Tuesday, 23 April 2013


So after reading a few philosophy thesis about the concept of happiness, I have thought long and hard about it myself. Today at the bus station a man asked when the 807 is going to come, of which I told him would arrive in a few minutes. After a minutes of small talk he told me ' You know what really bothers me, I have a beautiful wife, two wonderful kids and a well paid 9-5 job yet I'm not happy with life at the moment.' This got me really thinking, I mean a lot of us all grow up seeking what this man has,  yet he wasn't happy.....

I remember reading extracts from Viktor Frankl book 'Man's search for meaning' a Jewish psychiatrist who was arrested and transported into a concentration camp. Three years later when the camp was freed most of his family including his pregnant wife died, but he prisoner number 119104 lived. He concluded from this experiences at the camp that the difference between those that lived and those that perished came down to one thing, Meaning a insight that came early in his life. He recounts how a chemistry teacher told him once that life is nothing more than a combustion process. He jumped out of his chair and told the teacher 'Sir if that is so what is the meaning of life.' As he saw in the camps those that found meaning in life even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient  to suffering that those that did not. "Everything can be taken from man except one thing, the last of human freedom , to choose one's attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one's own way.' He writes of two suicidal inmates both hopeless thinking that there was nothing else to live for in life. ' In this case it was getting them to realize that life was still excepting something from them. For one man it was his young son still living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was the series of books that he needed to finish.'

Frankl writes ' This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence has its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how'.'

I'm still trying to wrap my head around that...

I guess striving for happiness makes you a 'taker' rather than a 'giver' happiness is about drive reduction. If your hungry you satisfy, if you want something you buy it. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. Happy people get a lot of joy from erecieving benefits from others while leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others. Living a meaningful life is like using your highiest strengths and talents to belong and serve something you believe is larger then the self. Which in fact is a very hard thing to do. Happiness is an emotion felt here and there, ultimately fades away just as all emotions do. After experiencing depression and getting out of it I think suffering and negative events does decrease your happiness but it overall increases the amount of meaning you have in life. You start to appreciate life more, and not take everything you have for granted. I guess if there is any meaning in life at all, there must be meaning in suffering.

I guess by devoting our lives to 'giving' rather than 'taking' we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowleding  that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

.....keep smiling :)

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