Philosophical view on happiness. Complete title: Line from a children's song.
If You’re Happy & You Know It, Clap Your Hands!
By Lillian B. Rose
(by birth name in college)
Children sing, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Of course they all clap, but are they all happy? Using two theology readings and three philosophy readings, perhaps we can determine if clapping can make you happy. There are many sides to the concept of happiness. What elements affect a person’s happiness?
We look for perfection and we like to possess things. If we look for perfection, we don’t want any deformity in form or society. Every host hopes that they have everything necessary when organizing a party. Therefore, “what is missing cannot be supplied.” (Eccleiastes 1:15) In our quest to gain more, we work and work and work, to obtain more things. All life comes to an end, and the person’s belongings must be left to someone who didn’t earn them. The thought of this brings sadness to the toiler. Therefore things do not seem to bring us happiness after all. Although, “there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot.” (Eccleiastes 3:22) You should be respectful when you are in a religious setting because the disrespectful do not understand “how to keep from doing evil.” (Eccleiastes 4:17) When God enables man to gain wealth and other assets, he/she “finds joy in the fruits of his toil, (and) has a gift from God.” (Eccleiastes 5:18)
Healthy happiness comes from the bonus of “(w)isdom and an inheritance.” (Eccleiastes 7:11) Celebration through consumption, and amusement are the pleasurable results of our work. It is human nature to deem oneself more important than the other members of our society, but if one does this is no assurance that perfection will be attained. Including your spouse, whom you love, in your enjoyment and activities will bring you joy. Youth is meant to be a time of fun and frolic. Being happy in our youth, will teach us how to attain joy in our adulthood.
Straight happiness comes from a balance between activity and silence. Sometimes to show this balance people “merely need to be (themselves).” (Merton, p118) Faith plays an important role in finding contentment. But in order to seek God, we must stop focusing on ourselves and be open to suggestion. “All men seek peace first of all with themselves.” (Merton, p120) When a person is not at peace, the whole society becomes chaotic. The community reflects the state of being of those within it. “Turbulence of spirit is a sign of spiritual weakness.” (Merton, p 125)
The spiritual person does not admire what everyone else seems to. A spiritual person is humble. “The value of our activity depends almost entirely on the humility to accept ourselves as we are.” (Merton, p124) Alternating sound with silence produces the rhythm of music. Happiness does not mean “filling (in) all the silences of life with sound, (or) … turning all life’s leisure into work.” (Merton, p127) These actions produce “hell on earth.” (Merton, p124) “(A) life from which practically all the obstacles to God’s love have been removed or overcome” is the “one thing necessary” to live a happy life. (Merton, p130)
Every Christmas, afluenza strikes the populace. The holidays have lost their charm. Gift giving has turned into an excessive experience. We rush out to buy expensive gifts to give to family and friends as we forget about the needy. There is a parallel between Christmas and an ancient Roman holiday. Both are tied to “gifts, feasting, and lots of booze.” (Chard) In the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, the Christmas tree is a symbol of resurrection. We should give more to the needy because they are not “already drowning in stuff.” (Chard) The reason people celebrate Christmas is Jesus. It is the celebration of His birth. Jesus focused on “the poor, the sick, the outcast and the hopeless.” (Chard) In his memory, wouldn’t we find more happiness by following the example set for us?
Life has no meaning. If we accept this premise it would be absurd to attempt suicide. If we are an insignificant ant on a tiny anthill, we must accept this premise to be happy. If we are insignificant, then the world is insignificant. Hope is assigning meaning where there is none. (Camus) What is important is how we live now because there is no afterlife. Camus feels that it’s the quantity of experiences that count rather than the quality because it’s important to live life to the fullest. “What counts is not the best of living but the most living.” (Camus, p100) It is very important to remember the premise that our life “depends solely on us.” (Camus, p100) Therefore, life is what you make of it. Since life is what you make of it, it is up to us to find happiness in our life.
Tolstoy reminisced about his life, as he laid sick. He began his life review in search of that one thing that made him happiest. He wanted to find his joy in something unique. He realized that having knowledge was not unique. Having a family that loved him was not unique. Being a successful writer was not unique. So after all his search for something unique in his experience, he realized that the faith of the superstitious was very unique. As Tolstoy examined the faith of the people, he realized that real faith exists. “(T)heir faith was necessary for them and … it alone gave them a meaning and possibility of life.” (Tolstoy p 397) After the complete analysis, Tolstoy felt that the truth of a person’s life is where joy is found.
What truly makes people happy? In Eccleiastes we are told that perfection and possessions lead to celebration and activity. It is never implied that work leads to happiness, but work allows happiness to exist. Being and Doing suggests that joy is achieved when a person finds a balance between activity and silence. The Journal/Sentinel article implies in order to beat the curse of afluenza, we must do more for those in need. Camus insists every person determines his/her own happiness. Tolstoy found that joy is present in truth following a life review. Perhaps “(w)e have become creators of (our own) world” (class notes) and our own happiness.
Camus, Albert. The Absurdity of Human Existence.
Chard, Philip. (12/24/02). Christmas for needy now sates the greedy. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Class Notes and Essay Notes
Merton, Thomas. No Man Is An Island. Being and Doing. (1955). San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jasvanovich.
The New American Bible with Revised New Testament. The Book of Ecclesiastes. (1988). Missions Hills, CA: Benziger Publishing Co.
Tolstoy, Leo. My Confession. Philosophy Contemporary Perspectives (Fourth Edition). (1994). New York: St. Martin’s Press.