What is the meaning of Life? To be Happy? What is happiness?
At some point of our lives, eventually, we will ask ourselves this questions above. For now, I’m a young man with a big road to walk. My perceptions of life will change as much as my experiences of reality. But, although young, the necessity of living a life full of meaning still remains in my mind.
This necessity, makes me search for the opinions and teachings of world’s big philosophers. Great minds, great theories. Today, I will bring to you, some of the most interesting opinions about this theme, of course, according to my own opinion.
In the period where I worked in a private college at my hometown city, a book given to me by a colleague of work made my mind turn on about life. It was Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle.
“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day;
similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
In some part of this book, Aristotle explains that all of our practical rationality drives us to one particular aim. It’s Ethics the responsible to carry on the task of determine the supreme finality. This supreme finality is happiness.
“Happiness then, is found to be something perfect and self sufficient, being the end to which our actions are directed.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
What he means by it? Aristotle, tell us that happiness can’t be found on pleasure neither objects, matter. Happiness is only reached by the exercise of living a virtuous life. What he wants to say is that the virtuous life resides in the excellence of action, prudence and habit. The Greek vision of virtuosity is different in comparison to the Christian vision. In my opinion, happiness described by Aristotle, represents one poetic side of human beings. A Noble side. Describes a state of fulfillment where the man reaches the autonomy of his own life. Confidence. Vocation who overflows from action to the spirit. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The pursuit of excellence, realization. But I think that a man who proposes himself to the search of excellence is a man who must already know that he can’t find it. It’s an arduous task. An objective who will consume his own life, if he pays attention to it. It’s by this cause, perhaps, that Aristotle says that a man must find the medium term in life. It’s a symmetrical view.
“Happy is who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
“These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions … The good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
This is practical? This is really practical in our daily lives? In our actual world? I don’t think so. This doesn’t applies to everyone. At first, a man in order to be happy, needs to eradicate his desires, spirit desires or physical desires. Hunger. Love. Basics necessities. When I say “spirit”, don’t think in the phantasmagorical way. What I want to mean by “spirit”, is consciousness. The little and obscure part of our minds who gets things together. Awareness. After this, a man should go search for his virtuosity. But I have an impression that it’s impossible to eradicate our desire. By this time, I found Buddhism and his theory. Desire is an intrinsic characteristic of human beings. Indivisible, inseparable. Desire will walk by our side for ever. How can we beat desire, then? We can’t. We must have consciousness. Awareness. In order to decrease effects of desire in our lives, we must control our minds. How? I didn’t discover it, yet. It’s hard. Sit on the ground and meditate, doesn’t seems to help me in this search.
As a future Electrical Engineer, I started to feel myself lost with such poetry and religious points of view. So, I decided to search a methodical and perhaps more implementable way of doing things. Then, I discovered Bertrand Russell, one of the most influential mathematicians and philosophers of the twenty century.
I started to browse through the book The Conquest Of Happiness. I noticed an ironic dissertation about some themes. As I already expected, this book also didn’t satisfy my curiosity. For now, I think that Happiness isn’t only one solid thing. Happiness isn’t only one opinion. It’s something big, wide, and almost nothing theoretical. Happiness is experimental, empirical. My conclusion about the meaning of life is on construction. I bet it will never ends. Happiness embraces all visions of big thinkers, anyone is right, also anyone is wrong. I think that a man who reached happiness and could touch the meaning of life, is a man who lived enough, failed enough to know how to distinguishes every situation with soft and smooth hands.
Happiness that I could see, by now, is empirical.
“If we were all given by magic the power to read each other’s thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be almost all friendships would be dissolved; the second effect, however, might be excellent, for a world without any friends would be felt to be intolerable, and we should learn to like each other without needing a veil of illusion to conceal from ourselves that we did not think each other absolutely perfect.” ― Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness