What does being “Happy” in the New Year mean?
Posted on 29 December 2018, 13:23
Like many other people, I have been wishing numerous friends and acquaintances a “Happy New Year!” as we approach 2019. But how many of us really stop to think what we are wishing for the person? What does it mean to be “happy”? Is the kind of happiness we are wishing for someone the same as that Thomas Jefferson and other authors of the Declaration of Independence had in mind when they wrote that among our inherent and inalienable rights are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
According to James R. Rogers, a professor of political science at Texas A & M University, the “happiness” that Jefferson and the others had in mind does not refer to a subjective emotional state. “It meant prosperity or, perhaps better, well-being in the broader sense,” Rogers states. “It included the right to meet physical needs, but it also included a significant moral and religious dimension.” Rogers cites a 1786 letter between James Madison and James Monroe, the fourth and fifth presidents of the United States, in which Madison comments that “nothing can be more false” than to assume that happiness refers to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth. Rogers further notes that the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 affirms that “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality…”
Rogers goes on to say “that the upshot of those references and many others from that era suggest that happiness should be understood as a sort of “virtuous felicity,” although refined by Christian sensibilities. He observes that modern liberalism conflicts with the pursuit of happiness in that it seems to assume an objective moral order from which a person may not alienate himself. If I am reading Rogers correctly, he is saying that the element of “liberty” is paramount for the secular progressives, the result being limited moral constraints.
No doubt our more “progressive” leaders, as well as our academic philosophers thoroughly indoctrinated in materialism, would resist all that, while leaning toward a much more Epicurean view of it, perhaps substituting the word “fun” for happiness and understanding it as “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” The humanists among the progressives would be quick to say that morality is important, then making a failed attempt to argue that the masses can achieve high moral standards without religion’s idea of a “larger life” following the earthly life.
As I see it, the root cause of all the chaos in the world today is that people have been brainwashed by the entertainment and advertising industries to believe that life is all about “having fun.” Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Live in the moment! It is the philosophy of the secularists and others who reject the idea that consciousness survives death.
In his book The Immortalist, humanist philosopher Alan Harrington showed himself to be a rare exception to the usual closed-minded, humanist mindset, writing, “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species. Masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have even the slightest chance of living beyond the grave. The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself. For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.” As Harrington viewed it, when people are deprived of rebirth vision, they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.” Harrington saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy. “Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier.”
Erich Fromm, another realistic humanist philosopher, agreed with Harrington. “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death,” Fromm wrote, “represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody.”
Philosopher and pioneering psychiatrist William James rejected the nihilistic or humanistic approach to life. “I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist’s attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and scientific laws and objects may be all,” he offered. “But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word ‘bosh!’ Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow ‘scientific’ bounds.”
While recognizing that their philosophy dooms them to eternal nothingness, the humanists, atheists, nihilists, skeptics, rationalists, secularists, materialists, reductionists, whatever handle they proudly hang on themselves, rationalize that their “truth” combined with on-going science gives meaning to life. That is, life is all about providing a better world for future generations. However, in all their altruism, they stop short of explaining to what end the progeny or to which generation full fruition.
If a future generation experiences a world of peace with unsurpassed comforts and conveniences, what will then give meaning to their lives? In effect, life remains short-term and meaningless for all generations under the non-believer’s repressed awareness. Our founding fathers apparently realized this in stating that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right, not happiness itself. That is, if a future generation were to achieve pure, unconditional, unbounded happiness, one in which there is no adversity and all comforts are fulfilled, that generation would have no incentive to pursue anything and may very well find itself where Nero was when Rome burned. It is the pursuit that gives life purpose.
And with that, I wish all the readers of this blog a Happy New Year!
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: January 14
Mike - Your article and ensuing commentaries hits a home run. I’ve been unsure about religions from a very young age and based on what I’ve read in the past few decades, the ONLY guiding philosophy we all should follow is spiritualism. The spirits of Imperator gave very revealing details of what our TRUE human lives involve in order to be successful (happy?).
Paul J. Hauser, Thu 3 Jan, 06:58
I loved Hannah’s connection to the land and to her animals. She had such common sense which we all know is not common at all. I’m glad when she left she had a dog with her. I only wish it had shown her in her new home at the end.
Thanks though for the suggestion to watch.
Karen Herrick PhD, Thu 3 Jan, 01:35
Happy New Year to all Blessings Karen
Interesting article. One point: study after study shows that people with religious belief tend to be both happier and healthier. I am no longer anti-religious, and consider Christianity (interpreted correctly) to be the best religion.
Recall that our 20th century wars were due mostly to two anti-religious ideologies. The problem is not religion, any more than the problem is political. The problem is blind fanaticism, whether political, ideological, or religious.
Happy New Year,
Chris Carter, Wed 2 Jan, 22:13
Dear Rick Darby, Michael, and all correspondents,
Your comment is deep and substantive, and deserves three readings, or more. The wisdom reveals itself progressively as one reads again and again.
I believe you are right in everything you say. The only further elucidation I would, myself, add is to be clear that religions are, and have been throughout history, a major part of the problem, not part of the solution, being barriers preventing the insight that an inner (we call it “spiritual”) change in our way of being is required if human life in general is to be influenced towards the good. The movement of consciousness and action from the mind to the heart (these, too, are approximate words for something very real in experience but impossible to describe) is what is necessary for the change you, myself, and many with us, long to see in society. Religion may revive, as you say, but unless it avoids the pitfalls you do yourself mention it will be a continuation of the problem. If it IS what we hope for it will no longer be a RELIGION but will have become SPIRITUALITY, alive and well in and only in the “heart”.
Do share with all seekers a happy and spiritually fruitful 2019. Let us (without ego-force or coercion) bring about the spiritualisation of the Earth. (I am hoping to make a snippet of this blessedness on my snippet of land, at Capel Cynon, Wales, on which permaculture is just now being brought into operation.)
Eric Franklin, Wed 2 Jan, 13:23
I posted a cricket comment some time ago and allude to another. I took sport quite seriously having, I thought, encountered the odd dose of transcendentalism. Our Captain couldn’t understand why we weren’t happy during a possible walloping by the opposition and I postulated that unhappiness was a part of life. Bjork, the Icelandic singer, spoke of being violently happy. I am sure that there was more than a dose of irony in her sentiments. Quiet reflection for me is well underrated as a mode of contentment, a better word than happy in my view.
Michael Alexander, Wed 2 Jan, 13:15
I just came across a very interesting article and would like provide the link here should others be interested. It is
Michael Tymn, Wed 2 Jan, 06:59
Thank you for taking the time to repeat that comment from the earlier blog on atheism. It was a meaningful comment and something to ponder on, but I didn’t see it as a question or something in need of elaboration. In effect, the point is made that science cannot disprove a spirit world. Meanwhile, it fails to recognize the strong evidence in favor of a spirit world, even if it doesn’t all add up to 100 percent certainty. I remain at 98.8% certainty.
Michael Tymn, Wed 2 Jan, 04:52
Mike, as with many of his blogs, delightfully never shrinks from tackling the “big” ones – this time “what is the meaning of happiness” and appropriately at New Year. I remember in my late teens being completely uncertain as to what happiness was, being confused based on the party-time adulation of views of some of the others around me. I am no longer confused, since now my guru on such matters is “Seth” the multi-dimensional entity of the medium Jane Roberts, whose books I started reading in my early twenties and still adhere to like glue. Seth’s wisdom, so beyond mine despite my venerable age, I find is always a worthy source; so here are a few things he says on the subject others might find helpful.
Bruce Scott-Hill, Tue 1 Jan, 23:04
In many of the Seth Books, he speaks of the massive importance to everyone, of continual value fulfilment - where one’s personal achievement is maximised to suit one’s inner most worthy desire to gain happiness found from experience. For example, in: research, exploring, journalism etc. and, often encountered in areas serving others - even as a shop keeper, tour guide, simply just as a parent etc. Here are a few relevant quotes from Seth books:
“You are born with a desire to fulfil your abilities, to move and act in the world.” Impulses . . . provide impetus toward motion, coaxing the physical body and the mental person toward utilization of physical and mental powers. Impulses are doorways to action, satisfaction, the exertion of natural mental and physical power, the avenue for your private expression – the avenue where your private expression intersects the physical world and impresses it.”
“When such natural impulses toward action are constantly denied over a period of time, when they are distrusted, when an individual feels in battle with his or her own impulses and shuts down the doors toward probable actions, then that intensity can explode into whatever avenue of escape is still left open [often continual dissatisfaction, illness and unhappiness].”
“To change the world for the better, you must begin by changing your own life.”
(For references and further detail – see http://sethsays.org/index.php/2016/12/23/seths-advice-on-how-to-be-happy-be-a-practicing-idealist-in-2017/)
Thanks for your comments. I wish you had mentioned the work being done at the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. They have a section on Authentic Happiness. It would be interesting to see how you integrate their work with the people you have referred to in this blog.
Madelaine Lawrence, Tue 1 Jan, 19:02
Dear Michael and all correspondents,
There are many questions arising from your blog, but on this occasion they are mostly matters of the shifting unreliability of verbal meanings, which must be resolved before any useful discussion can proceed. However, this much CAN be said: happiness, however defined, MUST be an experience, and therefore MUST be a matter of emotion. James Rogers’ interpretation of Jefferson may be correct, but in that case Jefferson abused the word ‘happiness’, wrongly employing it in the context of the political system that he, Jefferson, was setting up.
With a more objective, fact-finding perspective and intention, I sent the following comment some time ago, but not a single person responded, despite the (probably unexpected) support the comment affords to any substantial venture towards establishing whether the human consciousness survives the dissolution of the physical body. Why, I wonder, was so supportive a comment ignored?
Here’s the comment again, slightly edited: The sceptic who is proud of his scientific rigour should understand that even Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity allows the possibility of Universes (eg the ‘world’ of angels?) that are beyond our electromagnetic reach, yet right here, in the interstices between the light cones of our own familiar Universe. It is impossible to claim that science provides any evidence AGAINST the probability of an infinitude of other places of existence, including the conscious existence of Beings like or unlike us, at least some of whom we would have to consider superior to us. Perhaps there are worlds of inferior Beings too. Even within our familiar physical universe, (ie without resort to conjecture about other universes of immortal Beings) experiments carried out within our own Universe sometimes have strange results far beyond chance expectancy, or which give hints of communication via or from other ‘places’. Much more could be said.
Why, I wonder, has so supportive a comment been entirely ignored?
Eric Franklin, Tue 1 Jan, 11:01
Rick…A Lum is a chimney. Reek means to ‘give off smoke’
In other words may you always be cosy and warm.
Tricia Robertson, Mon 31 Dec, 22:34
Happy means chance occurrence. Hap means chance.
If we cannot be happy, or in Christian terms, joyful, we can never be happy or contented.
If we put conditions for happiness, it will keep moving away from us.
If we are able to be happy in what ever state or situation we are in, we will always be happy. However, if we are not in harmony with transcendental realities, we may never be happy.
Happy New Year!
James Paul Pandarakalam, Mon 31 Dec, 21:39
Thank you Mike, again an insightful and inspiring column. Looking forward to more from you in 2019.
Wendy Zammit, Mon 31 Dec, 12:10
Wendy and Victor
Thanks for providing that link to the story of Hannah Hauxwell. As you said, it is very thought-provoking, even mind-boggling. You mentioned that she still lives, but one of the comments states that she transitioned at age 91 early this year.
Rick, it is my understanding that Tricia’s
Michael Tymn, Mon 31 Dec, 08:27
kind greeting translates to “Long may your chimney smoke.”
I’m Scots-dialect challenged. I get “lang may yer,” but what is “lum reek”?
A genuinely happy New Year to all here!
Rick Darby, Sun 30 Dec, 22:39
The dead end (pun intended) thinking of so many people today is, in large part, an outcome of scientific, industrial, and technological developments. They have been dazzlingly successful in their own spheres, making life more comfortable and perhaps pleasurable for many.
In a superficial worldview, material progress seems to offer a kind of meaning. For those who haven’t (yet) suffered any great personal misfortune or had a foretaste of physical death, enjoyment or at least distraction is pretty easy to come by. It isn’t deeply satisfying but worldly personalities imagine that bolting on more amenities will eventually bring happiness.
Such an attitude won’t take the rain very well. The news and commentary suggest that devastating events like a major war, ecological degradation, and civil strife could reverse a lot of secular progress quickly. If that should happen, the materialism that animates so many will no longer be so enticing or even possible.
A wide religious revival might result, though if it is just a reaction to societal misery it could be irrational and corrupt. Better we start developing a truer spirituality now, when we can, than when we have to.
Rick Darby, Sun 30 Dec, 20:44
Happy New Year Michael and as we might say in Scotland, ‘Lang may yer lum reek’
Tricia Robertson, Sun 30 Dec, 20:43
This is Michael Tymn at his best! Excellent Michael!
I have found a YouTube video that might fit in with this post. It is about the life of an English woman, Hannah Hauxwell living through the winters alone on her family farm. This is really worth watching for the start of a new year. It is deeply thought-provoking and by contrast makes one realize how superficial much of the modern lifestyles and people are today. It is somewhat sad but ends well. (Hanna lives into her 90s.)
Compare it with America’s sweethearts of today. (Take your choice, Kim, Miley, Hillary, Angelina, etc. etc. etc. ) - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 29 Dec, 17:42
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