A good friend asked: “Bjørnson… do you have a philosophical quote to describe happiness…???...”
At first I thought no, and was about to write some personal thoughts, but then I remembered, Yes I do:
“The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - Albert Camus, the Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus is the Greek myth about the man pushing a boulder up a mountain only to see it roll down again. The book is short, describes the myth, talks about the absurd. I did not read it cover to cover, I skim read it, looking for the point, I felt there was a fair bit of bush beating, but it is worth having in your bookshelf.
Regarding my personal quotes, on happiness? – I might have written something in the past, if so it would have ben heavily inspired by the above quote. Though I also react strongly against that quote, as I feel it wants you to except the absurdity (meaningless) of life, and by doing that you are able to be happy. In contrast to that I believe that yes life is absurd, but life is absurd (meaningless) so that their will always be something to explore - which I see as the purpose of our existence. Now if one accepts life's absurdity (meaningless) one will lose the need to explore and in turn lose the purpose of living. A train of thought that leads to misery not happiness, and debunks Camus quote.
Is exploring and happiness connected? Yes I think so. Imagine back to when you was a child, what did you feel when discovering something new? For me it was a sense of wonder, a moment of heighten awareness. One could change the Camus quote and say, "one must imagine Sisyphus Exploring" but that becomes an oxymoron - he is going nowhere in fact it then becomes the ultimate punishment, which in the myth it was meant to be and Camus book then leads me on to a different quote:
"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." - Thomas Gray
A quote that in it self is saying that exploring will create misery, because exploring gives knowledge and wisdom. I'm not familiar with the source of this quote. I feel that this quote becomes true only if one believes that one knows and understands everything, that one seas the patterns and is never surprised – when knowledge starts to limit ones desire to explore and creates a feeling that there is nothing more to explore. It is then not the act of exploring that creates misery but a perception that may arise from it. But this is an illusion, a mirage that arises around us. A trap that is easy to fall in to. Through exploring we may start to see patterns around us, but what they are is a box around our mind, stopping us from seeing, we need to believe that everything is different, that nothing is the same, to enable us to sea through the box that surrounds our mind, because that is what it is. We might have only taught ourselves how to categories and not see the differences, it is how we learn to navigate the world, but it holds us back. It is the nature of society and how society can maintain it’s existence, in the contract we signed to join society we gave up certain liberties, indirectly one of them was happiness. Society can only give us a simulacrum of happiness, because that is it’s nature, to experience true happiness we must go beyond Society, divide our minds in two, one for the path of society and one we must walk alone, a place where we can explore and in turn feel a heighten sense of happiness. We do need society to function if we wish to live as a community, but letting it consume everything we are, is to deny our selves true happiness and evolution for our selves and ultimately the community.
The next quote stands in opposition to Thomas Gray, and is closer with what I believe.
"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question." - John Stuart Mill
I believe this quote acknowledges the importance of exploration, and states that it is the acquisition of knowledge in it self that is important, which I see as exploration, but it does not attribute happiness to that, only that it is better, one can imagine that it is better because one is fulfilling ones purpose by exploring, that Socrates knows what it is to be a fool, as that is where he started, he knows both satisfaction and dissatisfaction, he sees beyond the illusion, Socrates him self admitted to knowing nothing.
"I know that I know nothing" - Socrates
Which to me implies that we can never find the meaning of life, or see beyond its absurdity. However that is not a problem because by knowing that I know nothing implies that there will not be an end to exploration, and in turn one will always be happy. Yes I believe that happiness lies in exploration, I believe Socrates can not be dissatisfied, he is in fact experiencing true satisfaction or a heighten sense of reality, whilst the pig and the fool are only experiencing a simulacrum of happiness, that from their perspective Socrates must be dissatisfied, but because they do not know true happiness, they only know the shadow of it. Because they do not know, when they see it, they perceive it only as misery, but that is because they cannot experience the happiness Socrates does, because they do not explore.
To find a quote that describes happiness, I need to go to one that does not refer to happiness, but instead the nature of existence.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus
When one truly seas and understands that quote then I believe one can know happiness - one is forever exploring - being true to what I believe is our purpose - which in turn gives us happiness.
From my argument happiness is not the act of having children, gaining money, winning competitions, being with friends and family, having sex and receiving praise, they are all irrelevant in them selves, heightened happiness is only possible if one explores those scenarios, looks at them with eyes that have never seen it before. This will enable one to find happiness in anything, death, disaster and failure, if one explores it, tastes it, feels it and sees it. In the end it comes down to perspective and state of mind, you choose how you react to something by the perspective you take on it.
In conclusion you need nothing to be happy, all you need is a certain perspective, one that allows you to know that you are always exploring, and by knowing, you are doing.
What about the emotions one cannot control, the ones that overwhelm us? It can be like a storm that we must ride through. We must acknowledge, that we cannot always see, we cannot always know we are exploring, sometimes there are forces beyond our control, we must sail through them and hopefully we come out the other end, and can look at it. Then we will realize we were in fact exploring, but did not have the skill to sea that we were happy. It is why I don't believe in medication. You need to experience life. Tie your self to the mast if you must, but stay awake, only then can you hope to find a point from where you can once again sea and in turn letting the storm subside and regain the ability to know that you are always exploring.
From this train of thought one could argue that nothing matters as long as one has the right perspective, in that one is correct, but one is never able to have the right perspective at all times, it is a feat beyond us, it is like the meaningless of the world, it is so, to enable us to strive forward to an end that never exists, but it is in the struggle that purpose and what matters resides… because that is where we explore and that is where we gain happiness. And so I have disagreed and agreed with Camus.
From the logic of what I have written there are two kinds of happiness, passive and active, the passive is the one we know the best, it is immediate gratification, connected to our body, then their is active the one that few know, because you need to work for it, it is connected to the mind, and it can only be achieved through perspective, understanding of one self and exploration. It is elusive and hard to gain, but it is within all of us, we are just not trained to see it. Everything in our society is focused towards the passive. Which causes an unbalance. There is nothing wrong with passive happiness in it self, but what is bad is when it shadows the existence of active happiness.
Be grateful for the moments of passive happiness and remember them fondly, but active happiness is what we should strive for, as it will enable one to find happiness in everything. Giving a heighten sense of reality.