Philosophers since the time of the ancient Greeks have been trying to define it, and there appear to be as many roads to it as there are people on Earth! What am I talking about? It’s happiness!
Those ancients put everything down to ‘the will of the Gods’. The Gods would provide happiness for you, if you did the right thing. A lot of goats, calves and even humans lost their lives, albeit ceremoniously, because of this quant idea. For some reason you had to give up (kill) something or someone of value to you, before life would be happy. Sacrifices did indeed work –but really only for the ruling classes and the religious leaders, both of whom had things pretty well sewn up anyway sacrifices or not, while the ‘the masses’ lived very much as they do today in many parts of the world, with inadequate hygiene, poor clothing and dreadful housing. Not much happiness for them, no matter how many calves were slaughtered!
This basic system of them and us (usually without the sacrifices used in earlier days) lasted pretty well right up to the early twentieth century, in the rich countries of the world’, with the landed gentry in their enormous mansions, swigging champagne, eating venison, riding to hounds or playing polo, while most of the rest either worked directly for them, as servants, or indirectly in their factories or on their ships, for minimal pay and not a lot of happiness!
The 1914-1918 war seems to have changed this imbalance in society, (though dregs of it do still continue even to this day). But for the first time people clambered out from under the ‘class’ rules which had applied for so long. Men went off to fight for king and country and women started working, in places other than as skivvies in big houses. They were employed in factories and shops, up until then the domain of male workers, and made more money than they had ever seen before, enough to provide a brand new source of happiness, a happiness also called freedom, from the soul destroying, underpaid positions that were all that were available before. Now that the die was broken, the men returning from war were also able to take advantage of this new-found life, supported by the new unions they were able to get well paid jobs, in shipbuilding, mining and the new ‘super’ job, car building.
So now, everyone was happy, with a happiness closely related to money, which could buy food, alcohol, entertainment and adventure – to such an extent that it became known as, ‘The Roaring Twenties’. It was a period when anything went, as long as you could pay for it and to a large extent, it was all riding on an enormous bubble! Everyone was spending more money than they had and eventually something had to give, with the great depression of the late twenties being the result. For some years ‘happiness’ was a hard commodity to find, with everyone living very carefully, unwilling to enjoy themselves as they had before, not quite ready to believe that the worst was over and things were getting better.
Unfortunately, it took another war to sort things out again, a war that started a new era without anyone even realising it. Radar, sonar, the German ‘Enigma’ coding machine among others, were all early indications of the explosion that was to come in – electronics!
Now we all own computers, iPhones, iPads, 3mp players and ‘clever’ TV sets, and all sorts of other wonderful machines and we are all ecstatically happy again, with manufacturers continually dreaming up new wonders for us to buy.
But I still think we are missing the point, just like all those who went before us. We still think we can buy happiness in the same old ways, either with a sacrifice, a job or a wonderful piece of electronic wizardry, whereas I believe true happiness can really only come from within yourself; it’s a state of mind, not a purchasable object. A positive attitude to life, (the half full glass!), as opposed to the opposite, tends to make a person happy, and it’s something that tends to rub off onto others too!
What makes you happy? Where does your happiness come from? Tell us in the comments below…