IN discussing happiness it is necessary to have a sense of proportion and to classify human beings. The life that brings true and permanent joy to one will bring only discontent and positive distress to another.
Learned men have endeavoured to declare hard-and-fast principles of happiness and in so doing have worked on a false premise. Infinite is the variety of human nature. You cannot say to any class, nation, man or race, "Follow the principles I have imparted to you and you will discover happiness." The individual or nation in question may not be in a sufficiently developed state physically, mentally, and spiritually to be capable of applying such principles to their daily life, or, if they are capable, the principles may be so framed that the promised happiness resolves itself into boredom or acute disillusionment.
For instance, the Christian and Buddhist ascetics and mystics are in accord as to the road to happiness. They will assure you that no true happiness can be derived from the use of the senses, neither can it be obtained by money or by power and authority over others. They recommend complete renunciation, scorn of wealth, power, beauty, in whatsoever way it expresses itself. They claim that true happiness can be found only in contemplation, in communion with God--in contempt of all those works of God which please the senses or satisfy natural desires.
I am afraid their views are open to many and serious objections. For the mystic, perhaps, this inner life con
THE ROAD TO IMMORTALITY
the only real happiness. But ninety men out of a hundred are not mystics, they belong to a general pattern and are constitutionally incapable of putting such recommendations into practice, or, if they attempt to do so, they merely warp, limit, and embitter their natures.
True happiness for the average man is to be found in such words as moderation, self-control, and freedom. He must first learn to control himself, and, that power once acquired, he must learn to control people and situations wisely. Thus he wins his freedom. Secondly, Tom Jones has to gain some knowledge of his own unimportance in the prevailing scheme of things. Thirdly, he should cultivate any special creative power he may possess.
Now, his control of himself gives to him a certain serenity, so that daily worries and misfortunes fall to penetrate, fail to upset his calm. His power to control other people will save him from physical distress, from destitution, and will enable him to defeat any persons who may, in various emotional ways, endeavour to turn his life into a hell. His sense of his own unimportance will, in itself, bring happiness by leading him naturally to throw himself into other people's lives, so that "self" can be temporarily forgotten and a lively sympathy extended where it is genuinely needed.
Now, the creative instinct is an essential part of a man's nature. Its wise expression should be one of his principal preoccupations. It springs, partly, from the sex urge, but often offers the greatest happiness in activities quite apart from sex. Whatever a man's sex life, he would be wise if he sought in some way or other for an outlet for the creative principle. If he has not a constructive mind or imagination he can express it merely in the enjoyment of beauty in some form or other, in a wise but controlled indulgence of his senses. But happy is the man with self-control as well as real creative power, however humble may be the medium of its expression.
Usually, the ascetic who recommends you to scorn money has no anxieties on that score. Either his friends or admirers supply him with all he needs or he has an excellent income of his own.
I therefore strongly advise the seeker of happiness to have a due appreciation of money. Without it he must starve or experience such physical discomfort, such ill-health, that he is unable to keep the light of his intelligence or soul bright within its temple. He is no longer free because, hourly, the clamorous needs of the body besiege him, and if he is employed for long hours at a small wage he has no time or physical strength for the cultivation of his own nature or for the enjoyment he can give to others through its fruition.
A desire for money in moderation is a virtue, for it happens to be a desire to become a complete man, and, through such completion and its resultant content, to benefit others.
Happiness comes through effort; through a wise and controlled indulgence in the pleasures of the senses; through athletic activities for the perfecting of the body; through study for the development of the mind; and through toleration or a charitable outlook. The development of these leads to the cultivation of the spirit.
True happiness will be found by the average man in the constant and wise use of all his talents, all his powers--of body, senses, mind, and spiritual perception.
Lastly, in wisdom will the modern human being find the secret of life and the secret of serenity. Faith, hope, and charity--all these virtues commended by St. Paul--are contained within this lofty word and all are made lovely by its radiance. For faith, hope, and charity without wisdom are without light, and things that are hidden in darkness may not attain to healthy growth.