It’s quite tricky to define happiness because this word is ambiguous in nature. Apparently, it seems simple and understandable but it is not because of its different connotations. Everyone around us tries to elaborate and perceive the word happiness in various manners. If we try to comprehend it through a philosophical lens, we find that happiness is Eudaimonia (Greek word) meaning good life. Similarly, for psychologists, it is emotional and mental state of well-being.
In our daily life, we observe everybody wandering in searching for happiness on this planet. But many people fail in order to find it. Why??? The answer is so simple. Sometimes I feel extremely pity to think that how ignorant we are in terms of the notion of happiness.
Various studies have shown that in the contemporary world people are contending a huge number of problems. They cannot even control their minds as well as they have even no idea how to deal with the modern issues. This ignorance leads them to chronicle fear, clinical depression, and anxiety. In this cusp, everybody wants his or her lost happiness back. They don’t know the ways to become happy. There are divergent concepts of happiness around us that can help our in-depth understanding of happiness. For instance, Aristotle(384–322 BC) a Greek Philosopher explained‘the theory of happiness’. According to him,happiness has four levels:
Firstly, he explains the first level of happiness is Laetus. how come it possible to find happiness from material objects? Laetus is just sensual gratification, built on external things, it’s short-lived and powerful. It’s perfectly right when you get happiness from worldly things like buying a new car, good food, etc. By doing this you marginalize your pleasure though.
The second level is Felix, means ego gratification or happiness from being better. When people get pleasure from winning sports, being promoted or getting handsome salary etc. Being admired varies person to person, for some people it’s for granted but for others, it’s everything. In case of failure, this level of happiness leads them to frustration, jealousy, skepticism, and sense of insignificance.
The third level is Beatitudo, getting happiness by serving others to make this world a good place to live. It’s all about being a selflessness in order to serve the people for receiving happiness. This level is long-lasting and related to the human desire for connection, goodness, sympathy, friendship, and unity. Because one’s happiness depends on other’s happiness. The fourth level is Sublime Beatitudo, ultimate, perfect happiness.
This is based on the searching of perfection, fullness, and balancing between the other levels. This ultimate happiness is transcendent and the connection with the larger universe. This craving can be fulfilled by religion, spirituality, philosophy, scientific venture to get an answer to some big query i.e. human existence. So, everyone has to find their own work. In addition to this, modern psychology tells us that happiness is simply pleasure and meaning. Dr. Martin Seligman defined happiness recently as an ‘Engagement’, that means living the good life of work, family, friends, and hobbies.
However, everyone has their own perception of happiness. Apart from these all difficult expressions, i.e. Philosophy and Psychology, we just try to understand this word as a common human being. If we try we can find it easily. Why are we so confused? What is the hurdle that stops us to reach happiness?
It can be our attitudes and the way we see things. First, we need to explore ourselves. Just close your eyes and think that it is something we can see and feel simultaneously. We can find it in our mother’s lap, in our father’s unconditional love, and in our brothers’ and sisters’ compassion, in our friends’ sincerity and faithfulness. Likewise,we can experience happiness when we make a painting based on our favorite themes. We can also see it in the eyes of senior citizens when we share with them some moments from our spare time. To offer moral support because they are so lonely and far away from their beloved ones. There are numerous ways, just choose the way of your interest.
For instance, I can see the happiness on the face of a child. Who daily stands for so long on the street next to my apartment. He has messy hair and smiley face but bright eyes.His eyes have a wish to get something in his empty hands by early in the morning. His grubby face turns to so bright while collecting the coins from me. This moment makes me realized that we can see and feel happiness concurrently. If we can give an indulgence to someone’s life and we get happiness in return,then why would we hesitate? Because these kinds of acts give us relief and catharsis. Albeit, we can’t be happy every time but we can be a happy maximum of the time. We just need to understand and recognize the happiness around us and its essence. The espousal of this notion would enhance our morality too.
Lastly, it’s quite easy to deal with different issues when we start to observe things through many lenses rather than using a single lens. It broadens our horizons and perspectives regarding things like happiness.
(The writer is doing research on teaching pedagogy at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (IED), Karachi).