What Is Happiness?

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Lao Tzu (Chinese taoist Philosopher, founder of Taoism, wrote “Tao Te Ching” (also “The Book of the Way”). 600 BC-531 BC)

A friend asked me what I thought happiness meant and I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer which prompted me to find out what some of mankind’s greatest sons thought about happiness.

Genghis Khan, a childhood hero of mine, accomplished warrior, king of a vast kingdom and- if you ask the Iraqis- an infidel and ruthless barbarian had this to say:

“The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy and drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather to your bosom his wives and daughters.”

Whilst this is no longer practical in modern times, can it be true for war-mongers like Bush, Blair and other trigger happy world leaders? Or can an edited version of the above, whereby your enemies suffer, be the definition of happiness and hold true today? It is also worth noting that in Genghis Khan’s case the suffering of his enemies meant his increasing success and power.

Indian revolutionary, philanthropist and peaceful change advocate Mahatma Ghandi would have frowned at the Great Khan, instead preferring to go philosophical and defining happiness thus:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”

I wonder what he thought of men like Adolf Hitler, who pursued personal happiness at the expense of millions of lives.

Plato is vague, just saying:

Happiness is living well”,

his student, Aristotle, however, is a bit clearer when he writes:

Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient”. 

Other Greeks such as Epicurus taught that one can be happy when surrounded by a small group of friends and being frugal in external things. He taught what he called “the path of the small pleasure” which advocated for the elimination of all unnecessary things in life. I don’t really believe someone who viewed marriage as a threat to ‘inner peace’ and lived a celibate life.

After reading what others had to say, I realised that, though happiness in the strictest sense is personal and can not therefore be defined for everyone, the art of happiness is simply the art of being yourself.

So for me happiness is the laughter of friends, the smile of a loved one, a full stomach, a good game of football, good books, an excellent internet connection and a healthy body.

The Art of Happiness is the Art of Being Oneself.

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