Last year, I wrote 3 blogs called “In pursuit of happiness: part 1, 2 and 3. These blogs taught me a lot but still I felt that something was missing. Now I think I know what was missing: Happiness is a temporary state-of-mind. You can’t feel happy all the time. Happiness is part of something else.
A recent Greater Good blog connects the words ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’. While researching some articles on ‘well-being’, I noticed a 2012 book by Dr. Martin Seligman, the co-founder of the Positive Psychology / Authentic Happiness movement. Amazon: “While certainly a part of well-being, happiness alone doesn’t give life meaning“. Note: Italic marking by Amazon, bold by me.
Well-being – or perhaps contentment – appears to be the (semi) permanent state-of-mind. Martin Seligman mentions 5 pillars for this state of ‘well-being’: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment – or PERMA (University of Pennsylvania).
Essentially, the problem is one of semantics: “Most human languages reveal the origins of happiness as an involuntary state that emerges from luck or fortune. “Hap” is an old German word that means “chance”—think of the implications of other words that involve “hap,” like “hapless,” “perhaps,” or “happenstance.” This linguistic bias might prime us to think about happiness as passively received, lucky pleasure, rather than a product of intention and effort” (GreaterGood).
GreaterGood: “The emphasis on chance makes happiness seem rather random and arbitrary. But throughout recorded human history, thinkers have also rejected this way of thinking. According to Aristotle,  happiness is best expressed as a life lived with meaning and virtue – a conception that suggests true happiness might involve sacrifice or duty – and not always be a momentarily pleasurable or joyous affair. It also suggests that happiness is something you need to earn“.
Aristotle about the meaning of life: “…. the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue”. (The Pursuit of Happiness-Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a13)
Aristotle about the result of a meaningful life: “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life” (The Pursuit of Happiness, Nicomachean Ethics, 1101a10).
The Pursuit of Happiness: “According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc. — that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice”.
The meaning of life cannot be the pursuit of happiness as both happiness and well-being are the result of living a meaningful life. I think the meaning of life is to use your unique talents in the interest of humanity and also in your personal interest. At the end of our road, we shouldn’t need to wonder whether we lived a meaningful life. Obviously, talents need to be used for the purposes of virtue rather than vice. Vice may give meaning to Life but doesn’t create a meaningful life.
This blog was a very hard one to write. It wasn’t even my intention to write about this and it required lots of effort to complete it. I suppose because I’m still struggling about my meaning in Life despite living a meaningful life – albeit in my own view. To be continued.
Get a Life / What’s the Meaning (1989) by Soul II Soul
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-song
This thing called life
Know what’s the meaning of the line
Well, it’s like dreaming of your goals
Ambitions for feeling free
I’m on this mission to achieve
What’s in your mind’s eye
This is what you believe
You should gain
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.