I’d like to introduce you to the happiness principle. What is the happiness principle you ask? This is a good question and is very likely one of the most important questions you’ll ever ask. For when it comes down to it, what could be more important than your happiness? The only answer I can think of is my happiness, since my happiness is certainly more urgent to me than yours. Or is it?
But I’m jumping ahead. Our happiness, even though we’re strangers, you and I, are really quite dependent on each other, if truth be told. More on this later. For now, let’s get back to fundamentals.
I think its pretty much universally accepted that, when it comes down to it, nothing is more important than happiness. Where would religion be without it? What would be the point of Christianity without Heaven? Buddhism without Nirvana? In fact, I don’t think it’d be too much of a stretch to say that happiness is the whole point of religion. Who’d want to live forever in the absence of happiness? That would be like…well, we all know what that would be called. There’s a four letter word for that and it usually starts with a capital.
So, if we’re all agreed that happiness is extremely important, how come there’s so little of it? C’mon, don’t look so shocked. Be honest with yourself. How much happiness do you see? How many happy faces did you experience today? Maybe the small children playing in the park? But just wait until they grow up a little. They’ll get wise pretty fast.
I think it’s not unreasonable to propose that our second established point here is that even though happiness is the most important resource in the world it’s unfortunately in very short supply. As paradoxical and unseemly as that may seem, it’s the truth.
Now that we’ve cleared up those points, let’s thrust forward to the first major concept of the happiness principle.
1. Human beings are capable of experiencing only so much happiness. No matter what you do, you will not be able to enjoy more than your allotment or rise beyond your capacity.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do certain things to optimize your ability to be happy. It’s pretty obvious that there are inner and outer forces that can affect your happiness level. Less obvious, however, are the levers and adjustments necessary to create the optimum conditions for happiness. It’s these that’ll be the focus of upcoming posts about the happiness principle.
For now, let’s content ourselves with the idea that we’re, individually speaking, equal in the eyes of happiness. There is only so much happiness that anyone, rich or poor, short or tall, can experience within a given society. I mean society in its broadest possible sense: a defined system in which a population exists, including their physical location, economy, laws, religion(s), art, etc.
You cannot run or hide from the happiness principle. You can meditate or pray and hopefully find your individual, optimum level within the society you may be fortunate or unfortunate enough to inhabit. But that is it. You cannot buy or drink your way out. The happiness principle is a universal law and cannot be denied.
The question is how much and what kind of happiness will the principle allow? Are there different aspects of happiness that should be noted to fully understand and appreciate Essential Happiness? Moreover, what are the conditions necessary to bring this state about? This latter question is where we, meaning the history of our happiness impoverished race, have failed so miserably. This, too, will be covered in the upcoming posts on the happiness principle.
For now, as the poet once sung, don’t worry, be happy.