My last table-topic at toastmaster’s session – “what stands between me and my happiness” got me thinking about how people perceive happiness in reality. I felt that I couldn’t do justice to such an important question. I said that “it is me who stands between me and my happiness” failing to explain why and how I feel so. On my way home, I tried to figure out a proper answer and my quest took me to several places.
One of them is “science of happiness”.
We humans, almost exclusively, know the feeling of happiness. If asked, we immediately start forming a mental list of things or situations which make us happy.
A lucious cheesy slice of Pizza or
a long trip around the world,
your favorite team winning champions league
or just looking at your running code.
Clearly, we all can agree these are some of the sources of happiness and not happiness itself. Our efforts lead us to these sources and sources lead us to certain mental states. Now the question rises what is happiness?
In philosophical sense, if happiness is a state of mind, it is just like any other state of mind. Many philosophers say that happy people are to be pitied, because they prefer one mental state over the other or are simply obsessed with happiness.
On the other hand, if happiness means a good-going life we can try to find its relative value. We can know what benefits a person, or what makes his/her position in life enviable.
These statements raise another series of questions, like which of these definitions is more appropriate or can we really measure happiness. Such questions can only be answered by delving into science.
People often confuse life satisfaction with happiness, and leave the factors like achievements or knowledge out of the matter of human well-being, which is unarguably a narrow approach.
We can divide the study of this science into three broad theories.
First theory of well-being is “Hedonism”, which pertains to indulging in one’s own pleasure without considering societal norms or moral values.
Second, the desire theories which claim that “fulfilling your desires” determine your happiness quotient. Both of these theories are subjective, because people have different notions for pleasures and desires.
Third one, and my favorite, is what followers of Aristotle believed in – the fulfillment of our human capacities. According to them, a couch potato, no matter has everything she may need but will not be considered leading a happy life.
So, you get the gist.
Now, how do we identify which of these theories is correct? There is no definite answer to this. Subjectivity of happiness does create a mess for those who are trying to understand it.
Happiness has always been the social aim of humanity. If you’re sad, your friends or family start questioning your emotional state, and try to uplift your mood by making some vague efforts, although no one really understand why they are doing so.
They do it because it feels natural to be able to make someone happy, because it determines their own well-being.
The reason we talk about happiness so much is because we care about it. It’s a strong emotional state, just like a drug, it cures you in a way. There indeed is no idea of measuring happiness, as it involves multiple dimensions which can not be summed together to make any sense. We keep ourselves busy in determining who is happier than the other and we hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers. We all are, a little lost in our ways.
But the more we pursue clarity about aspects of life that confuse us, we make our future more deterministic or perhaps happy. Our search makes our path clearer and unravels pursuit of happiness.
Human mind is not obvious to human mind itself. I hope this bothers you as much as it bothers me.
I am nothing more than a humanoid. It’s anhedonia perhaps.
More at – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/happiness/
Picture – The tale of Princess Kaguya (Dir – Isao Takahata)