Sunday, April 7, 2013

More on Happiness

Scott Bradley


When I wish 'the best' for someone it is their happiness that I have in mind. What other ultimate 'blessing' is possible? I needn't mention wealth, health, getting laid, or being in love; we know these, and similar goods can contribute to happiness, but they are far from guarantors of happiness. Then there are the more 'spiritual' values — peace, serenity, contentment; but to my thinking these are all synonymous with happiness. Then there are the supreme goods — enlightenment, self-realization; but I don't really believe in these if they are understood to mean 'salvation'. Salvation implies that there is something lost or something that can be lost. I'm all for eternal bliss, but if there is such a thing, then it must be universal and neither optional nor contingent. In the meantime, there's only one true value, the quality of life. (And this must be both self-contained and universally integrated. My happiness wishes and seeks to cultivate the happiness of all being, but it cannot be dependent on the success of that project.)

This aspiration to happiness seems a bit mundane and prosaic when compared with the grand theme of 'enlightenment', but frankly, it's the best I can do. It is also worth mentioning that some who have attained something that they describe as enlightenment say that it's great, but they would just as soon have attained it just before death. This particular species of enlightenment (no-self) apparently empties life of that form of emptiness that enables its impetus to live. Without a lack, where is becoming; and without becoming, what is life?

Ta-Wan has made the point that the pursuit of happiness is indicative of a lack thereof. This is an unavoidable truism. Somewhere in the Zhuangzi, after a long discussion of what happiness is and how one might attain it, the author concludes that it is to be had only when one does not pursue it. Another truism. Somewhere between the two is the living reality where happiness happens, and this, as it turns out, is ever much as hard a nut to crack as is enlightenment. They must be the same.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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