“Rob the average man of his life-illusion and you rob him also of his happiness.”
“Happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion.”
“There are some people who always feel happy. They’re called psychopaths .”
“Happiness is just an illusion caused by the temporary absence of reality.”
“The way to happiness” . . . Could it belong in the same category as: “The fountain of youth” . . . “The elixir of life” . . . “The philosopher’s stone”. . . “The stairway to heaven”? A fantasy? An illusion? A chimera? An ignis fatuus or “a deceptive goal or hope”?
If there is really such a way to happiness, at least there should have already been one who has found it, trodden on it, arrived finally at the point of happiness and revealed to us her/his own exhilarating experience right at the vortex of such happiness. Happiness is the perennial goal of humanity expressed in poetic hopes and dreams as a condition of contentment and bliss where life is no longer haunted by problems and difficulties, pains and heartaches, troubles and misfortunes, losses and defeats.
In Platonic (and even neo-Platonic) metaphysics, happiness is an ideal housed in the realm of universals along with the others that are permanent, indestructible, eternal and perfect. In this sense, there is no way for us to locate it in the daily grind of earthly life which on the one hand is full of frustrations and failures while on the other hand is somehow greeted with some glimpses of pleasure every now and then. In the latter realm of particular human experiences, what we can certainly verify, validate and justify is the reality of temporal suffering and pleasure like the cycle of seasons and the constancy of habits that constitute the drama of life from which we derive its meaningfulness expressed in sorrow and delight, in grief and celebration, in sadness and pleasure.
Happiness continues to remain a nebulous star and one’s search for the way that leads to it is an exercise in futility. We know a myriad of ways to a variety of destinations and these ways are not the same despite some similarities for the end-goals are not the same. Every human individual under normal circumstances is replete with objectives and plans aimed to hit specific targets from simple wishes to ambitious projects. Along the way, we are not strangers to defeat and victory, failure and success. Despite defeat and failure, we plod on unmindful of giving up for the spirit of hope in our system persists with an air of spontaneity and those who have succeeded are wont to savor the sweet aroma of victory in pleasurable celebration. These are down-to-earth empirical instances more understandable in terms of pleasure than in the sense of permanent happiness for such achievement doesn’t catapult the achiever up in the seventh heaven of eternal happiness.
If in a linguistic consideration we associate and thus understand happiness as pleasure, there is therefore nothing uniquely special and ethereal in the essence of happiness. Happiness as pleasure (and pleasure as happiness for that matter) doesn’t really have an equally uniquely special and ethereal way for the ways of pleasure are many and the same applies to happiness. In this sense, happiness is stripped off of its “magick” and the terrain of its location is levelled off to what is common and ordinary in the human condition. As a matter of common expression, “I am happy” doesn’t therefore evoke a special and celestial meaning that describes an individual in a state of perpetual bliss.
Or perhaps, the reality of “happiness” is actually experienced as we courageously tread on the ways of life which in general are characterized by challenges and struggles.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 20 November 2014