What Is Happiness?

In yesterday’s post, I showed you a cartoon. For today, for now, I will attempt to figure out this cartoon’s message. First of all, we can take this literally. In the cartoon (see yesterday’s post), there is a man saying “I want happiness!” If we think it literal, what the man wants is the word “happiness.” Therefore, the Buddha guy rubs off the words “I want” to get that single word “happiness.”

But of course, there is more to that. Perhaps the cartoonist is trying to define happiness for us. As the Buddha guy says, “I” stands for ego and “want” stands for desire. By having those words removed, the message could be that happiness has to exist without any ego or any desire. If without those, than with what?

Basically, all of this goes back to the main philosophical question of what is happiness. Many of us think that happiness is being Bill Gates, getting fame, or getting whatever we want. But as this cartoon shows, that is all ego and desire. Yes, it is happiness in a sense, but just temporary happiness. True happiness does not occur with these worldly things. So again, with what?

Before we approach this question in a philosophical view, let us approach it in a scientific view, and in terms of psychology. Some psychologists argue that happiness results from encountering unexpected positive events. Others say it is from basking in praise from others. Yet still others say that is is just experiencing emotions such as love, family, etc. Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.), Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness), Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

However, I believe science cannot truly express happiness in accurate terms in the same way I believe science cannot truly represent God. Therefore it is time to turn to philosophy. Like I said before, I believe there are two types of happiness: one temporary and one true. The temporary happiness are usually getting money, riches, fame, power, and so on. True happiness, I believe, is involved with God, religion, love, family, and so on. Essentially, happiness is love. Happiness is what one feels when she helps a poor person or what one feels when she is reunited with her family. Happiness- true happiness- is just loving others and being loved yourself.

Now I am wondering: what kind of happiness is the happiness I get when I ace a test or get accepted by a famous college? At first, I was beginning to think that this was temporary happiness, but now I am thinking maybe not. Maybe happiness should also include the satisfaction we get when we found out that all our hard work has paid off. So essentially, happiness is love and satisfaction.

Ancient philosophers have suggested that happiness is the best guide to moral behavior. Think about it: let’s say you cheated on a test. More than often would one feel guilty about it. They won’t feel “satisfied.” In other words, they won’t feel happy. But if you didn’t cheat the test and you studied hard, more than often does one feel “satisfied” aka happy. However, this doesn’t work all the time, such as in cases where a person’s moral compass goes totally out of wack.

Well, I don’t know if that’s the definition of happiness. I do know, however, that happiness is undefinable


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