The Greek Philosopher and the Jamaican Rastafari: One True Happiness Mon

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Anne-Marie Halovanic -Period 7- Honorbound

Almost every working ear around the globe has heard the majestic and vivid melodies of the notorious Jamaican reggae singer of the 60s and 70s, Bob Marley. As Reggae’s most transcendent and iconic figure, he spread his unique vibes and inspiring messages around the world, making him known as the “King of Reggae Music.”[1] As a follower of the Rastafarian Movement, an African-centered religion originally founded in the Caribbean island of Jamaica in the 1930’s from the decedents of former enslaved Africans, Marley used many roots from his Rastafari culture and beliefs in his songs, involving themes such as justice, peace, freedom, happiness, and redemption.[2] Bob Marley was a talented musician, poet, and preacher who not only gave a voice to the people in his native homeland of Jamaica but also to people at every end of the globe. Despite his acquired wealth, Marley did not believe much in the idea that one’s measure of wealth can lead to the road of true happiness, as he says, “Money is numbers and numbers never end, if it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.”[3] He had a specific view that the materialistic things in life will not fulfill human happiness and that those who pursue careers just to get rich will never end up living a happy life. Similarly in the writings of Aristotle, he preaches that true riches have a limit, and beyond that limit they are not considered true riches anymore and therefore cannot help you reach your final end goal of happiness.[4] Although Bob Marley’s musical career brought him great fame and fortune, I think that he and Aristotle would both agree that wealth is not what brings true happiness to man. At the brink of Marley’s life, he still felt that something was missing and had yet to be fulfilled in order to take a step closer to his path to happiness—that of which did not include the acquiring of wealth, but something else completely unanticipated.

As mentioned earlier, Bob Marley was an avid believer of the Rastafarian movement. Commonly known as “Rasta’s” they worship Halie Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia, as their God. Rastafari’s use the Bible as a Holy Book but they believe that Hallie Selassie is the Messiah of the Bible. They view Christianity and Rastafarianism as complete opposites and believe anyone who looks to Jesus Christ is considered blasphemes. But believe it or not, Selassie was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and he rejected the view that he was in any way a “God” and claimed that he never followed or led the Rastafarian movement,[5] which caused much controversy in the years to come and profoundly affected Bob Marley’s path nearing the end of his life.

In the Rasta culture, the Rastafari movement is thought more of as a way of life rather than a religion. They are universally known for wearing their hair in dreadlocks because it is seen as a rejection of personal vanity, and for smoking “ganja” which is used as a meditative tool to bring about self-realization and to heighten feelings of community.[6] In Marley’s youth he took up the Rasta religion and infused the vibes of the Rasta’s into his music beliefs and career, wanting nothing more than to be famous. He put the Rasta movement on the global music scene.[6] His listeners varied from the frat boys to the native Jamaican Rasta’s; he was seen as a “true Rasta man” who had began a whole new revolution of Reggae music.

Marley’s wealth was massive and his fan base was innumerable, but in his later years of his life he realized that these fortunes were not the means to fulfilling any man’s happiness. It wasn’t until Marley became diagnosed with terminal cancer that he had an epiphany which led him to realize what his path to true happiness was lacking: Jesus Christ. Marley had always wanted to convert to Christianity but he was close to many people who had control over him who were heavily involved in the Rastafari movement.[7] His musical career had entitled him to a role of leadership in Rastafari and those who revered him would have deeply scorned Marley if he ever converted. Yet after much contemplation, deep meditation, and the vile news of his diagnosis, he felt that he had no pressure to succumb to anymore and converted to Christianity in 1980.

Though along Marley’s path he spent most of his life preaching the worship of Selassie while denouncing the Christian faith, and though he had made such a conspicuous mark in the world while gaining all the riches he could ask for, he still felt severely unfulfilled. Marley searched deeply inside himself and realized that riches, fame, and success are purely material assets that only lead to other temporary pleasures. Converting to Christianity was that one step closer along the same path to his true happiness.

The course of Bob Marley’s life and the particular path he took to find his true happiness strongly relates to Aristotle’s perception of what precipitates the true happiness of man. Essentially both Marley and Aristotle share a complimentary intuition that wealth and riches cannot be one’s end goal of happiness, for true happiness is acquired through contemplation, reason, and is merely an end in itself.[8] Marley once said, “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold,” [9]meaning that you should not let yourself be enslaved to the materialistic possessions and lavish enticements of the world at the expense of your own soul because to Marley, it is better to be a wise man rather than a rich man. When you are a wise man you keep your dignity and self-respect, while when you are a rich man who chases money and riches, you are only led to chase for more money and more riches which can only lead to temporary pleasures, burgeoning into a relentless cycle of greed and unhappiness. This view Marley had correlates with Aristotle’s view of the wise man, “The wise man therefore is the most beloved of heaven; and therefore, we may conclude, the happiest.”[10] Aristotle on a similar note said, “And wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else.”[11] Aristotle extensively expounds on the idea of happiness and how wealth cannot be our end goal because wealth isn’t intrinsically valuable. We don’t desire wealth for the sake of its entirety; we desire wealth for the sake of what we can buy with it.

Wealth can possibly be used in order to help one attain your goal of happiness, but it cannot be your actual end goal, for virtue far exceeds wealth. Likewise, a lack in morality and a lack in perception of what to truly live for will undoubtedly lead to unhappiness. This is a direct reflection of what Marley realized at the end of his life: that regardless of how much money you make there is more to one’s personal happiness than money. He realized that Christ was the one true God and later denounced his Rastafari beliefs in Selassie. He found his happiness in Christianity through contemplation. He stopped succumbing to the pressure that was suppressing him from expressing his true virtues and beliefs, and instead he exercised his reasoning and faith by looking into what his soul was truly yearning for.

Aristotle teaches that happiness isn’t about reaching a particular state; it’s the activity of striving in a rational way to achieve a worthy goal. Happiness is a kind of speculation or contemplation.[12]People who forget virtue and reason and pursue their careers to get rich or to acquire endless amounts external goods will never be fully happy. “Happiness, whether consisting in pleasure or virtue, or both, is more often found with those who are highly cultivated in their minds and in their character, and have only a moderate share of external goods, than among those who possess external goods to a useless extent but are deficient in higher qualities.” [13] “For happiness was defined as a certain kind of exercise of the vital faculties in accordance with excellence or virtue.” [14]Wealth is never the ending mean for happiness, but if a man has acquired such wealth like Bob Marley, “The truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow.”[15]

Bob Marley once said, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”[16] Marley was a talented musician, poet, thinker, and preacher who left an everlasting stylistic vibe in the world and on the hearts of everyone who listens to his sensual and rythmic music. Aristotle believes that happiness is something final and completely self-sufficing, leading to be the end that all man does. Wealth, riches, and fame can never suffice as our end goal. Although Marely acquired such great amounts of money in his career, he kept looking for his happiness. He kept searching for answers while living the contemplative life and soon found his happiness to be in Christianity, not wealth. While Marley was lying down on his hospital bed right before he died, with all the strength he had, he slowly reached out to his oldest son Ziggy’s hand and clenched it tightly while he softly whispered, “money can’t buy life.” [17]

Footnotes

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “What Is Rastafarianism? Who Was Bob Marley?” Christian Courier. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley.

[2] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. December 10, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement.

[3] Virgia, Marco. “REGGAE REBELS “new” Footage of Bob Marley.” Bob Marley Magazine. February 25, 2009. Accessed December 8, 2014. http://www.bobmarleymagazine.com/interviews/showentry.php?e=4145.

[4] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 8.”  In The Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[5] Jackson, Wayne. “What Is Rastafarianism? Who Was Bob Marley?” Christian Courier. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley.

[6] “Worship and Customs.” BBC. October 9, 2009. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/customs/customs_1.shtml.

[7] “Did Rastafarian Spokesman Bob Marley Become a Christian on His Deathbed?” Beliefnet, Inspire Your Everyday. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Home-Page-News-and-Views/Did-Rastafarian-Bob-Marley-Become-a-Christian-on-His-Death-Bed.aspx.

[8] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 8.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[9] “Bob Marley Quote.” Quotelicious. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://quotelicious.com/famous/bob-marley-quotes/bob-marley-quote-6.

[10] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 8.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[11] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 10.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[12] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 8.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[13] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 7.”  In The Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[14] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 9.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[15] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 7.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

[16] “Charity.” Bob Marley. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.bobmarley.com/charity/.

[17] Jackson, Wayne. “What Is Rastafarianism? Who Was Bob Marley?” Christian Courier. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley.

Bibliography

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http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. December 10, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement.

Virgia, Marco. “REGGAE REBELS “new” Footage of Bob Marley.” Bob Marley Magazine. February 25, 2009. Accessed

December 8, 2014. http://www.bobmarleymagazine.com/interviews/showentry.php?e=4145.

Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 8.”  In The Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2014.

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http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley.

“Worship and Customs.” BBC. October 9, 2009. Accessed December 7, 2014.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/customs/customs_1.shtml.

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December 7, 2014. http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Home-Page-News-and-Views/Did-Rastafarian-Bob-Marley-

Become-a-Christian-on-His-Death-Bed.aspx.

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“Charity.” Bob Marley. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://www.bobmarley.com/charity/.

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http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/868-what-is-rastafarianism-who-was-bob-marley.

Bob Marley Picture Heading Citation 

“One Love” Bob Marley Poster.” Img Kid. Accessed December 7, 2014. http://imgkid.com/bob-marley-smoking-weed-

posters.shtml.

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