This morning someone sent me a short message by WhatsApp ‘in search of Happiness”. I thought I should revise my old piece in view of the many new things I have recently learned.
Our ultimate aim in life is happiness. Men have been seeking happiness over thousands of years. Over the years many philosophers have written about this important subject. I have read some of them. In my opinion, the best book I have read is “The Conquest of Happiness” by the Nobel Prize winner (for Literature), the British philosopher, Lord Bertrand Russell.
After having lived nearly 86 years, I would like to share with you my attempts to achieve happiness.
Life is full of challenges, don’t give up because you can always find solutions. Every day is a new beginning, take a deep breath and start again. Every moment is a choice to begin again.
Many years ago, I read “The Conquest of Happiness” by Lord Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest English philosophers. It is a very difficult book to read because he used too many hard words and I had to use the dictionary often.
This is a summary of the book:
According to Lord Bertrand Russell, to acquire happiness, we must know what makes us unhappy and what makes us happy.
What makes us unhappy:
My purpose is to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer, and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears inescapable. I believe this unhappiness to be largely due to mistaken views of the world, mistaken ethics and mistaken habits of life. All these are leading to the destruction of that natural zest and appetite for possible things upon which all happiness ultimately depends.
Most people are so obsessed by competing with others for success that the rest of life passes them by. Success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it.
Boredom and excitement
We have come to associate boredom with unhappiness and excitement with happiness. Boredom and excitement form a separate axis entirely, having little relationship with happiness. Running away from enemies who are trying to take one’s life is, I imagine, unpleasant, but certainly not boring. The opposite of boredom, in a word, is not pleasure, but excitement. The confusion of excitement and happiness, and the flight from boredom that it entails, is a chief cause of unhappiness. The cure is to teach oneself to endure boredom without running from it.
I believe that such physical fatigue as people feel in the industrialized world is mostly healthy, and that only “nervous fatigue”, caused largely by worry, is really destructive to happiness. Most worry could be avoided by learning good thinking habits, by refusing to over-estimate the significance of possible failures, by taking a larger perspective, and by facing fears squarely.
Envy always makes you unhappy. If you compare yourself with people who are more successful, you will feel unhappy. But if you compare with people who are less successful than you, you will be happy. You cannot get away from envy by means of success alone. You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself.
When you feel envious, there are possibilities you can resolve the problem. But when you feel jealous of someone who is born with a golden spoon, you have no possibilities to achieve that because you cannot choose your parents.
I have read that a young man who was so jealous of his friend of winning the girl he wanted so badly that he committed suicide.
The sense of sin
Traditional religion has saddled us with an ascetic moral code that will make us unhappy if we keep it (by denying us joy in life) and also if we break it (by causing us guilt). The only solution is to root this moral code out of our unconsciousness, and replace it with a code less judgemental to human happiness.
Some people always feel that life is unfair to them and they are constantly being persecuted. This feeling will make them unhappy.
Fear of public opinion
Very few people can be happy unless on the whole their way of life and their outlook on the world is approved by those with whom they have social relations, and more especially by those with whom they live. Fortunately, the modern world gives us some choice about where we live and who our friends will be.
The Causes of Happiness
Once the obstacles to happiness are removed, the causes of happiness remain mysterious, happiness just happens somehow.
Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things. The kind of interest in persons that makes for happiness is the kind that likes to observe people and finds pleasure in their individual traits, that wishes to afford scope for the interests and pleasures of those with whom it is brought into contact without desiring to acquire power over them or to secure their enthusiastic admiration. The person whose attitude towards others is genuinely of this kind will be a source of happiness and a recipient of reciprocal kindness. To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.
Zest is the x-factor that causes us to be interested in life. You must always try to be enthusiastic in enjoying life. All disenchantment is to me a malady which is to be cured as soon as possible, not to be regarded as a higher form of wisdom. Suppose one man likes pineapples and another does not; in what respect is the latter superior? There is no abstract and impersonal proof that strawberries are good or that they are not good. To the man who likes them they are good, to the man who dislikes them they are not. But the man who likes them has a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live.
One of the chief causes of lack of zest is the feeling that one is unloved, whereas conversely the feeling of being loved promotes zest more than anything else does.
Affection of parents for children and of children for parents is capable of being one of the greatest sources of happiness, but in fact at the present day the relations of parents and children are, in nine cases out of ten, a source of unhappiness to both parties, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred a source of unhappiness to at least one of the two parties. This failure of the family to provide the fundamental satisfaction which in principle it is capable of yielding is one of the most deep-seated causes of the discontent which is prevalent in our age.
Whether work should be placed among the causes of happiness or the causes of unhappiness may perhaps be regarded as a doubtful question. Work is the cause of happiness for a number of reasons: it provides a useful way of passing time, an opportunity for success and the work itself may be interesting.
Just by talking to people, especially friends, you can get lots of happiness. Based on this idea, you can receive lots of happiness if you socialise often by going to bars or coffee shops, reunion, festivities like birthdays, Christmas, new year etc.
Certain interests are central to a person’s conception of life: career, family, and so forth. The value of having interests that are not central and have no effect on the major issues of life, such as hobbies and pastimes serve two purposes: (1) They provide an escape from larger worries, and distract the conscious mind so that the unconscious can work productively toward a solution. (2) They provide a reserve pool of interest in life, so that if disaster or a series of disasters destroy the pillars that support our central interests, we will have the possibility of growing new central interests.
Effort and Resignation
Resignation is more popularly referred to these days as acceptance. The question is basically: Should we try to change the world or accept it the way it is?
The Happy Man
Attention should be focused outward, not inward. It is not the nature of most men to be happy in a prison, and the passions which shut us up in ourselves constitute one of the worst kinds of prisons. Among such passions some of the commonest are fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. In all these our desires are centred upon ourselves: there is no genuine interest in the outer world, but only a concern lest it should in some way injure us or fail to feed our ego.
How I can prolong my life to gain happiness?
When I get up in the morning, I usually drink 2 glasses of water and eat half a pineapple. It is like flushing my 27 feet of intestine with water and brushing it with the fibrous pineapple. I do not have constipation and sicknesses in the last 20 or more years. This is my way to prolong my life.
How I can create more happiness?
Everyone is trying to make more and more money during his lifetime. Unfortunately, some consider the accumulation of money is a measure of success in their life.
After I have enough money to support my family, I must feel contented. I must know how to spend my extra money effectively. I must bear in mind that I cannot take any money along when I die. As the saying goes: “The shroud has no pockets.” I must also realise that I am spending my children’s inheritance.
Up until now, I have given more than 300 scholarships to help poor students to complete their tertiary education. I do not want them to return the money. I told them to bear in mind that when they were poor, I helped them and when they have some spare money, they should help other poor students. By this way, I am creating more and more charity workers and creating more happiness. When I see happy faces, I should also feel happy.
In fact, I have written in my WILL that after my death, all my remaining assets will be donated to charity. The shroud has no pocket.