The Secrets of Happiness is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of happiness.
Combining wit, warmth, and intellectual authority, this book offers us ancient wisdom for modern living. Richard Schoch shows readers how they can enrich their lives by recovering the ancient philosophical and religious traditions of happinessand then putting them to work in their own lives today. In a journey across cultures and centuriesfrom the trials of Job to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and from Buddha's Four Noble Truths to the ecstasy of medieval Sufi mysticsSchoch answers questions that, although fundamental to our well-being, are rarely asked: what kind of effort does it take to be happy? do you have a right to be happy? can you be happy if others are unhappy?
Although Schoch finds that there is no single answer to these questions, he argues that every strategy for happiness can be placed in one of four categories: Living for Pleasure, Conquering Desire, Transcending Reason, and Enduring Suffering. (The book is divided into these four parts.)
The one thing that these disparate strategies do share is that each takes effort. Happiness, Schoch posits, is never an end-point; it is instead "a joyful struggle."
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The Secrets of HappinessThree Thousand Years of Searching for the Good Life
By Richard Schoch
ScribnerCopyright © 2006 Richard Schoch
All right reserved.
Unhappy is the story of happiness. More than two thousand years ago, when the ancient Greeks first thought about what constitutes "the good life," happiness was a civic virtue that demanded a lifetime's cultivation. Now, it's everybody's birthright: swallow a pill, get happy; do yoga, find your bliss; hire a life coach, regain your self-esteem. We have lost contact with the old and rich traditions of happiness, and we have lost the ability to understand their essentially moral nature. Deaf to the conversation of the ages, we deny ourselves the chance of finding a happiness that is meaningful. We've settled, nowadays, for a much weaker, much thinner happiness: mere enjoyment of pleasure, mere avoidance of pain and suffering. The so-called new science of happiness perpetuates this impoverished notion of the good life. Somewhere between Plato and Prozac, happiness stopped being a lofty achievement and became an entitlement.
We can reject this modern enfeeblement of happiness. We can recover its ancient traditions, the traditions that began in the West with the philosophers of Athens and in the East with the anonymous Hindu sages of the Axial Age. We can, with no exaggeration, call these traditions a secret, so unpracticed, if not obscured, have they become. Yet the secret will notresist our attempt to find it.
Over the past decade or so, behavioral scientists, neuroscientists, economists, and psychologists (including a Nobel laureate from Princeton) have been working to measure reported levels of happiness and to identify its causes. Their methods are droll. In one "experience sampling," participants carry Internet-ready palmtop computers twenty-four hours a day. When an alarm sounds on their palmtops, the participants -- who have been trained to respond with Pavlovian mechanicity to aural stimulation -- stop what they're doing and complete an online survey about how they feel about what they've just stopped doing. Back in the laboratory of happiness, technicians download these data and then plot a graph showing each participant's happiness peaks and troughs over time. In case the guinea pigs have tried to outfox their masters -- pretending to be happier or unhappier than they actually are -- brain scans are used to confirm their testimony. (The participants, it can be revealed, are honest.)
What do the surveys say? Sex, no surprise, makes everyone feel better. The second best thing is having a drink after work with your friends. Work itself -- challenging, rewarding, and secure employment -- also contributes greatly to happiness. Commuting, however, makes us miserable. Well, almost all of us; 4 percent of respondents claimed to enjoy traffic jams. (Who could these people be?) If you believe the statistics, it's pretty easy to make yourself happy: live within walking distance of an enjoyable and secure job, prop up the bar with your friends, and then go home and have sex. Happiness: the secret revealed!
Happiness is also a growth industry. Self-help books generate $1 billion in annual sales, and the global market for antidepressants (O true apothecary!) stands valued at an astounding $17 billion. The "desire industry" -- whose titans are Botox jabbers, personal trainers, and lifestyle gurus -- rakes in even more. (So reports the earnestly named Work Foundation.) As a Harvard MBA would say, it's one vast marketing opportunity. At a time when financial prosperity is assured for many, though by no means all, in the industrialized world, happiness has become the ultimate luxury item.
But what is this thing called happiness? The scientists and the social scientists do not stop to ask the question because they presume to know its answer. Happiness is...well, it's just "feeling good -- enjoying life and wanting the feeling to be maintained."1 So say the economists. In the genial patois of the researchers this is called "subjective well-feeling." Those now in kindergarten, or who once were, will doubtless be familiar with its romping musical expression: "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." Maybe the mystery of happiness has not been solved by the palmtop experience sampling.
Although the psychologists and the economists offered no satisfactory definition of happiness, they did provide, however unwittingly, a vital clue to its whereabouts. In studies of happiness among Maasai tribes in Kenya, seal hunters in Greenland, and slumdwellers in Calcutta, there was one commonality amid all the diversity: every study began by declaring, sometimes boasting, that it no longer set store by old ways of thinking that have failed to help us find happiness. But once upon a time, when giants walked the earth, these old ways of thinking were known as philosophy and religion.
Over the centuries, benefiting from the law of compound intellectual interest, this deposit of wisdom has grown rich and vast. Some ideas about happiness are philosophical, some are religious; some Eastern, some Western; some thousands of years old, some not a hundred. They take the shape of open letters, secret diaries, self-help manuals, logical treatises, sacred scriptures, and love poems. They are the wise saws to be tested against modern instances. And such is their vitality that without them life seems wasteful and barren. These ideas are the subject of this book.
For most of human history, happiness has been understood, even experienced, in the context of religious belief. Only in the past three or four centuries, and mainly in Western culture, has happiness been divorced, for some people, from faith, religion, and spirituality. So here at the outset we find ourselves at what seems to be an impasse: If so many paths to happiness are bound up in religious belief, doesn't that render them invalid for people of other beliefs, or of none? How can a Christian profit from Hindu teachings on happiness? Why should an atheist bother to read the works of an Islamic mystic?
In writing this book, I have assumed that the purpose of encountering other religious traditions is not conversion, but enlightenment. And that is the spirit in which I invite you to read it. By enlightenment, I mean an appreciative recognition that another's beliefs, traditions, or culture can reveal, can offer up, an insight that will enhance one's own beliefs, traditions, or culture. Even if we cannot fully enter into someone else's beliefs, still we can learn from them. I suspect that this answer may be unsatisfying to some readers (no doubt because it appears to smack of a politically correct piety), but I believe that if we approach the pursuit of happiness too parochially, we will succeed only in denying ourselves something of value.
Like all great ideas, those about happiness, no matter their origin, flow from minds attuned to universals, minds quickened by concerns so basic to our being that we ignore them to our cost. What human creature, even at the risk of a despairing insight, has never inquired into the nature -- and possibility -- of his or her own happiness? To introduce some of those great ideas, I want to tell you the story of three people who, long ago and far away, in moments of trauma and terrible strain, reflected profoundly about happiness -- and then allowed those reflections to suffuse their lives with purpose and meaning. Later, I expand on the stories, giving to each its own proper chapter, and I tell other stories in other chapters, too. For the purposes of this introduction, though, I want to use them as our preliminary examples, our first glimpses of what it means to search for happiness. We may not share the lonely burdens of these extraordinary characters, or their ferocious courage, but we are dashed by the same troubles and can be restored by the same consolations.
Epicurus (341-271 B.C.), if you believe his critics, of whom there have been many throughout history, was a fellow of a most scandalous course of life. Yet even his most aggressive detractors would concede that he was exceptionally clever. A philosopher in ancient Athens, he preached in the city's open marketplace, the agora, that the sole source of happiness is pleasure. (The ancient Greek word for pleasure was hedone, from which we derive the modern word "hedonist.") Pleasure, because it is the key to happiness, must be the ultimate aim of our every action: whatever we do, we should do it for pleasure. Epicurus believed that we should embrace pleasure because Nature herself had planted within all of us the desire for it. In a fundamentally healthy way, pleasure is good.
Still, Epicurus preferred to take his pleasures in private. Retreating from society, he founded a quasi-religious cult that survived him by seven centuries and flourished in every part of the Mediterranean world from Herod's Judaea to Caesar's Gaul. It began slowly. Epicurus and his disciples, who wore signet rings bearing his image and committed to memory his precepts and injunctions, retreated to a secret garden outside Athens. There, in splendid isolation, they heeded the call to "live the obscure life": to renounce luxury, to abstain from sensual indulgence, and, most uncharacteristically for inhabitants of democracy's birthplace, to disclaim their civic duties.
But it was the tragic fate of Epicurus to be misunderstood. Partly because his enclave dared to include women -- who were politically and intellectually disenfranchised -- and partly because it was cut off from the Athenian city-state, outsiders formed a sharply negative picture of this philosophical separatist movement and its mesmerizing leader. Epicurus was accused, among other transgressions, of holding orgies with "Baby Lion," "Little Conquest," and "Tits," among the most glamorous courtesans of their day. Three centuries after his death, this "foul-mouthed bastard," as the Roman philosopher Epictetus branded him, was still being condemned for moral depravity.
The fact of the matter is that Epicureanism, properly understood, promotes none of the self-indulgence and extravagance that have been so detrimentally attributed to it over the centuries. Epicurus, if we look closely, was a generous, reverent, and patriotic Athenian. We need only read the man's letters and proverbs (some of which are, bizarrely, preserved in the Vatican) to discover that Epicurus taught that the good life requires discipline and restraint.
Once, in all sincerity, he asked his friend Idomeneus to send him a slice of cheese "so that when I want to have a feast I shall be able to do so."2 He claimed that no one's life was ever improved by having an orgasm. He spoke without guile (although his claim must cast into doubt the pride of Baby Lion). Yes, Epicurus believed that pleasure was the secret of happiness, but here's the twist: he defined pleasure not as sensual indulgence -- touching this, tasting that -- but as the absence of desire. That's where his innumerable critics (Cicero, honorably apart) got him wrong. True pleasure, Epicurus insisted, is marked not by intensity but by tranquility. Happiness, profound and lasting, is the calm after the storm.
In Córdoba, Spain, a few years before the birth of Jesus Christ, was born the greatest expositor of Roman Stoicism. His name was Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.-A.D. 65). The talented son of a prominent father, he was educated in Rome, where he remained to pursue a career in government. Despite his advantages, and his eventual prominence, Seneca did not have an easy life.
The Emperor Claudius banished him to the island of Corsica (an inhospitable and uncivilized place, where Latin was only rarely heard), mistakenly believing that Seneca had committed adultery with the emperor's own niece. Eventually, Seneca was restored to his position at the imperial court, where he exercised vast powers and amassed great riches under the rule of the next emperor, the infamous Nero. But it was not long before Nero turned his honorable counselor into a dirty thug. Seneca was forced to plot the assassination of Nero's mother -- at Nero's unloving behest -- and then to justify the crime before the Roman Senate. Finally, Seneca was ordered to kill himself when the paranoid emperor suspected him of treachery. Though innocent, Seneca had no choice but to do a tyrant's bidding.
In the years of banishment, in the times of upheaval, and, finally, in the days before his death, Seneca could not help but wonder why bad things happen to blameless people. If the universe is unjust, how can anyone be sure of finding happiness? The question is grievously perennial. Job, the suffering servant of the Hebrew God, asked much the same. The anguished Seneca, going one step further, answered this seemingly unanswerable question.
Through bombastic and emotionally overwrought adaptations of Greek tragedies he rendered in dramatic form the abrupt reversals of fortune that visited him over the years. But Seneca's most extended reflections, which arose, undeniably, from the pain and misery of his life, are found in his more dignified philosophical writings: dialogues, treatises, and personal addresses of consolation and advice to friends and relatives. Faced with impossible moral dilemmas, Seneca took refuge in the Stoic values of detachment and indifference and found that those values could bring him happiness even in circumstances more dreadful than he could have imagined. Addressing himself as much as his readers, Seneca explained that happiness "can only be achieved by having first, a sound mind in constant possession of its soundness; then a brave and energetic mind, which is also gifted with the noblest form of endurance; able to deal with circumstances of the moment.... Everlasting freedom and tranquility follow once we have banished all that vexes and frightens us."3
In a spirit of detachment, Seneca calmly awaited a fate whose horrible course he was powerless to alter. Throughout life, his goal had been to harness the mind's rational powers so that he might withstand both the injuries that had been so unfairly and so relentlessly inflicted on him and the seductive charms of good fortune. So often, and perhaps more than we would like to admit, we trick ourselves into believing that happiness depends on good fortune. That is a tempting, but ultimately damaging, way to think because it absolves you and me from the responsibility to create happiness in whatever circumstances we face.
Seneca did not think that way. Emboldened by the Stoic belief that happiness is independent of mere circumstance, he accepted the "blessings of fortune" without embarrassment or shame, yet remained fully prepared to relinquish them at a moment's notice.4 When that inevitable moment came -- first in exile to Corsica, and later in anxious retirement -- he gave up without a struggle every last thing that he possessed, including his own life. But one thing has survived: the pattern of Seneca's noble life, and that belongs to posterity.
In Baghdad, toward the end of the eleventh century, an acclaimed Islamic scholar fell mysteriously ill, renounced his career, and spent two years praying alone in a mosque in Damascus. His name was Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111). Born in the Persian city of Tûs, Ghazali grew up to be an authority on religious law, in recognition of which he was honored with the titles "The Proof of Islam" and "The Ornament of Faith." At the young age of thirty-three he was appointed to a professorship at the Nizamiyya college in Baghdad. Shortly after reaching this position of intellectual eminence he fell victim to a debilitating spiritual crisis. It turned out to be the first step in his quest for happiness, a quest that would take him to distant lands over many years.
At the height of his worldly success Ghazali realized, to his shame, that he was too much with the world, too entangled in its strangulating net. He doubted the worth of the subjects he taught and admitted, if only to himself, that his motivation for teaching was the basest of all motives: pride. Firm in his faith, Ghazali knew, nonetheless, that he would be denied eternal life in paradise if he could not discipline his desires and relinquish his attachment to worldly goods. As he lived in fear and indecision, the crisis worsened. One day, standing before his students, about to give a lecture, he suddenly lost the power of speech. Soon he could not swallow food. His doctor diagnosed an "ailment of the heart." Ghazali, who possessed the soul of a poet, interpreted the clinical findings allegorically: his physical illness was the emblem of his underlying spiritual illness. He stood in danger not of losing his mortal body (that would perish eventually anyway) but of losing something far more precious: his immortal soul.
Just as the crisis was extreme, so was its cure. At the pinnacle of his fame Ghazali abandoned his career, his friends, and his wealth. After setting aside money for his sons' education and entrusting them to the care of relatives (how it must have pained him to say good-bye), he traveled to Damascus, where he spent the next two years in reflection and religious devotion. Geography, alas, prevented the happy coincidence of Ghazali journeying along the same road where, a millennium earlier, St. Paul underwent his own conversion. The minaret in the Umayyad mosque where he prayed in solitude became known as "the Ghazali minaret." Through the habit of meditation he became convinced, not in his mind but in his innermost being, that only through direct personal experience could he find the joy that comes from knowing God. Ghazali recovered from his spiritual crisis not through his own strength but through a transcendent one: the light of God shining into his heart.
Ghazali's crisis coincided with his introduction to Sufism, the mystical side of Islam that preaches neither doctrine nor dogma but affirms, above all else, the transforming power of the personal experience of God's presence. The Sufis call this experience dhawq, "taste," which nicely captures the sensuous immediacy of their vision of happiness. (As the Sufis say, "He who tastes, knows.") Surprisingly, this reverence for firsthand experience appealed to a man whose entire life had been devoted to impersonal theories and abstractions. Renouncing, as it were, his confidence in speculative reason, Ghazali vowed to "walk in the mystic way" so that he might encounter the transcendent wisdom whose only source was lived experience. Although we may never travel down that same path, we have probably all felt the need to know something from inside ourselves: to feel it, as the saying goes, in our bones. Our own hunger for knowledge deeper than logic, more intimate than reason and rationality, can help us to understand why Ghazali felt compelled to walk in the mystic way.
What he learned from his conversion to mysticism Ghazali recorded in The Alchemy of Happiness, a short book of moral guidance written in Persian for a popular audience. The clue to the secret of happiness lies in the title. Just as the alchemist transforms base metals into precious ones -- lead into gold -- we can transform our vices into virtues. In the alchemy of happiness we become the best possible version of ourselves, the most precious form of our rough (but ready) matter.
The lives of Epicurus, Seneca, and Ghazali seem to defy nearly every attempt at pattern detection. Certainly no pattern is detectable in location: a walled garden outside ancient Athens, the court of the Emperor Nero, and a mosque in Damascus. Spanning fourteen hundred years, these stories encompass classical Greek culture, Rome in its imperial decadence, and an Islamic civilization that stretched from India to Spain. Ghazali alone invokes a specific religious tradition. Epicurus was content to leave the Greek gods on top of Mount Olympus because they were content to ignore what happened below. No doubt Seneca worshipped the Roman equivalent of the Greek deities, but he did not call on them in his moment of need. On the face of things, little connects a Greek philosopher with a cult following of prostitutes, a Roman civil servant forced to commit suicide, and a Persian scholar who traded books for mystic ecstasy.
But the face of things is not the basis of things. When we look at the world's great thinkers about happiness we are bound to find them different in time, different in place, different in language and culture. Inevitable though these differences are, they cannot obscure the deep similarities in how we search for happiness. The stories of Epicurus, Seneca, and Ghazali resonate with us today, thousands of years later, because they are, in truth, our own stories. Within them, we find not enigmatic figures from an alien past, but magnified -- magnificent -- versions of ourselves. From even these initial examples, these first few accounts of courageous seekers, we can learn some lasting truths about the pursuit of happiness. (In the Epicurean manner, I'll phrase them as proverbs.) And that in itself will take us a long way toward clarifying just what the search for happiness means. If we're not clear about that, the searching -- and the finding -- cannot even begin.
Catch Big Fish
On a large wooden plaque that hung for many years in my father's study was mounted a blue-tailed dolphin that he had caught when deep-sea fishing off the Florida coast. It turned out to be the biggest fish he ever caught, and so it was the only one he ever displayed. Its trophy status was never in jeopardy. The search for happiness is something like that. It's about reeling in the "big fish" -- the only kind that truly matters -- even if it means a lot of struggle.
Epicurus, Seneca, and Ghazali all fished in deep waters. They shared a commitment to discovering the ultimate ends and purposes of life (the ancients called this telos), and they believed in the importance of leading a life that was worthwhile. In different ways, they all reflected on the shape, the character, of their lives as a whole. Out of that reflection dawned the insight that their lives, if they were to be better, would have to change. Epicurus knew that to achieve the tranquility that would lead to happiness he would have to withdraw from society and seek solace in his pastoral retreat, even though it meant that his reputation would be sullied by false allegations of moral depravity. Instead of raging against injustice or descending into self-pity, Seneca turned adversity into triumph by accepting his fate with a calm and tranquil mind. Ghazali, afflicted with an inner torment, recognized that his declining health was a divine summons to cure his sickened soul by embracing a new way of life.
These moments of reckoning all occurred under harrowing conditions: calumny, injustice, and emotional collapse. Mercifully, you and I will probably be spared such torments. That doesn't mean, however, that we don't have our own moments of reckoning; we just have them in ways commensurate with the rest of our lives. It would be extraordinary for any of us suddenly to quit our job, leave our family, and move to a new country, yet we can still appreciate why a man in Baghdad nearly a thousand years ago felt compelled to do just that. We can catch in him a glimpse of ourselves. In Ghazali's dilemma we recognize a serious version of that psychotherapeutic cliché, the midlife crisis: the frightening, perhaps even debilitating prospect that the life we have so carefully built over the years is without purpose and without value. Far from being a historical curiosity of only passing interest, Ghazali's heroic effort to restore meaning to his life is a distant mirror of our own attempts to straighten out the mess in our lives.
Not too long ago there was a newspaper report about a man who became a millionaire in the lottery yet spent all his winnings in the first year or so and then got himself arrested on a drug charge. Clearly this man was no happier despite the short-term pleasure he derived from his financial windfall. The sense of waste that characterizes this story (all that money, and he did what?) naturally invites comparison, usually of a self-flattering kind. You might wonder whether such extreme good fortune would make you happy. What you probably have in mind is not the pleasure and enjoyment of winning lots of money (you take that for granted) but the way the money could transform your life. You wonder whether you would have made better use of the money. To think like that is to think about the quality of your life as a whole: you understand your life as a series of actions and you know that some actions are better than others.
Thinking about life as a whole is intimately tied to making decisions and taking action. When we arrive at the inevitable crossroads of life, we must choose a direction. Do I marry -- or forsake -- this person? Do I honor -- or betray -- my friends? Do I tell -- or conceal -- the truth? We should not decide such things blindly (yet how often we do just that); we should decide them in light of how we understand our life in its entirety. We should think about what we want our life to be like, and then we should act accordingly. Everyone's search for happiness demands this kind of big fish thinking. And yet how hard it is for us to be self-aware even for a moment, let alone a lifetime.
Little fish -- nice feelings, good moods, raw pleasures -- do still matter, only not as much as we might ordinarily suppose. We all know what obviously happy moments are like; they're the times when everything's great and all that we desire lies within our grasp. Fortunately, there's no end to the experiences that make us feel good: gazing into the eyes of our beloved, scoring the winning goal in a soccer game, swimming in the ocean (Camus thought this was one of the most intense forms of happiness he had ever known), or being swept up and carried away by a rapturous piece of music. These are the kinds of incidents that joyfully crowd our lives and make them wonderful. More, please.
But do they make us happy? And if so, how much happiness do they provide? The late philosopher Robert Nozick described pleasurable experiences as "how life feels from the inside."5 He meant, of course, the warmth, the glow, that radiates inside us when we enjoy life. Just think of that eloquent gesture of contemporary self-expression, the air-punch. It's the spontaneous outward sign of irrepressible inward delight. Winning athletes do it when they learn they've won. Talk show audiences do it when a guest jubilantly confesses, without a whisper of self-reproach, to some barely legal perversion. We've all done it.
Yet no matter how wonderful "life feels from the inside," such feelings are only the beginning of happiness, not its ultimate destination. As Nozick elaborated, we care about many things other than pleasurable experiences. We care about the integrity of our values and beliefs. We care about our accomplishments. We care about leaving a legacy to the world. We care about the well-being of the people in our lives. And, if we're truly magnanimous, we care about the well-being of people not in our lives. All these cares bind us to the world -- through what we believe, what we achieve, and whom we love. This is the ultimately moral shape of each person's happiness and what makes it inseparable from -- in truth, dependent on -- the happiness of others. Happiness may, and probably will, begin with pleasurable feelings, but it will also go well beyond them because happiness isn't really about feeling good -- it's about being good. The problem is that we are apt to mistake the former for the latter.
It was, ironically, the twentieth century's most influential economist, John Maynard Keynes, who insisted that material prosperity could never confer on individuals the purposiveness, as he called it, that is a necessary part of happiness. In 1928, in a lecture on "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren," Keynes predicted that when humanity was at last freed from the bondage of poverty and deprivation (a freedom that appeared near on the horizon to the generation between the world wars) it would face the existential challenge of using its material freedom "to live wisely and agreeably and well." Who would rise up to meet this challenge? Not the getters and the spenders, but those who "cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself." Keynes then made a daring leap into the morality of happiness: the "art of life," he explained, consists in being "more concerned with the remote future results of our actions than with their own quality or their immediate effects on our own environment."6 Happiness, that is, means more than pleasing ourselves. It means pleasing others, especially the others we are destined never to know.
Wrestle, Don't Dance
Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire from A.D. 161 to 180, and spent many of those years fighting off foreign invasion in northern Italy and Germany. It was during these harsh military campaigns that Marcus recorded his thoughts in a private document that he titled To Myself. Written in Greek, the language of the examined life, the emperor's moral diary is better known to posterity as the Meditations. Part of what has ensured that over eighteen centuries this book has never lacked for readers is that its author knew how to turn a phrase. When talking about abstract things, Marcus used lively and unusual images. His favorite one for happiness was wrestling.
A life-long warrior, Marcus certainly spent many hours wrestling, as it was one of the dominant aspects of Greco-Roman masculine culture. So, like any good writer, Marcus drew on his experience. More important though, the choice reveals how he understood happiness. In one of his most insightful passages he explains that happiness feels more like wrestling than dancing because it requires us to "stand prepared and unshaken to meet what comes and what we did not foresee."7 Later in the work, he commanded himself to wrestle to become the kind of man he wished himself to be.
Marcus's words are tough and unforgiving, and they were meant to be. If that old soldier had written with more refinement, more delicacy, we wouldn't believe him and he wouldn't have believed himself. It takes a hardness of language to make the hard point that you have to keep working at happiness. You don't just arrive at a blissful destination and then stay there for the rest of your days. Happiness doesn't just happen; it must be prepared for, cultivated, sustained. Over and over again, the match must be refought and the victory gained anew.
Perhaps, as his thoughts turned to wrestling, Marcus had been dreaming of Aristotle. For it was the Greek rationalist who insisted, in his Nicomachean Ethics, that we are created for happiness, that it is the ultimate goal of your life, my life, and everyone else's. But it was also Aristotle who owned up to the disconcerting fact that happiness does not come to us easily. Just as "one swallow does not make a summer," he reasoned, one pleasant day do
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Table of Contents
Part I: Living for Pleasure
1. The Greatest Happiness (The Utilitarians)
2. Pleasure Is Good (The Epicureans)
Part II: Conquering Desire
3. Get Busy with Your Works (Hinduism)
4. The Enlightened One (Buddhism)
Part III: Transcending Reason
5. Only in Heaven (Christianity)
6. The Alchemy of Happiness (Islam)
Part IV: Enduring Suffering
7. It's All in Your Mind (The Stoics)
8. The Hidden Face of God (Judaism)