St. Aquinas was Right (Part 4)

So, summarizing many of my last posts, the artists depict what the psychologists’ research indicate: follow the Journey to satisfy the four needs of food, warmth, shelter, nurture, safety, belongingness, and self-esteem.  This Journey is needed to reach the “good life” with the potential for traveling the Adventure.

The great philosophers teach the same thing: Epicurus speaks of reducing pain and anxiety (through the flow experiences of the psychologists) to enjoy a life apart from the vagaries of an everyday existence.  The Stoics speak of attaining the virtues (achieved during the flow experiences of the psychologists) necessary for achieving happiness.  Aristotle speaks of the need for a caring family and a just society in order to secure one’s place in life as well as the wealth to live a life free of fear and anxiety leading to the recognition and appreciation of others.  But Aristotle goes further to add that happiness includes leading a virtuous life.

It is St. Aquinas that goes one step further.  He agrees with Aristotle, who himself incorporates the philosophies of Epicurus and the Stoics, and supports the psychological theories of the satisfaction of needs and the desire for flow experiences.  But St. Aquinas notes that these other philosophical and psychological theories only take the individual up to the threshold of happiness and without any benefit to society.  They do take the individual through the Journey and the Adventure, but leave the individual short of happiness.  And, they leave society without any benefit of the efforts of the individual that has completed the Adventure.

St. Aquinas realized the one element missing from the other theories – the one element that the great artists have always realized.  This one element is love of neighbor!

It is the love of one’s family or community that pulls the Adventurer across the threshold into happiness.  Without this love for the efforts of the Adventurer, happiness will not be achieved.  In addition, the great gifts of the Adventure will not be delivered to the family or community – all the effort will have been wasted.  The individual will remain lost in the Adventure and his/her great gift to family/society will be lost forever.

So, what have we learned.  Everyone that we have discussed, and the great thinkers and artists mentioned in my book, are correct regarding some portion of the road to happiness.  Some emphasize the Journey and others emphasize the Adventure.  Aristotle is very close, as is Maslow.  But one person capture it all – St. Aquinas.  He agreed with Aristotle, but went one step further to mention that the love of neighbor is critical.  It is this love that is the final piece of the happiness puzzle.  The artists have know it all along.  But it is nice to have it all confirmed and nicely packaged by a philosopher.

So, the psychologists with their science, and the artists with their insights, all converge on the philosophers and their thinkings, and in particular, St. Aquinas.  Not bad for a man who lived nearly 1000 years ago.

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