Tag Archives: happiness

Normalcy and Serenity Now!

If you are like me and wondering what has happened to the world, you can take great comfort in reading my book.

Surround yourself with great thinkers from the present and the past to bring normalcy back to your life. At the same time, reach serenity through great art, music, poetry, and dance.

My book is the anecdote for dysfunction in our institutions and a guide to you future happiness shielding you from the dark and bizarre world around us.

Journey Versus Adventure

In my book I talk about how the road to happiness is composed of the Journey and the Adventure. The Journey comes first and entails education, skill development, social interaction, and the testing of one’s resolve in life (occupation, family, volunteerism, religious practices, etc.). If the Journey is successful then the individual will achieve something equal to or close to the “good life.”

Also, it is expected that someone who has lead a successful Journey will have developed the cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. These virtues make us better people and allow us to move forward and consider the Adventure.

The Adventure follows from the Journey and is nothing more than the calling to begin a new road to capture the gift that you were sent to find and to return to the everyday world with the gift intact. The cardinal virtues mentioned above are required to see and stay on the new road until the gift is captured and presented to those friends, family, and society back in the everyday world. At that moment, happiness in this life is finally achieved.

The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are necessary to continue the path of the Adventure to beyond happiness in this life and to the final end of happiness in the next life. Moreover, while the three theological virtues are not required for everyday happiness, their presence makes achieving happiness in this life more likely and perhaps easier to achieve.

So, you may ask – “In a nutshell, what is the Journey?” The answer: The Present You.

And, you may also ask – “In a nutshell, what is the Adventure?” The answer: The Future You, if offered and accepted.”

So What Does the Nation do to Promote Individual Happiness?

Achieving happiness in our lives requires each of us to accept the call to Adventure and complete that Adventure over time.

In completing the Adventure we not only reach individual happiness but we help in the flourishing of society.

Our nation needs to ensure that as many individuals as possible accept and complete their Adventure so as to aid in the flourishing of society.

For each of us to accept and complete the Adventure four essential virtues are needed: 1) wisdom, 2) courage, 3) temperance, and 4) justice. Wisdom is needed to recognize the Adventure, 2) courage is needed to accept the Adventure, 3) temperance is required to avoid laziness and other temptations while completing the Adventure, and 4) justice is required to return from the Adventure and deliver the captured gift that was the reason for the quest. It is this gift that aids in the flourishing of one’s family, community, and nation.

So where does one find these virtues? It begins with the nurturing of one’s family. Aided by the freedom from crimes, famine, wars, disease, and other outside forces, the family can educate and prepare its children to be a functioning member of society. Once prepared for society, the individual can pursue “Flow activities” as he/she becomes a member of society. It is during these many Flow activities that the individual becomes integrated into society: develops friendships, completes one’s education, enters competitions, finds a respectable occupation, and begins to save for the future of his/her family and retirement.

The government, workplace, and other institutions must safeguard against any impediment to Flow. It is the desire for Flow and its rewards that is the reason that such activities are pursued. It is these activities that contribute to the development of the virtues needed for the Adventure.

So, our nation must be mindful of the importance of Flow in developing the virtues which are then relied upon in the Adventure to seize the gift that is to aid in the flourishing of society and lead to happiness in the individual. Our nation must do its best to protect the family and allow the mature individual to pursue the many Flow activities that will develop and strengthen the virtues needed by those few who will be called to the Adventure.

One final point, it is equally important that our nation be vigilant for the successful Adventurer who is seeking the return back to the everyday world with the gift intact. Without the “love of neighbor” recognizing the efforts of the Adventurer in seizing the gift, society will lose an opportunity to flourish. While not required to reach happiness in this world, religious practices contribute greatly to the development of the virtues and to a far greater degree than might be expected, and help in accepting the returning Adventurer with the captured gift.

It is our nation’s responsibility to 1) safeguard the family in its preparation of its children, 2) ensure that all prepared adults have the opportunity for unimpeded Flow activities that contribute to the development of the virtues needed to accept the call to Adventure (including freedom of religion), and 3) be vigilant in recognizing and welcoming the successful Adventurer back to the everyday world with the gift captured for the benefit of society.

Artists and Twofold happiness

The great masters of the fine arts understood very well the concept of twofold happiness. They knew that an individual who has achieved happiness in this world has reached self-actualization with the gift of peak experiences. The same individual has also vanquished all human fears and desires with no further needs.

The same great artists also knew that those who have achieved happiness in this life are able to pass back and forth between the everyday world and the spiritual world. The artists knew that this ability to exist in the two worlds is only achieved by those who have reached happiness in this life – a state reached by capturing and delivery a gift for the betterment of one’s community or society.

And, the actual seizing of the gift for the common good is the action that is encouraged by the graces of Faith, Hope, and Charity. These three graces are the virtues that lead the individual from happiness in this life to happiness in the next life – with the connection being the adventure to deliver the captured boon or gift for the benefit of others.

While it impossible to depict visually what happiness in the next life looks like, the great artists come very close, as close as they can, to capturing true happiness.

Take a look at the following painting by the French painter Degas.

The ballet master is self-actualized exhibiting peak experiences. He has no further needs or desires. He exists in two worlds – the everyday and the spiritual (none of the students is looking at the master – at that moment he exists in a separate spiritual world. More importantly, he is able to deliver to the girl ballerinas his education and compassion for the study of ballet. Even the dancer in the middle of the painting is estactic – the music is not even playing at that moment captured by the painting. And we will never know if the girl completes her “en pointe” successfully (it is hidden by the girl’s tutu in the foreground): but it doesn’t matter.

The point of the painting is not the dancing ballerinas but the depiction of twofold happiness – a depiction that is at the far boundary of artistic greatest. What we are witnessing is the closest that anyone can illustrate of happiness in this life (the everyday world) and happiness in the next life (the spiritual world).

Everyone Found in One of Seven Galleries

In my book and in my blog I mention that everyone can be found in one of the seven galleries discussed in my book.  However, in two of those galleries, individuals soon move onward to the next gallery or fall back to previous ones.

Gallery One  – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Two.

Gallery Two – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Three – rarely falling back to Gallery One.

Gallery Three – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Four – rarely falling back to Gallery Two.

Gallery Four – Individuals soon fall back to Gallery Three or move forward to Gallery Five.

Gallery Five – Individuals soon fall back to Gallery Three or move forward to Gallery Six.

Gallery Six – Individuals either stay in this gallery or move on to Gallery Seven.

Gallery Seven – Individuals stay in this gallery.

So, it might be easier to consider that most people eventually find themselves in Galleries One, Two, Three, Six, or Seven.  Galleries Four and Five are testing grounds to determine which Gallery is most appropriate – Gallery Three or Gallery Six.  The aim of those who remain in Gallery Three is the “good life,” not a bad place to be.  The aim of those in Gallery Six is either to strive for Gallery Seven or to remain in the Adventure forever.  Remaining in the Adventure is not bad, but achieving happiness is far better!

Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 3)

In my last post I discussed the philosophy of Kant.  Kant wrote that the best moral structure is not to seek after our own happiness (as taught by the ancient philosophers mentioned in my book) or to consider justice in addition to happiness (Duns Scotus), but to discard happiness altogether and focus on one’s duty according to a moral code based on good will.  This moral approach focuses on one’s duty without regard to the consequences of the action taken in performing one’s duty – “the means justify the ends.”  I mentioned that the synthesis of the road to happiness in my book addresses the concerns of both Duns Scotus as well Kant.

After the philosophy of Kant began to take hold within certain parts of society, a new moral approach was introduced and one that returned to the importance of the pursuit of happiness.  This new philosophical approach began with Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and was refined by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Both Bentham and Mill are considered utilitarians.  Utilitarians believe that we all seek after our own happiness (agreeing with Aristotle/Aquinas) but that happiness is not reached through the virtues but on maximizing pleasure or minimizing pain.

Bentham taught that the outcome of any action should be to contribute to pleasure. He defined the value of this pleasure to be equal to its intensity multiplied by its duration. So you must consider not only the number of pleasures, but the intensity of each and the duration of each.

Mill took a slightly different approach arguing that there are different levels of pleasure and that the higher levels (such as art, literature, philosophy) should be pursued more than than the lower or simpler pleasures.

Both of these philosophers proposed a Utilitarian belief that the moral value of any action is based on its outcome (i.e., pleasure). This is a form of consequentialism – “the ends justify the means.”

The philosophy of Epicurus, discussed in my book, is essentially the same as that of the two Utilitarians discussed above.  All three schools equate the idea of “good” not with virtue but with those things that bring pleasure (or reduce pain).  Epicurus does differ from the other two Utilitarians in that his maximizing of pleasure occurs on an individual level rather than at a societal level.

I believe that Bentham and Mill are “variations on a theme” of the very original teachings of Epicurus. In addition, the narrative in my book does address enhancing the prosperity of society through the actions of individuals looking to achieve happiness.

More in the next post!

Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 2)

In my previous post, I mentioned the first philosopher whose work on happiness is worth considering beyond the four ancient philosophers mentioned in my book.   John Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Aquinas, accepted the works on happiness in this life of the philosophers before him but with one twist.  The twist is that he placed acceptance of the moral law on the same plane as the pursuit of individual happiness as the aims of life.  He believed that we are not just driven to achieve our own happiness but that we should be mindful of the happiness of others – the moral law.  I mentioned that the narrative of the road to happiness in my book addresses the flourishing of others around us by virtue of the Adventure.  Without a successful Adventure, individual happiness is not reached nor do those around us flourish.

Continuing along this concept of goals in life being other than happiness, another more modern influential philosopher worthy of consideration is Kant (1724-1803).  Kant disagreed with most of the philosophers before him (including Scotus) that the meaning of life is to achieve happiness (and a moral law).  He believed that happiness is too vague of a term and too subjective and that it is worthless to try and define an ethical approach to life in which happiness is the aim.  Nonetheless, he did believe that happiness is important but that something else is more important.

He believed that the best moral position was not to pursue happiness through the exercise of the virtues, but to act out of duty without consideration of the outcome that such actions might have.  The duty, acted with good will, is the proper action for obedience to a law.  This action of duty places the final aim of life above individual happiness.  The actions of duty not only lead to individual happiness, or at least contentment in a job well done, but also the the happiness of others, assuming that the duty is done out of a good will.

His moral system could be defined as the means justify the ends.  According to Kant, so long as your decisions are based on your duty, you were acting ethically and you could eventually move towards happiness, whatever that means, and help others along the way.  To put it differently, we are all motivated to act morally out of a sense of moral duty, rather than to achieve individual happiness (which Kant had a hard time describing). For example, a doctor will feel a duty to treat his/her patients.  Kant believes that the doctor’s actions are not born from some desire to achieve happiness, but from a desire to perform one’s duty, even if this will be detrimental to the doctor’s happiness.  The motivation of the doctor is not self-interest but duty to help others.

In summary, Kant went one step further than Scotus by removing happiness from consideration.  According to Kant, happiness is not bad, but it is not the aim of life.  The aim of life is acting according to one’s duty and having a good will to make the right dutiful decisions.  A sense of satisfaction is found in performing one’s duties in a moral way and not only does the individual reach a sense of contentment or satisfaction in performing a job well done, others benefit as well.  He believed that those individuals with a proper sense of reason would make the correct moral decisions by following the laws before us. While Kant was unique in his thinking, he still resembles the ancient Stoics. The Stoics believed that the virtues, and only the virtues, would provide the proper knowledge and reason to understand those actions necessary to achieve happiness.

Kant’s very confusing system gets around the problem of how an individual can be moral if their only concern is achieving their own happiness and not helping others to flourish.  The narrative of the Adventure presented in my book answers this dilemma without forgoing the human motivation to seek one’s own happiness.  I find it hard to see how one is motivated to perform one’s duty with a sense of good will towards others unless there is some aim to the whole process.  If the aim is the be a good Christian or viewed positively by God, then the philosophy becomes one of religion and the aim is more than something found in this life.

For all the above reasons, I view Kant, while original, to be a twist on the themes presented by the ancient philosophers presented in my book.

More in my next post!

 

Other Philosophers – Variations on a Theme (Part 1)

In my book I mention that there is very little that modern philosophers can add to the discussion regarding how best to reach happiness in this life that the ancient philosophers haven’t already explored.  I would like to discuss this conclusion of mine in greater detail in a few upcoming posts.  These next posts might help put in perspective the more modern philosophers and how similar they are to the ancient philosophers.

The first philosopher (who is the last of the ancient philosophers that I will mention) to break from the Aristotelian/Aquinas approach to happiness was John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), a contemporary of Aquinas.  Scotus disagreed with the other ancient philosophers that happiness is the sole goal of our actions.  Instead, Scotus stated that in addition to seeking happiness, individuals also seek justice.  Justice is a natural tendency to obey moral laws and that these moral laws may not necessarily lead to individual happiness.  As such, individuals must weigh the demands for individual happiness with a call for justice towards others.  Scotus was as concerned with the flourishing of others as with the flourishing of oneself.

This concern for the welfare of others is captured in the narrative of my book.  As discussed in the book, the goal of the Adventure undertaken by some individuals is to capture a boon or gift for society.  However, this gift can only be delivered if the individual possesses the virtue of justice (concern for others), among other virtues, and if there is a love of the adventurer by society (Aquinas requirement).  Moreover, to even begin the Adventure to capture to boon requires a transcendental call or summons to the Adventure.  As such, Scotus’ concern for justice, or the flourishing of others, which is an important consideration, is captured in my book’s narrative.  It is the Adventure, if successful, that not only delivers happiness to the individual but also adds to the flourishing of the adventurer’s family, community, or society.

More in the next post!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 5)

Let me finish the series of the last four posts with a discussion of the final book and some final words about the Consolation of Philosophy.

Book 5

In this final section of the book, Philosophy states that everyone has free will to choose what actions to take now and in the future.  This is a very heavy burden for all of us if we are to remain on the road to happiness.  Life is not a series of random events that none of us can control.  Philosophy teaches that our decisions impact our future and that we must be diligent in making the right decisions if happiness is to be realized.

Philosophy warns all of us, “Therefore, stand firm against vice and cultivate virtue.  Lift up your souls to worthy hopes … the necessity of virtuous action imposed upon you is very great …”

Summary of the Book

The teachings of Boethius through his book echo the road to happiness in this life found in my book.  He mentions that the meaning of life is happiness; that financial comfort, honor, prestige, pleasure, and love/friendships are needed to reach happiness; and that virtues are required to make the right decisions to use the goods acquired in life to find happiness.

The main difference is that Boethius does not speak of the Adventure.  In my book, the Adventure is the means by which the acquired virtues are utilized to move the individual from the “good life” to happiness.  As important, the Adventure of the individual is also the means by which society flourishes.  In essence, the flourishing of society is based on the happiness of the individual.

That is what makes the narrative of the my book so compelling: the meaning of life is happiness and finding one’s happiness leads to the betterment of society.  In other words, individual happiness = better society.  So, if we all are searching for happiness, then we are searching to help those around us.  Without happiness, there is no flourishing of society.  Without the flourishing of society, there is no happiness.  This is the Holy Grail: society flourishes by those actions undertaken by individuals searching for their personal happiness.  This twofold gift can not be realized without  a successful Adventure.  The Adventure cannot be successful without the virtues.  The virtues can not be gained without trying to find honor, recognition, financial comfort, pleasure, friends and love.  This is the warning of Boethius, take extreme care to cultivate the virtues and use them properly: without them you will not find happiness and those around you will not prosper.

I hope that these posts might inspire you to read the book.  it is a very rewarding book and very easy to read, especially with the primer of my last few posts!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 4)

Continuing from my last post, Philosophy states in the third section of the book: 1) we all seek happiness, 2) honor, wealth, prestige, belongingness, and pleasure are necessary for happiness but not sufficient, and 3) additional factor are needed to deliver happiness.

Book 4

Philosophy continues by stating that that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  While it looks like evil prevails in the world, in fact, according to Philosophy, it does not.  “They [the wicked] try to attain the good by unnatural and ineffectual means because they are blinded by ignorance and weakened by intemperance. … The punishment of the wicked is their wickedness, that loss of goodness which is the loss of human nature.”

Philosophy goes on the say that good people seek happiness by means of the virtues.  “… evil men, however, try to achieve the same goal by a variety of concupiscences, and that is surely an unnatural way of seeking the good. … just a virtue is the reward of virtuous men, so wickedness itself is the punishment of the wicked.”

These same conclusions are reached in my book – the virtues are necessary to move from the “good life” to a state of happiness.  It is the “involvement” and “exposure” activities discussed in my book that give rise to the virtues.  It is the Adventure that tests those virtues to ensure that the adventurer really is qualified to reach happiness.  Philosophy mentions similar trials, “… others she tests with hardships in order to strengthen their virtues by the exercise of patience.  Some people fear to undertake burdens they could easily bear, while others treat too lightly those they are unable to handle; both of those are led on by Providence to find themselves by trials.”

More to come in my next post.