Everyone is interested in the pursuit of happiness. This is a basic human instinct. This natural desire is being considered as one of the basic inalienable rights of human beings. Right to life and right to liberty. “Other basic human. What does this basic right – i.e. pursuit of happiness – mean? By this right what are the activates we are entitled to? what are the activities ought to do? Seeking answers to these questions will be enlightening since it will show the right path not only to lead a meaningful life but also to attain happiness.
Happiness means prolonged pleasure. It is state of mind. It is a feeling of contentment. However, this is a fuzzy concept and can mean many things to many people. That is why relaisation of this feeling differs from individual to individual for the same need. This difference is due to a difference in faith, belief, desire, attitude and knowledge of the individuals concerned. In other words, feeling of happiness depends much on the mental outlook of the individuals.
To achieve happiness, moralists advocate the observance of moral values. On this front also, there are many limitations. The basic limitation is that moral values in general are not absolute values. They are not infallible. They vary from society to society and from time to time. For example, in India, large part of the population considers eating of beef as immoral and in Islamic countries eating of pork as immoral. These activities are considered so in the rest of the world. Likewise, practising polygamy is immoral in some societies and it is not considered so in Islamic and African societies.
Thus, moral values are variable depending on the belief, and faith of the people. They get changed in course of time as well. In spite of these limitations, the moral values which they follow do play a significant role in molding the character of the people. Good moral values are those which promote humanism and extend human kindness in society. In addition, virtuous moral values are bound to motivate the people to work gladly and wholeheartedly for common welfare. The reason is that it is the only means by which human beings can make a happy society.
Happiness and work are inextricably and permanently linked. They are interrelated. Describing their interdependence on one another, the philosopher Disraeli says, “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action”. Idleness cannot make anyone happy. For example, if one is provided with enough food and other necessities and denied any work, one will go mad or will be ready to die.
This indicated that a moral human being is willing to do some work. Psychologists assert that it is not work that is distastable in itself. Work becomes distasteful only if labour produces no tangible result or one is unable to see the good effect of the work one does. Work also becomes distasteful if one happens to do the same type of work continuously for a long time. In spite of these restraints, everyone is morally bound to do some work useful to society. Mental awareness of this fact and mental preparedness to do some useful activity sincerely is the basic element to acquire happiness.
In human society, numerous and varied activities are going on. Some activities and some are less valuable from the utilitarian point of view. The usefulness of an activity can’t be easily evaluated because some activities are useful to society directly and some indirectly. Usefulness of intellectual activities such as scientific investigations and artistic activities cannot be easily assessed.
While assessing the contribution of work to the well-being and progress of the human society remains as the main criterion.
In 1885, Carl Benz made the internal combustion engine run on petrol and in 1898, Rudolf Diesel made the diesel engine. In 1903, Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright invented the aeroplane. In 1896, only four cars evicted in USA. At that time, nobody seemed to realise that these ‘horseless buggies’ were going to be something more than curious toys. From then on, numerous people in Western Europe and the USA out their minds into those machines and improved them beyond anybody’s prediction.
Now, these machines have become indispensable to human society. Such historical evidence indicates that it is not easy to consider a subject as worthy or unworthy to pursue. It also indicated that thinking and finding the secrets of nature or inventing a new machine or finding a solution to human problems are great adventures in human life. The people who accomplished great things are the happiest since they see the good result of their deeds.
These attainments enlighten us with the fact that pursuing an activity honestly, sincerely and with an open mind is another action we should do for the pursuit of happiness.
Truth-finding activities are the most pleasant activities in human life. Anyone can venture in these activities. Even if one needs to do some work for making a living, one can take up creative activities as leisure-time activities. For example, Richard Arkwright was a barber by profession. In his leisure time, he pursued his interest in the spinning machine.
After spending several years in that work, he invented a machine that could spin many threads and that too strong threads. For this invention, he was given a patent in 1769. He became rich by his invention; he was honoured by making him Sir Richard Arkwright. Likewise, numerous people have contributed to human progress by way of taking some leisure- time activity.
True happiness does not depend chiefly on material goods, though a minimum of the latter is necessary. However, people clamour for material comforts. To get creature comforts, everyone is interested in accumulating wealth. In their anxiety to accumulate wealth, many become criminals. Many misappropriate the funds meant for public welfare. Many misuse their power and position to further their own interests.
While doing so, they oppress fellow human beings inhumanly and envy them their rights. In this manner, they cause unhappiness and sufferings to fellow human beings directly and indirectly. These activities are immoral activities; Ethically we are not entitled to meddle with the rights of fellow beings. So, we should not misuse our power and position to further our own happiness.
To develop happiness in a society, love and knowledge play important roles. Stressing their equal importance, the famous philosopher Bertrand Russel says that, “Good life is the one that is inspired by love and guided by knowledge”. He adds that a love and knowledge are both extensible; therefore, however good a life may be a better life can be imagined. either love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. For instance, during the middle-ages, large numbers of people were made to gather by the religious priests for making prayers.
Love begets knowledge
Love is more fundamental since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love. If people are not intelligent, they will be content with what they have been told and may do harm in spite of the most genuine benevolence. Medicine is the right example. An able physician is more useful to a patient than the most devoted friend. Progress in medical knowledge does more for the health of the community than ill-informed philanthropy. So, we are bound to promote both love and knowledge equally to pursue happiness.
Without following activities for the development of love and knowledge, many useless activities are being carried out with much devotion and sincerity. Such activities include the performance of prayers, rituals and ceremonies in the name of religion and custom. These activities do give some pleasure to the participants. But these activities keep knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. For instance, during the middle-ages, large numbers of people were made to gather by the religious priests for making prayers.
Love begets knowledge
Love is more fundamental since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love. If people are not intelligent, they will be content with what they have been told and may do harm in spite of the most genuine benevolence.
Medicine is the right example. An able physician is more useful to a patient than the most devoted friend. Progress in medical knowledge does more for the health of the community than ill-informed philanthropy. So, we are bound to promote both love and knowledge equally to pursue happiness.
Without following activities for the development of love and knowledge, many useless activities are being carried out with much devotion and sincerity. Such activities include the performance of prayers, rituals and ceremonies in the name of religion and custom. These activities to give some pleasures to the participants. But these activities keep the people in an illusionary world. They are not useful to the well-being of society in any manner. So we are not bound to give importance to these activities.
Further, in the pursuit of happiness, the quality of pleasure revered by a society remains significant. If the people give importance to the happiness derived from the exercise of intelligence, of love and of a developed capacity to appreciate the best in art and literature, that pleasure is much higher than the pleasure derived entirely from eating, drinking, gambling, playing childish games or remaining idle.
Aesthetic experience and love of fellow beings will give more pleasure than those things which do not require intelligence above that of an imbecile. So it is plain that actions which promote values such as love, knowledge, virtue, justice and beauty will contribute more to true happiness.
Observing the present condition of human society, Bertrand Russell (1872 -1970) in his book New hopes for a changing world comments that “We will allow ourselves ways of thinking and feeling that were appropriate in a technically simpler age. If we are to live happily simpler age. If we are to live happily in a technically advanced age, we must banish certain ideas and substitute certain others”.
For love of domination, we must substitute equality, for love of victory we must substitute co-operation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family and further our common interests by the intelligent use of natural resources marching towards prosperity, not separately towards death and destruction”. He concludes that by changing our mindset we can spread happiness in human society.
About happiness, there is a well- known truth. If we seek pleasure too much, it flies, because we are then concentrating our attention on pleasure and not on the objective sources from which alone pleasure can be derived. So we ought to concentrate on the objective sources for the pursuit of happiness.