On Happiness Essay, Research Paper
Not many people are happy, but all the libraries are filled with books on happiness, and this very fact should make us curious.
The Ancients gave us dozens of recipes on how to conduct a happy life, each of them contradicting the other, or at least, with
very dissimilar opinions. The Modernity has its own solutions up to the negation of the very possibility of having a happy life.
And recently, mister Francis H. came up with his own idea of happiness. He argues that the problem of happiness can be
reduced to wealth, knowledge and a personal belief of being “in control” of one’s own life. Let’s at first consider these factors.
Wealth is important, according to mister Francis H., because it allows the satisfaction of one’s basic needs. It seems to me that
if it was true, the Ancients had no chance to be happy at all and we can not be happy as well, since in the time to come people
will be even more wealthy than they are now (see later on the part of my essay “On Future”) and able to better satisfy their
needs. Well, I guess the notion of wealth is just relative. Same as basic needs which can cause even more trouble. What are
basic needs? Color TV and refrigerator or your own jet plane? Or maybe just a barrel in a harbor as Diogenes showed us?
Knowledge. In my opinion the problem with knowledge may be similar to the wealth issue. Knowledge in general (meant as
scientific knowledge) has increased dramatically over the last centuries, but arguing that this has contributed to general
happiness is at least risky, not to mention superfluous. This problem has two main aspects, firstly, its relativity (as in the case of
wealth); we can fly to Venus and kill most of the microbes but there is still much more to be done. Secondly, its validity in the
pure aspect, as giving us answers about the world and life in general. On the other hand, as far as personal knowledge, or
education, or one’s intelligence goes, I don’t really see any direct correlation between what one knows and is capable of doing
to his own happiness. History can supply us with arguments to both sides. If you don’t like history, go to the nearest psychiatric
hospital to see the lack of correlation.
Here we come to the third aspect of happiness: The personal belief of being “in control”. This is not just a relative factor as the
two previous ones. This is a subjective factor, and, to me, the only real one. It is founded on one’s opinion or interpretation of
external events, or one’s own character, whatever you call it. Therefore it is crucial and subsumes all the rest. One is happy
when he believes he is happy.
Let’s discuss for a moment the problem of inclination that one has towards the opinions of others. The level of this inclination is
in most of our fellow citizens very high, assessing by mere observation or giving just a little thought to the way commercials are
made. The basis of advertising is the assumption that the public is incapable of having its own judgment, and this assumption
must be right, otherwise the commercials would look different. How can you be happy if you didn’t yet go to disneyland or
didn’t have a big mac for dinner? Reversing the mode of commercials we could make a lot of people happy insisting that they
are happy because they have so much. And this is what the politicians try to do when running for re-election. They know the
power of playing on people’s lack of judgment. “You people should be happy because each of you has a house with a
backyard, and we lowered the taxes!”, or something like that. A similar thing happens in the relation between people where the
incapability of judging on one’s own results in following fashions or mimicking behavior, or in envying others’ achievements or
way of life (since other people’s lives so often look good when viewed from the outside). Therefore, because the follower can
never be satisfied, the requirement of happiness is to have your own judgment.
Schopenhauer rightly noticed that people always have serious problems, no matter what is happening. He asserted that the total
level of one’s disturbance by problems remains constant over time. If somebody breaks his leg, his problem is the broken leg
and not, for example, being yelled at by a stranger on the street. In such a situation the encounter with this stranger doesn’t
matter at all. On the other hand, if he didn’t break his leg, the great problem accounting for a sleepless night would be this
stranger. Therefore, the solution or avoidance of one problem does not help at all in being content, a new one is just ready to
take its place. I thing this is a great remark on human behavior and it should be kept in mind such as to make life easier.