I am a happy man. I feel this very strongly. I am incredibly lucky to live the life I do, and while I try to keep it cool and humble, I still enjoy what I have. Learning about a day about wanting people to be happy felt very much my speed, so here are some things I’ve learned about the crazy idea that is happiness.
According to Aristotle, happiness (translated from Greek εὐδαιμονία or eudaimonia) is feeling we have while we live the life we want to be living, or as he put it “the good life”. Aristotelian ethics approach life from a different perspective of the world and emphasizes that virtue is practical. According to this school of thought it is ethical to do the right thing, and that said right thing to do can vary from situation to situation. We know this concept better today as prudence.
Now, of course, this is only one take on it. Every philosopher in the world has a twist on how we should live to be content with our lives, but that’s the point of philosophy.
Living the good life can mean lots of things. Perhaps you’re the type who gets great value from the relationships you have with others, or perhaps you’re the type whose hobbies are what brings you joy. Anything that makes you truly happy can be you living your good life.
According to Gary Chapman of the University of Texas at Austin, “A revitalization of the idea of the “good life” should reinvigorate the ancient appeal of civic humanism, or “reverent humanism,” that can embrace human potential, limits to consumerism yet technological innovation, diversity and transcendence.”
I find Chapman’s idea of revitalizing the “good life” interesting. I feel as though a conceptual good life doesn’t need to be reviewed as it has never gone anywhere. What was once Aristotle arguing that the good life is the contemplative life and the aristos, the “best man,” should spend their time looking to understand their place in the world has become many different concepts today. Even the U.S. Declaration speaks of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The good life is so strongly ingrained in many cultures that many of us may never have considered the context behind our own pursuits of happiness.
For this year’s National I Want You to be Happy Day, I think I’ll try to consciously do something for the express purpose of making more happiness. Not strictly for me either, just to have an impact on our world. I urge you to do the same. Do something that will make you or someone you love happy.