. Scenarios. Problems, realistic and scientific. Stories. I love learning about new people. I love discovering new places. I am passionate about gaining knowledge in every aspect of my life. I have always said I have a curious mind but honestly I think I have a curious heart. I am passionate about learning about other people. Their likes, dislikes, loves, hates, emotions, worries. I love learning about people. I often silently watch others and just soak up what I observe. How they speak, how they articulate their words, how they choose to love, how they choose to breathe even. Every body is different. And I mean that in every body is different.

I hate the media.

We as women are so often, for lack of better words, tricked into believing lies. Skinny women are everywhere. NO, photoshop and hungry celebrities are everywhere. This post is written for myself. The average weight of an American woman has gone up 11 pounds in 20 years according to thehuffingtonpost.com. The ideal weight for an American woman is 140 pounds. We, on average, weigh 156 pounds. Now, I don’t weigh 156 pounds. Or 140 pounds. I know women that do though. I have a petite frame. I have always been naturally skinny, but I am just as victimized by the unrealistic idea of beauty that is portrayed in the media as my other lady accomplices that weigh 156 pounds.

I hate the media.

I looked myself in the mirror this morning and kind of freaked out. Not because I was embracing my typically atrocious morning hair. But I thought to myself (prepare for the messy thoughts I conceive), this is who I am. I am this face, I am this hair, I am this body, and these eyes. I am those feet and these hands. To other people, this is who I am. But to myself, I am not those things. 90% of the day I never see my face. The other 10% I am taking snapchats or fixing my messy hair in the bathroom mirror. The 90% is who I really am. I am my thoughts. I am my actions. I am my words. I am not my body weight or jean size. I am not my brown eyes or green nails. My body is merely a camping place for my brain and my heart. One day, my two most important inhabitants will get up, and leave. And my body will be left here. The exact thing I have been agonizing over and perfecting for all this time will be left behind. What will be left of me?

Oh yeah, those two things we oh so frequently forget about. The first, my brain. What did I leave in this world. Did I make a difference? Did I learn all of the things I wanted to learn? Did I learn about people and places and things and emotions? I want to learn about those things before I leave. Did I create something beautiful? Or did I destroy something beautiful? Did my thoughts build me up or break me down?

The second, my heart. Did I love passionately? I hope I gave. I hope I graciously and openly always gave. I want to give to others. Love, hope, and faith. Did I share my feelings? Did I tell every single person I knew that I loved them? I hope I created something beautiful. I hope I loved openly. I want to embrace my heart. I hope I was sensitive. I want to be sensitive to others. I want to invite others into my tent. If someone can make it past the flaws in my camping place, they can fully embrace my delicate brain and complex heart. If someone can see past their own camping grounds. Their own flaws. The rocks they have lying around their grounds. The wind that affects their tent. The trouble that storms have left on their place. If someone can move past all of those imperfections and enter into the tent of their beautiful mind and heart, they have won. They have beat the media, their own minds, the words and actions of others, and the war against themselves. See past your imperfections. See past your flaws. See past your weight and hair and face and clothes and image. Look inside your tent and care about your mind and your soul. Care about the things you hold inside you.

Our bodies are a camping place that one day the greater things inside us will get up and leave. Make sure what you take with you is greater than what is left in the ground behind you.

some thoughts

  1. We are more than the things we see every day
  2. We are the words we say and the actions we perform
  3. A weight cannot make you beautiful
  4. You can beautiful at any weight
  5. The media lies to us
  6. We choose to accept those lies
  7. We need to stop accepting those lies
  8. Everyday is a beautiful day
  9. There are ugly moments in every day
  10. We must embrace them
  11. Beauty truly comes from within you
  12. A heart that gives is more beautiful than a hand that gives
  13. number 12 might not make sense
  14. Give loving words in private not loving gifts in public

I love you guys and I pray we all, talking directly to myself here, love ourselves for what we are worth on the inside. Not the outside.

xoxoxo

mary catherine

We must start somewhere.

Image

I love to write. Since I was a little girl, I have always enjoyed writing. Back then it was fictional stories written in school about magical places and unusual events. Now I love writing about my life. I love to reflect and I love to encourage. If I could have a dream job, it would be helping people in any way I can. I love people and I truly love life. I have quite a few passions; however, I haven’t always had passion in my life. Just recently I have realized what it means to love something so much and enjoy every minute of it. This has brought new meaning to my everyday life. I am creating my own thoughts and opinions. I am developing MY life the way I want to live it. I am learning to appreciate things the mindless teenage girl in me didn’t appreciate. So what are my passions? I can honestly say I am still finding them out. Currently I love working out and weightlifting, creating delicious meals, crafting antique things, beautiful music, messy fashion, learning, and reading classic novels. On this blog I am hoping to share my thoughts, recipes, workouts, book recommendations and critiques, crafts&DIYs, and so so much more. I will try to post every day that I can. I will leave you guys with this word – start living your life. Not for someone else, not for the world. But for yourself and for your God. Learn to appreciate the bad times, because weakness makes us stronger. Learn to look up from your electronic device and love the world He has created for us. Learn new music, step outside of your boundaries. Listen to classical music, rock music, alternative, indie, Christian contemporary, just listen. Embrace your beauty and embrace what you have been given. Because I promise you – it can be taken from you at any moment. And it just might be…so starting loving, start learning, and start living.

xoxo,

marycatherine