My thoughts today come via Jay-Z, Beach Chairs, and Happiness – III. The Structure of Happiness.
I encourage you to read the blog I am “pressing” here before going further. the main point I take away from it is that happiness is not as subjective as we post-moderns suppose. Maybe the classicists, like Aristotle, Aquinas, etc. are right. Ultimately, truth and our own thriving is an objective end that doesn’t blow with the winds of individual tastes.
I am reminded of the analogy that Lewis makes of a fish in water that might long to be out of water. One the one hand, the water limits the fish. It can’t enjoy life out of the water,though it longs to experience it. The fish is, therefore, limited and unhappy in its watery “prison”.
I think many of us would characterize our unhappiness in this way, but I am not talking about such temporary objects of our unhappiness, like financial difficulties, hunger, a desire to be grown up, and the like. These things are not changes in our environment, and they also aren’t ultimate things.
We all know that temporal satisfaction is fleeting. (Or we should know it.) On the most basic level, we hunger; we eat and are full; but we will hunger again. We might think that having enough money to meet all our needs would provide the happiness we desire, but experience tells us that we usually want more even when we have enough.
Our desires are such that they might never be sated. They are apt to expand and keep on expanding (without some intervention). This “truism” might be evidenced by the fact that some people who seem to “have it all” nevertheless commit suicide. Actors, millionaires, etc. are not immune from the kind of unhappiness that leads them to take their own lives.
These examples might also be evidence that temporal satisfaction isn’t the same as ultimate satisfaction. We have a longing for some object that transcends the temporal things to which we gravitate for satisfaction and happiness.
Thus, I attempt to distinguish between temporal objects of our satisfaction and happiness and ultimate objects of our satisfaction and happiness. When we seek temporal things as our most prized object, we are bound to be disappointed, unsatisfied and unhappy.
I am not sure I can “prove” it, but my intuition (for lack of a better term) tells me, as with the blogger whose post I am sharing, that our ultimate satisfaction and happiness lies in some objective and ultimate object. The subjective ones we often spend most of our energy and lives pursuing can’t ultimately satisfy us or make us happy.