When my math students ask me what a boundary is, I tell them that a boundary is a movement. It is a movement that sometimes ends in an abyss and sometimes never ends. It can be a movement towards “having something”. But what exactly is happiness?
Most parents tell their kids to be the ant and reject the grasshopper (if you don’t get our reference, read the fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper”). At the end of the story, the grasshopper was of course the main culprit. Because the future is unpredictable. You never know how many resources you’ll need when things go wrong.
Children are not initially in this state to understand the intricacies of this philosophy. They see knowledge as a way to pass an exam and thus make their parents happy.
This knowledge will take on new meaning when they fall in love. Because at that moment they will want to know everything. They will be fascinated by the possibility of discovering everything they can. This is how love becomes the impetus for knowledge. It is a movement that reinforces itself with the idealization that inevitably occurs at an early age.
What is happiness and the “need to possess”
One of the most common motivations is the “need to possess”. We live in a society that is constantly fleeing into consumerism. It encourages us to maintain or even increase our quality of life by acquiring more and more.
Money takes advantage of this need and lures us. It seduces our dignity, our bodies or our selfless motives. This is how money acquires an attraction that few can resist. Many have sold their souls to the devil for money.
Money becomes the root. We may well go where other people go, but many people go where the money leads them. The fact that one performs a certain activity becomes a valid justification for others to follow him.
That has led many people in politics and sports to abuse their power and their bodies just to get ahead. It’s also what drove much of Nazi Germany to follow the whims of a murderer. If everyone else goes in that direction, then it is certainly the way to happiness. And if that’s the case, why not follow them?
What is happiness and fun?
Another “motive” is pleasure. But at the same time it is a source of dissatisfaction when it comes to happiness. The desire to seek gratification lowers our vigilance. It makes us want the temporary things rather than the durable ones. It makes us look for short-lived pleasure rather than true long-term happiness. In this way, pleasure seduces our vulnerability. Enjoy today because there may be no tomorrow.
But who can resist this persistent message? Because the newspapers are full of setbacks. There are very few reasons for hope. We assume that we are tuned in to the frequency where the action happens.
keep moving forward
This is how we get to the point where we don’t care if we die as long as we have fulfilled our desire for pleasure. But doesn’t that go against the message of the fable and the attitude of the ant? Doesn’t this contradict the idea of collecting, just in case? This is how neurosis appears. It is an anarchic behavior that ultimately cracks the other person. In all his striving to keep going, the person has forgotten his raison d’être… and also his common sense. That’s what happens when you don’t know whether to choose responsibility or pleasure.
We forget the common sense that gives us reasons to keep going when things start to get complicated. They are reasons that have little or nothing to do with money and a lot to do with our real worth and the value of the people around us. Let us remember the importance of this common sense and think of the famous work of Viktor Frankl. In it he described how common sense, regardless of whether it was true or not, has ensured that many people have survived the terrible conditions in the concentration camps. Without the common sense they would certainly have given up.
Is happiness a virtue?
A more attractive interpretation of happiness has to do with virtue. It puts us firmly in the driver’s seat and makes us think about our goals. It makes us think about virtues like thanking, forgiving or loving. They are activities that embrace the past, present and future in our entire being. Activities that ensure a good outcome for our personal history and the opportunity to share in the present. Moreover, it offers us hope for the future.
On this path there is also a desire to know. It is the desire to get to know others but also to get to know ourselves. This second form of knowledge will never end. It is just like the first form, which we have mentioned above, but with the difference that it is a knowledge that offers peace and security. If we walk this path in life, there will be questions and some answers as well. Our shadow will become our happiness. It is that shadow that shows us the difference between the need to have and the need to be.
The quest for happiness will indeed become an endless frontier. Happiness is a movement and yet it also has something of the infinite. So let’s learn to walk through its spacious rooms. So, in this sense, happiness is indeed something that knows no bounds.