- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
According to a survey conducted by the National Consulting Center of Colombia, obeying the Global Barometer of Happiness and Hope in the Economy, 89% of Colombians say they are happy. Doing a numbers game, that indicates that nine out of ten Colombians would give an affirmative answer if asked about their happiness. This figure is surprising and somewhat disconcerting, considering that one lives in a country where violence and corruption abound in all levels, and perhaps there are more problems than the solutions that are given. Faced with the above, it is pertinent to make a deep analysis, because it is foolhardy to say without thinking twice that one is happy, under these conditions.
The first thing that should be analyzed is: What is happiness? Seldom can you ask a question that is more difficult to answer, and very likely to any answer that is given, you will be given an argument that makes it fall easily. This usually happens when we talk about such global and universal concepts, such as love, freedom, peace or happiness itself. Let's start with the basics: According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish language, happiness is "a state of mind that takes pleasure in the possession of a good". It also gives other definitions, such as "satisfaction, taste or contentment", and "happy luck" (quite redundant, right?). It seems that the RAE did not take enough time to analyze the full meaning of the word, leaving its readers with the same question as always.
Maybe the greatest philosophers in history can give us a more accurate answer about what we are looking for. In ancient Greece, Aristotle immortalized the following sentence: "Happiness is found in virtue." Through extensive dissertations, gave key concepts, among which is the one that names the intellectual virtues as the main element of happiness (for example prudence , which according to him, is the ability to distinguish what is right and what is not, in the field of behavior), and also said that one of the common positions within happiness is to determine what makes each person happy, and likewise to be able to find this noble ideal.
The last point named above will be the key point, around which this text will revolve. It is that throughout history, the human being has tried not only to define happiness, but to find it uselessly. He has searched for her in innumerable ways, but always, for his own misery, he has failed in his attempt. Moreover, it seems that each day is further away from finding it.
One of the postulates most accepted by highly enlightened characters is that which says that happiness is found through the intelligentsia. It is public knowledge that the discoveries and the capacities of thought of the man increase vertiginously every day. During the twentieth century technology advanced by leaps and bounds and there is no doubt that in the seventeen years that have elapsed since the 21st century this has had incredible jumps, that with even passing hours are more accelerated. All this has resulted mostly in a good for humanity, since the main objective of science and technology is to understand the world, in order to generate solutions that improve or facilitate life. According to Gartner, the world investment in technology for the year 2013 was going to rise above the 3800 million dollars, and although it seems an unimaginable figure, expectations have been exceeded. However, making a relationship with what has been talked about; Is it possible to achieve happiness through intellectuality, knowledge, science and technology? Let's go back to the 20th century: It was a century in which science and technology gave fruitful and great advances. These include the invention of aircraft, the discovery of penicillin, the development of electronics, nuclear energy, the invention of spacecraft, the development of telecommunications ... In short, it is difficult to synthesize in a only paragraph everything that the twentieth century meant for humanity scientifically and technologically speaking. Now; Let us also look at the following: Between the years 1789 and 1815 the so-called Napoleonic Wars were fought, which in total took the lives of approximately 6 million people. The world of the time was horrified by these conflicts. However, upon entering the twentieth century, as has been said previously, the greatest scientific-technological advance of history was given up to that moment, and that included the advance in military technology, "technology made to kill". From 1914 to 1918 the lives of some 30 million civilians and soldiers in the First World War were lost, and between 1939 and 1945 the scandalous figure of 70 million people died in the bloodiest war in history: World War II. These are followed by renowned conflicts such as the famous Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, the Korean War, and countless other events that contributed to swelling the list of deaths from wars during the 20th century. The technological and war advance made armed conflicts rise to a dimension of sadism unimaginable for earlier times. Any average person could be asked, taking into account the above, if science, technology, and the intelligentsia give happiness and would surely answer no. Not to mention the broad suicide rates that are currently reported, with Japan, one of the countries with the greatest scientific progress, also one of the top 12, with a rate of 22 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Let's not talk then of Greenland, which occupies the first place with 83 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants. According to the World Health Organization, suicide occurs every 40 seconds in the world. Undoubtedly that is not happiness.
Returning to philosophy, one of the most important currents of thought in the Hellenistic period was that of the Epicureans. They precisely focused their reflections on the constant search for happiness. They came to the conclusion that to find happiness, pleasure is necessary, although not given blindly, but illuminated by prudence. However, within their extensive dissertations, they managed to classify the pleasures, defining material pleasures or spiritual meanings and pleasures. Epicureus said that the former should be limited to the maximum, since they produce a constant dissatisfaction, but he also said that the latter are the way to happiness, since happiness is achieved through the satisfaction of the soul and the spirit; something that he himself called ataraxia. With the Epicureans the following maxim was immortalized: "If you want to make Pitocles rich, do not add riches to him, diminish his desires". Of this last one we are going to occupy next.
Although Epicurean declared himself an open atheist, he gave one of the initial stitches about the argument that will be discussed in this section. He himself named a very important aspect in the realization of human happiness: the Spirit. Going back to the RAE, one could say that the spirit is an "immaterial Being endowed with reason" or a "rational soul". Epicurean said that happiness is obtained with the satisfaction of the Spirit, but then, what is to satisfy the spirit? Is there really any way to do it?
"I have told you these things so that they may find peace in me. In this world you will face afflictions, but be encouraged! I have overcome the world. "John 16:33 (NIV)
Perhaps you are part of those intellectual atheists who cling firmly to the idea that there is no higher being and that man is master and master of himself. Regardless of this, it is undeniable that the words of Jesus Christ (the author of the previous quote) are full of wisdom, to the point that many intellectual eminences consider him as one of the great moralistic teachers of history. Forget for a moment the disillusionment that religions have caused and focus on the philosophical attitude that says that all postulates, arguments and points of view should be listened carefully to formulate an opinion, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Referring to the previous biblical quote, it is important to bear in mind that it is totally impossible to conceive a life without problems of any kind. We live in an economic and power system that makes the human being never feel satisfied with what he has, but always live in favor of having much more. That is one of the reasons, as a personal point of view, why man is increasingly away from happiness. Poverty and inequality increase day by day, so the problems of the human being are in constant and progressive increase. Therefore, it is utopian to talk about happiness as a continuous state of mind, since these depend sensitively on the context in which the person in question is located. Jesus knew that reality, and although these words were written in the first century of our era, he knew that this reality was going to increase with the passing of the years. He himself gives the key to happiness in the second part of the verse: "Encourage yourself! I have overcome the world". He offers himself as a source of peace, spiritual tranquility, and therefore happiness. For this reason, happiness is not grounded in the presence or absence of problems, nor is it based on how well-versed and technological the world is, but is precisely given in it. Proof of this are the many or few people in the world who have embraced this truth in a living way, and who despite the difficulties are happy, because they have Jesus as personal savior and unique source of confidence and happiness. Rightly Solomon spoke when he said:
"For seven times the righteous may fall,
but many others will rise;
the wicked, on the other hand,
they will sink into misfortune. "Proverbs 24:16
Happiness does not lie in never falling into misfortune, but in having the gallantry and courage necessary to always get up from there. Being consistent with what has been said, this courage is only found in the one who has defeated the world, which is the source of these afflictions. No matter what conceptions and prejudices you have before God, when there is a truth like these, it is necessary to tear down those inner walls.
So, what can be concluded? It is not possible to find true happiness in human knowledge. Nor is it possible to find it in the excess of material pleasures, undoubted sources of dissatisfaction. Happiness is not given in a life without difficulties. True happiness lies in overcoming all the difficulties that the world offers and clinging to the one who, above all, overcame them for us.