Monday, February 4, 2008

(19) Happiness

"We hold that happiness as understood by mature and fit
agents is a property of whole lives, not of transient mental
states. We hold that is is achievable only through a proper
balance of stability and control..."
[Lawrence C. Becker, A NEW STOICISM, Princeton University
Press, 1998, p. 138.]

Comment: I agree generally, but slightly disagree specifically.
There are some moments of happiness that can happen to
us unexpectedly. These moments perhaps should be seen
as gifts of Fortune, if you will. And just because we didn't
generate these special moments does not mean that we need
deny such.

But generally I do believe happiness is a state-of-mind that
spreads out into our life, stays sweetly, calm and content.
It's a matter of outlook, perhaps. And reaching towards this
condition is not a matter of specific happenings. As Becker
puts, this more steady form of happiness is not something
that is transient--that comes and goes.

However, this more general form of happiness is easier said
than done. I believe, as Becker does, that it's a result of
"stability and control." But these are attributes that take time
and effort, when it comes to developing them.

Stability? What does that really mean? In the monastic world,
stability is an essential that revolves around "staying put" in a
specific location; i.e., a monastery. But this idea can be expanded
in lots of different ways. There's long been talk that the *person*
is the living monastery, instead of some geographic spot behind
walls. But evolving personhood does depend on developing
personal stability. And with this, we are right back with the Stoics!

The next question is how does one develop stability? Surely
the answer depends on the person's personality. How you might
become stable might differ from the way I might evolve stability.
Perhaps I can only speak for myself in this matter. Mainly, I think
the big (or biggest) step is coming "To Know Thyself." I believe
the ancients had it right in this case.

More questions arise. Is knowing one's self a much more
complex issue today? Do we now live not only in a more
complicated outer world, but also a more complicated inner
world? Are ancient quotations really applicable for moderns?
In general terms, probably so. But, specifically, nowadays we
face far more variables!

Depth Psychology has made some headway into the complexities
of our mind. There's also Cognitive Science and Consciousness
Studies that also point towards a more challenging situation when
it comes to personhood. To be honest, it's obvious we probably
face a more hefty self-encounter than the ancients.

Nonetheless, "stability and control" remain essential. "Knowing
Thyself" involves self-acceptance. It's at this point where we reach
a kind of quiet, just knowing who we are. It's at this point that we
have garnered together all the different elements that compose
our personhood. If we can do this, then we have stabilized our
self. To use common parlance, we have "got it together" and then
it is a matter of "following our flow."

As for control, well that's like being the helmsman of our soul.
Steering through the sea of Life involves constant encounter(s)
that engage the stability of our ship, so to speak. We now *know*
who we are, but we may not always know what Life might be
throwing at us in the next moment. And it's at this point where
we need take control of our self and remain stable. If we can do
this, I guess you could call us a successful person--and that
can translate into happiness.

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