Philosophical Friday: Happiness

By: Ethan Rampersaud
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

What does it truly mean to be happy? Does happiness come from material gain, such as money, houses and cars? Or does happiness have an intrinsic value, such as the happiness gained from camaraderie or spirit? To answer this ambiguous question, it is essential to understand the multiple perspectives of happiness found in our society.

For some, one’s upbringing can contribute to one’s happiness. Perhaps an individual grew up in an environment surrounded by positivity and growth, or perhaps an individual grew up with amenities and luxuries that catered to his basic and personal needs. Perhaps an individual was raised in a society with many friends, so they wouldn’t have to feel the pain of loneliness.

However, upbringing alone might not be enough to gain happiness. Even people who have countless quantities of money, fame and friends may still be dissatisfied in the end. But what is it that creates the happiness we find inside us, the happiness that makes us content and whole?

It is only the happiness we create for ourselves. It is true that happiness can be gained from money, food, houses and other material things, but it is when we are truly satisfied and desire nothing more than what we have. In other words, the property that cements happiness is contentment. However, to be content is easier said than done, for society’s definition of enough, whether from fear, greed or ambition, is always rising. People seek to outdo each other. They seek to have the larger paycheck, seek to have the largest house, seek to have the largest amount of followers on social media. When they have already gained a thousand, they seek a hundred thousand, and when they attain a hundred thousand, they seek millions. The happiness we find in ourselves, then, is only the happiness we find in achieving these goals.

So how do we find it in ourselves to stop this idea of material happiness and wealth, and begin analyzing the intrinsic values of happiness? It starts with ourselves. We must look into ourselves and say, “I am happy with who I am. There is no need for me to compete with anyone but myself.” We must stop this competition of quantity and observe the quality in which we live our lives. In this way, we become a less selfish and a more cooperative society.

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