DEFINING HAPPINESS  …

QUOTE: The second question: What is “happiness”?

I decided instead to follow the hallowed tradition set by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who defined obscenity by saying “I know it when I see it,” and Louis Armstrong, who said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know,” and A. E. Housman, who wrote that he “could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat” but that he “recognized the object by the symptoms it evokes.” Aristotle declared happiness to be the summum bonum, the chief good; people desire other things, such as power or wealth or losing ten pounds, because they believe they will lead to happiness, but their real goal is happiness. Blaise Pascal argued, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end.” One study showed that, all over the world, when asked what they want most from life— and what they want most for their children— people answered that they want happiness. Even people who can’t agree on what it means to be “happy” can agree that most people can be “happier,” according to their own particular definition. I know when I feel happy. That was good enough for my purposes.

I came to another important conclusion about defining happiness: that the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, not depression.

NOTE

 

DISCERNMENT QUESTIONS

What gets your attention?

What human needs or problems relate to the quote?

What is it like to have that problem?

What other resources connect to this idea?

What is the solution suggested in the quote, if there is one?

What would a camera see if the solution was implemented in my life, in my family’s life, or in my church or community?

What are the steps that I would take on Monday to implement that solution?

 

CONTEXTUALIZING QUESTIONS 

What does this say to my context as a …

… person?

… follower of Jesus? 

… to a church? 

… to a community – my neighbors?

 

RESOURCES

The quote is from The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin,  located at page

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