Anyone can wish to be happy, just as a person can wish for good health, but unless we exert ourselves in the right way, i.e. apply the appropriate means to achieve and maintain such a state, we are but participating in wishful thinking. Let’s determine what happiness is, and whether its acquisition is worth the effort. Do we possess the ability to achieve it and what method is most suitable for such an end? Can it be maintained and how might we enrich our experience of it?
For all intents and purposes let us define happiness as: a habitual activity conducive to ones good; namely, the exercise of virtue.
Now in order to attain virtue – the mean between excess & defect – we require the light of reason to guide our actions. Sufficient health & wealth are essential. We must also keep our passions and desires in check if we wish to keep our aim steady and our mind free of distractions.
Happiness is not the same thing as being contented or complacent, gratified or excited. Despite popular opinion it is not a feeling per se or about having lots of fun, yet positive emotions such as joy will result from being happy, for the ongoing act of exercising virtue is a rewarding one. We cannot pin point it in the body for it is an activity of the soul. Abject poverty and greed do not bring about a happy life. Neither is it a form of excess or defect, nor is it vile or care free. We cannot simply will happiness into existence, but we can choose the means to attain it and daily work towards its realization. True happiness is not temporary or intermittent. Misfortune can’t destroy it over night, and even if death should steal our breath away, it cannot take away our happiness or rob us of our peace of mind.
Virtues can be divided into different categories but the two main kinds are moral and intellectual. Moral has to do with becoming accustomed to certain activities. It largely has to do with the way we behave, such as being moderate and courageous. Whereas the intellectual virtues aid cognitive or mental processes, they help us to discern the truth and exercise good judgement.
There are a number of things that can enrich our experience of happiness, some of which are: invigorating friendships, an optimistic outlook of the world, education, good government, meaningful goals that engage natural strengths & talents, and a sense of mission that supports the good of the community. We each enter this world with a unique temperament and capacity for intelligence. Depending on the environment in which we are fostered and the fortunes that come our way, our ability to reach for greater goods are both limited and unbounded due to such variables. Yet by and large our life is shaped through the quality of decisions we make on a regular bases. Poor choices lead to poor conditions. Good decisions increase our chances of being happy, thus living the good life.
Love & light,