So, we have Jesus, philosophers (Aristotle), theologians (St. Aquinas), modern psychologists (Maslow), the myths (Campbell), and the masters of the fine arts, all pointing to the meaning of life being to find happiness. And, that the road to such happiness in this life can be found in the loving of one’s neighbor or, to put it differently, the helping of one’s neighbor to flourish in life.
However, loving one’s neighbor or helping one’s neighbor to flourish is not an easy task – it requires lifelong effort and sacrifice. It involves preparation for the adventure, recognition of the call to the adventure, the courage to accept the call and fight the trials to capture the gift that was the intent of the adventure. Only then, if successful, is the gift presented to one’s neighbor (family, community, or society) helping them have a better life. In return, the reward for such a successful adventure is personal happiness.
And what is this personal happiness? What does it look like? The great artists and the myths show us this state of happiness. The teachings of the philosophers, theologians, and the modern psychologists reinforce what the artists and the myths portray. In essence, happiness is a state in which the successful adventurer is flooded with peak experiences, feelings of self-actualization (which is nothing more than no further needs or desires in life – life is complete), and the ability to move freely between the spiritual and the everyday worlds. No more striving, no more searching, each day is met with experiences and moments that are rarely revealed to those who have not found happiness.
And, what about Jesus’s teaching of God’s second commandment being to love your neighbor? If this command is fulfilled, happiness is reached. And the outcome of the successful adventure is the fulfillment of this second commandment – the lives of one’s neighbors and family have been enhanced. For those who have fulfilled the second command (those who have reached the end of the adventure) the reward could be nothing but “heaven on earth.” And “heaven on earth” could be nothing more than what we have learned from the great thinkers and artists mentioned above: a flood of peak experiences, no further needs or desires in life, no more striving or searching, and the ability to move freely between the spiritual and the everyday worlds.
The final aspect of happiness being the ability to move freely between the spiritual and the everyday worlds is what connects us to the first great commandment – love of God.
More to come!