Can real happiness be found through objectivity?


All Writings, Blog, Observations, Psychology / Monday, May 7th, 2018

It would be difficult to place an exact event or time when a person experiences happiness for the first time.  One would very much hope, it was during the days of infancy, even before the faculties of reason had started to develop.  And so, by this way of referencing, happiness or the experiencing of it would certainly appear to be older than reason itself.  A child’s good sensation for feeling happiness – perhaps at the sight of his mother, or a playful call from the father, or watching a puppy dog or a bird or a toy – becomes an involuntary cause for seeking further happiness.  Be it with or without reason, happiness just seems right to be a part of everyday thinking and living.  Happiness would seem naturally desirable as part of an ongoing human experience.

As we grow older, and our ability to reason starts to develop, we do seem to lose the spontaneity of happiness.  We begin to reason over what makes us happy.  Thereby, we get drawn into a way of thinking that causes us to carefully note what are the specific reasons and causes that make us or our loved ones happy.  We get so used to reasoning with age and maturity, we do it without consciously thinking of reasoning.  We reason out of habit.  Moving between habitual reasoning and some very deliberate reasoning, we always remember how good it feels to be happy.  And if it felt good for us, then surely it must have felt good for the other person too!  Therefore, we wish to fill our lives with this thing called happiness.

Objectivity even to the minutest study of our happiness
Objectivity even to the minutest study of our happiness

Now, there would come times in the modern way of living – focused as it is on productivity and performance – that one starts to seek reasons for happiness.  No, it cannot be the same as actually responding to a surprise in our experience, that elicits that familiar old feeling of being joyful.  In order to meet the challenge of “listing” ways to be happy, or possibly feel happy, we might get involved in that practice of deliberate reason – the exercise of objective thinking.  We might experiment with our own feelings.  In this, we cannot really be successful, but yes, experiments to find out ways to make our loved ones happy might be a more productive endeavor after all.

Experiments in happiness – the objective mind

Happiness – that pure joyful feeling of a child – while also having the cold, calculating approach of measuring and reasoning to find effective ways toward happiness seem mutually incompatible.  Come to think of it, this is perhaps more readily identifiable with the modern man than with previous generations.  Of course, this is pure conjecture!  If we look towards the pages of history and men of extreme dedication to the pursuit of reason and science, we might come across the very minds that we encounter today.  The only difference, it would seem is, we have the means through technology that they could only have wished for.

Coming back, therefore, to the difficult or seemingly impossible relationship between objectivity (a conditioning of the mind) and of happiness (an experience of the heart), it would seem the entire exercise is futile.  A question one might ask is: How can one truly experience happiness if he or she is in conscious pursuit of it?   This is surely the significant question in this regard, and deserving of some extended attention.

A realization that we could quite readily arrive at is this: By training the mind in reason and seeking extremes in this training through pure objectivity, we might surely deprive ourselves of the purity of innocent, childlike happiness.  Yes, if we really are to seek a pure experience of happiness, then there isn’t a better example than what a child is able to experience by simply responding to an influence in that very moment.

The grown person’s version of happiness is different if it is through objectivity.  This objectivity, in my opinion, would succeed only in a coupling with unselfishness.  For example, a man studies his wife unselfishly to carefully note every reason that makes her happy.  He genuinely cares for her and doesn’t let her know that he is observing her.  He shares in her happiness, but also carefully notes what made her happy.  Would this not be a beautiful use of objectivity to unselfishly seek the happiness of a loved one?

In the moral philosophy of prudence, for example, the sole business of reason is to bring about a union of all the ends, which are aimed at by our inclinations, into one ultimate end—that of happiness—and to show the agreement which should exist among the means of attaining that end.

– Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Pure Reason

Why did this need for objectivity develop in the first place?  We do think of it in terms of the development of science and the scientific method, which in turn may be seen as a development through the failure of organized religion.  The horrors made possible in the human world through the power of religion, especially when religion successfully melded with the powers of the state and manipulated the ruling elite, seem to have found the antidote in the enlightenment made possible through the sciences.  So, it seems, that objectivity fundamentally grew out of a sense of disbelief, out of a pain due to betrayal, and out a defensive response to our disappointments.  Human beings no longer wanted to be open to the pain caused by unfulfilled hopes as religious persuasions might elicit, but rather, to find the very truth about reality as it really is.

Even in the most personal and intimate of human concerns, yes, even something as natural as happiness, has not remained distanced from the pursuits through objectivity.  In this, it is plain to see the loss mankind has suffered.  We have lost what purely should have been ours – happiness – like that of a child!

Some thoughts from religion, for those who are still willing to seek happiness in an old-fashioned way

Religion could be called old-fashioned, not that science could not also be called old-fashioned too.  However, the fashion of finding without planning is what we are concerned with here.  Such is the “seeming” invitation of faith.  It would appear so, but it is not necessarily so.  Faith also has its methods.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB) 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

For instance, in the mind of a Christian, he or she has found the external source of happiness.  Jesus Christ is the reliable one for such a seeker.  By trusting in the living person, Christ, a Christian is to gain joy through prayer and gratitude.  This is so very different from the deliberate efforts of a person who consciously seeks reliable ways to be happy or to unselfishly make someone else happy.  Could we have a respect for both kinds of persons, and both kinds of efforts for the same goal – happiness?  Other ways to happiness include a focus on the present, humbly accepting the unreliability of our existence, and also to be the kind of person who is willing to put in the effort to gain the very fruit that makes him happy.  We can respect all these, can we not?

Psalm 128:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB) When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.

The mastery over happiness!

It is a bit arrogant of the modern man to think, that just as he has gained the mastery over flight by inventing the airplane or gained mastery over the seas by building ships, he can also manufacture something to be master over happiness.  In this, we are all very much disappointed.

The nature of happiness isn’t one that we can control.  Maybe we shouldn’t also make an attempt to do so.  Happiness – as experienced by a child – is in its unpredictability and in its own moments.  We cannot return to the days of childhood or the mind of a child, unless, we grow so old that we once again become children in older bodies.  Perhaps, as a collective mankind, we are awaiting some unimaginable transformation, when and where we will not be seekers of happiness.  We will just be happy.  The thought of having to find ways or make an objective examination of reasons to find happiness will be simply an idea foreign to our minds.  It is a matter of wish, of hope…and until it comes true, grown people cannot be stopped from being even purely objective to seek something that should be as natural to humans as their existence itself – happiness!

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