Happiness is a concept that can mean different things to different people. At its most simple, happiness is an emotion, but emotions are fleeting. True happiness is a state of being, a state of being content with your lot, of having all of your needs met. This doesn't mean that only people who are taken care of so well that they have no responsibilities of their own are happy. Quite the opposite. I believe that having something to strive for and a sense of accomplishment at doing things for oneself are among those needs. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Happiness is the contentment of having all of one's needs met or of having the means to meet them-
Material needs - food, a home, comfortable clothing, health
Mental needs - challenging (but not impossible) problems to solve, stimulating conversation, a venue for learning
Emotional needs - an outlet for creativity, people to care about, people who care about you
Spiritual needs - Something to believe in (need not be supernatural), a sense of purpose
As a Hellenic polytheist, I'll enjoy a brief exploration of the concept of eudaimia, literally translated "good spirit" and commonly supposed to refer to "happiness" or "flourishing in life". Eudamia does not describe a feeling or a state of being, but rather a action or path taken and a collection of those things in life that give pleasure taken in context of the entire life lived.
The ancient Greek idea of the daimone or lesser or earth spirit has been referred to as a helpful or harmful spirit who might whisper suggestions into your ear and brings blessings (or misfortune) to the household (or whatever other location the spirit might reside in). This can be taken as literally or metaphorically as you wish and it all amounts to the same. Eudaimon then is a good spirit, one who brings joy, contentment, happiness. One who helps you meet your needs by making helpful suggestions and bringing good energy into your life.
In the Hellenic tradition, our relationships with Gods and other spirits (and indeed other people) can be defined by reciprocity. You give gifts in the form of offerings or good works and the Gods or other spirits (and indeed people) will respond in kind. However, the term eudaimonia does not refer to the daimon itself, but the act of becoming like the daimon. In this sense, the path of happiness is a sort of apotheosis. Therefore, the spirit one is nurturing a reciprocal relationship with in this circumstance is ones own self.
Aristotle said that the person who is happiest is the person who most virtuous. Virtue is that which is best in yourself. It is different for everyone. To attain happiness one must cultivate virtue, that is, the best in oneself. (Arete) Those things that you have a natural talent for you will most enjoy cultivating. If you are a natural athlete, you will most enjoy training yourself and others for athletics. If you are a natural teacher, you will most enjoy learning and teaching others. Cultivating these virtues are gifts unto yourself, offerings to your spirit. By striving to be the best at what you do, the rest will fall into place. All of your needs will be met and you will find true happiness. This coincides also with the idea of The Will, a concept found in many other Pagan paths.
I am a truly happy person. I haven't always been. Indeed there have been times when I was quite miserable. Of course those times were always marked by my fruitless scrambling for something that lay outside my own virtues. I pined for a man who wasn't suited to me (and knew it) or struggled to excel at a job that I really didn't like simply because I thought it would make the most money or to fit in with a crowd that I had little in common with. All of these were sources of misery for me and blocked me from leading a life of virtue and happiness. Now I don't just do those things that bring me joy, but I strive to excel at those things. I work hard to be the best wife, mother, dog trainer, cook and herbalist I can possibly be and everything I do to make myself better is a gift to my own spirit. I surround myself with people who have similar interests and values and this is also a gift to myself.
There are, of course, things that I want that I don't have and these things sometimes make me a little sad.
I sometimes disagree with family members, I miss my dog, and our new cat rarely behaves the way I'd like, I am not at all pleased with the current house I'm living in and I am sometimes irritated with my boss or frustrated that I don't have time to do all things I want to do in a day. Then I have to remind myself - happiness is a journey, not a destination. If everything was perfect I wouldn't have anything to strive for, or complain about - complaining is fun, let's face it. Perfection = stagnation = boredom. Who wants that? Not me. My family members will always forgive me and I'll always forgive them. My cat will figure it out and there will probably be a new dog someday. In a few years I'll be in a position to buy a new house as a reward for all of my hard work perfecting my trade. Maybe then I'll be in a position to go into business for myself and fire the boss! Then I'll have new things to be annoyed or sad about, but hopefully then as now, I won't let them get in the way of my happiness!
More like this
Comments, questions, criticism?