Superficially it might be said that one could hope for no better compliment at his funeral or memorial than for his chief eulogist's theme approvingly to be "He had a long and happy life." But, as we shall see below, this pronouncement could be a case of "damning with faint praise."
Lest we become too self-assured and complacent in the eulogist's implied endorsement of happiness as the highest star to reach for, one might advisedly pause, as Hamlet did, and actually THINK, "That would be scanned."
Before even getting to exactly what happiness is, surely there are among us those who would prefer to have, let's say, sufficient challenge and struggle to gain a greater degree of self-awareness or self-knowledge ("Know thyself," proclaimed the Delphic oracle), even if at the expense of sacrificing some euphoric happiness and innocence for more understanding and/or wisdom of what life and the human condition actually are. Such people would rigorouly take issue with the poet's facile conclusion, "If ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."
Perhaps we should establish exactly what we're talking about, that is, the dictionary's definition of happiness as having two key components: (1) luck or chance from the Old Norse form "happ" and (2) a state of satisfaction or gratification from the Latin form "satiare" (sufficient or enough). It's this latter meaning of "satiation" that gives one the first "warning" sign that happiness is not necessarily the ideal state it initially might seem to be. Believe it or not, appearances can be deceiving.
There are at least two main perspectives or contexts in which to frame this entire philosophical as well as practical analysis of happiness: (1) happiness as an over-arching and general condition prevailing throughout one's life, as in "He had a happy life" and (2) happiness as a moment-by-moment continuum on a graph of the type in one's Red Room dashboard, which for everyone is almost certain to have its peaks and valleys along the way.
In the ongoing experience of daily living, one is most acutely aware of and appreciates any condition, either mental or physical, in contrast with its opposite. For example, have you ever noticed that after having an illness such as a severe flu, you are much more aware of how great it is to be in just your normal state of health? One can also humorously imagine Aristotle placing happiness in the middle or moderate position of a spectrum ranging from the excess of "giddy unawareness" to a deficiency labeled "pervasive gloominess."
Thus, even if it were ideally possible for one to be in a continuous state of satisfaction and good fortune, it's a psychological reality that anyone in such a constant euphoric state would probably not be as aware of it or appreciate it as much as someone who periodically experiences setbacks and misfortunes, to say nothing of this unusually "happy" person quite likely having a questionable if not laughable public image as basically the town simpleton.
Our logical analysis of happiness here may have its scholarly merits but one could also view it as somewhat irrelevant and impractical intellectual posturing removed from everyday life. With this counterview in mind, the following descriptive definition of happiness that I once heard from a psychologist in a forum works best for me: Happiness is having someone and/or something to love, something meaningful and rewarding to do, and something to hope for. In my opinion, one could hardly "top" that!
Causes Brenden Allen Supports