Happiness. People see happiness as some sort of emotion. If you have a nice car, big house, and are super wealthy, then you must be happy. If you have a model’s body, perfect hair, and straight, white teeth, then you must be happy. Basically, if people look at you and see all of this “stuff” they think you are happy. What most people do not realize is that happiness is not an emotion. It is a state of being.
Aristotle states that “Happiness, therefore, does not consist in amusement; and indeed it is absurd to suppose that the end is amusement, and that we toil and moil all our life long for the sake of amusing ourselves. We may say that we choose everything for the sake of something else, expecting only happiness; for it is the end. But to be serious and to labour for the sake of amusement seems silly and childish; while to amuse ourselves in order that we may be serious , as Anacharsis say, seems to be right; for amusement is a sort of recreation, and we need recreation because we are unable to work continuously. Recreation, then, cannot be the end; for it is taken as a means to the exercise of our faculties. Again, the happy life is thought to be that which exhibits virtue; and such a life must be serious and cannot consist in amusement.”
If our final end is supposed to be happiness, then how can worldly desires (amusement) be considered part of our happiness? It cannot. We spend our time working on a routine schedule because that is the normal thing to do. People can say “I am happy with my life,” but if they live their lives in amusement, have they ever obtained true happiness? Or are there different types of happiness?
“Kisses from Katie” is a book about a young girl who, during her senior year of high school, took a mission trip over Christmas break to Uganda. She was so moved by the people she met in Uganda that she decided it was her calling give up a college education, her long-term boyfriend, and her entire life in Nashville, Tennessee to move to Uganda in a town where she did not know the language and she knew only one person. She started an organization called Amazima Ministries that connects orphans to sponsors who can support that child. Now, at the age of twenty-one, Katie Davis has adopted fourteen daughters of her own. This story is nothing short of inspiring, but how does this connect with happiness?
Although I do not personally know Katie Davis, I do know that materialism is unimportant to a person with such dedication to people she gave up her life for. Aristotle says, “And, indeed, all the characteristics that men expect to find happiness seem to belong to happiness as we define it.” Katie demonstrates that external goods cannot be seen in the form of happiness because happiness is not being happy. Our final end is happiness, then it must be good.
I suppose defining “good” or “goodness” is important at this point. An example was given in class that discussed the goodness of an act that two men performed. The first man is a monk. He grew up with a sheltered life and did very little wrong. He was ordained into the ministry and was on a walk down the street when he sees a homeless man. He nods at the homeless man with acknowledgement because he has no money and continues on his way. The second man is a man who has not had as easy of a life as the monk. He was just released from jail on a charge of stealing. He has vowed that he is a changed man and that he will never steal again. Just as the monk walked down the street, the ex-felon walks the same path. He also has no money on his person. He walks by the homeless man and has the sudden urge to steal the money that the homeless man has collected from previous travelers. The ex-felon looks at him, but resists the urge to steal from the homeless man and continues on his way.
Now, looking at these two stories, which of these two men is the “better” man? Which act is considered “good?” In our class discussion, many people said that when the ex-felon decided not to take the money, that was clearly the better act because he resisted temptation. However, I disagree. Neither act is “better” than the other because the same act was done. Neither of the men stole from the homeless man; therefore, both acts are equally good. Which is the better man?
In society, we feel that when someone overcomes an obstacle, they should be seen in a greater light. I also disagree with this statement. I feel that the monk is the better man because he was not tempted. The ex-felon still possessed the thought of stealing from the homeless person; therefore, he is not at the same caliber of “goodness” as the monk. Even though the monk has never been through something where he would need to steal, it does not mean that he is any less “good” than someone who has. All in all, the monk is a better man and both acts are of the equivalent “goodness.”
With this example, the monk is closer to his final end than the ex-felon. The final end is happiness and the happiness consists of goodness; therefore, when you possess goodness, you are closer to your final end.
This is not to say that temptations and material items are camouflage of happiness. I do feel like one can possess happiness and also have many external goods. I do not feel like being blessed with a wealthy life style takes away from true happiness; however, it is easier to fall into the trap of worldly desires instead of relying on goodness. “Some hold it to be virtue or excellence, some prudence, others a kind of wisdom; others, again, hold it to be all of some of these, with the addition of pleasure, either as an ingredient or as a necessary accompaniment; and some even include external prosperity in their account of it.”
The definition of happiness changes from person to person, but one thing remains constant: everyone wants to obtain happiness. It is a universal state of being that brings joy to people. Even if someone is feeling sad, they can still have happiness. If someone is mad at a friend, it does not mean that they lack happiness. Happiness is confused for an emotion when, in reality, it is a state of being.
Overall, I feel that happiness is obtainable. Happiness is considered the final end, so if you do not have happiness, then it is not the final end. A friend told me once that everything will be okay at the end, and if it’s not okay, then it isn’t the end. I feel that happiness is the end; therefore, if you do not have happiness you can never fully reach your final end. To clarify, the final end is not death. Just because someone dies does not mean that they have reached their final end. Some people never do, but, to those who are lucky enough to reach it, they will be the happiest people because they have something the other people do not: true happiness.
As my last point I would like to say that I do not believe anyone can obtain true happiness on earth. With a world full of sin and destruction, I do not think it is possible. I feel like there is an earthly happiness that changes from person to person that people can obtain, but true happiness is unattainable on earth. True happiness is something we must wait for until after death when sin has left us. This happiness is only attainable in heaven. If one argues that heaven does not exist, then, in my opinion, you do not believe anyone can obtain happiness if you agree with my view on happiness.
. “The Minimalist.” Minimalism and Happiness. Spyrmedia. Web. 13 Dec 2012. <http://www.theminimalists.com/scientific/>.