Most wishes are for happiness. Most people say that they are seeking happiness. But the truth is that when we talk about happiness, are we really aware of the nature of this feeling?
“the concept of happiness is such an indeterminate that although every
human being wishes to achieve it, he can never determinately and self-
consinstently say what he really wishes and wills”. Immanuel Kant
We can reach happiness through daily practice, as so many self-help books suggest, or is it just something that “happens” to us and make us feel good?
It is notable that in many European languages the etymology of the word happy comes from words that mean to be somebody favored by fortune. The ancient word “hap” meant chance or a person’s luck. The Greek word “ευτυχία” is a synthetic word of good (“ευ”) + luck (“τύχη”). And, the ancient Greeks were using the word “eudaimonia” for happiness, which meant to have a good “demon” (spirit), a favorable destiny from gods. Also, the Latin word “felicitas” that all Roman languages use for happiness, the French word “heureux” or “bonheur”, the German word “gluecklich” and the Russian word “счастливый” have analogous etymology and meaning. Even, the Chinese ideogram Fú 福 means both “good fortune” and “happiness”. This convergence of etymologies isn’t accidental. It shows something that contemporary, rational human brain sometimes forget; that happiness isn’t only about personal efforts or unique characteristics, like intelligence, virtue or bravery. It’s also about propitious circumstances!
I recently read the book of the anthropologist Desmond Morris, The nature of happiness. It’s a very interesting book and it can be read very easily. One of its most interesting parts is the definition that Morris gives for happiness. Most people think that happiness is a long-lasting feeling; once you conquer it, “you will live happily ever after,” if for example you win the lottery or you find the true love in a person. But Morris argues, and many will agree with him, we feel the intense emotion of happiness for a while, when something happens and our situation is improved radically; the moment our child is born or the time of our wedding, dating someone we felt in love, an important prize, a salary increase, a promotion, a lottery winning, passing an important test or exam, a super-delicious meal, a successful mountain climbing or winning in sports. All of these and million others can offer us moments of bliss; memorable happy moments, full of excitement, satisfaction, and fulfilment, even though after a while we will be again in the search of the next happy “x”.
I think this realization of the nature of happiness is revealing and it can save us from future bitterness and disappointments. When we look back to our life, we don’t have to look for a long happy period “from A to Z”, but for many happy moments: “a happy moment A, a happier moment B, e.t.c; the more frequent they are, the less unhappy and miserable we feel!
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