Time was when young people set out to discover the secret of happiness. What kind of thing happiness might be was not well defined, but there was an assumption that an item of knowledge, unknown or undisclosed, would substitute joy for sorrow.
Some said the secret was "faith," meaning belief without evidence. Others said the secret was "meditation," a self-induced trance. Then there was "positive thinking," and "self actualization," and so on.
If happiness is oblivion, a state removed from reality, then all those things helped get people there. But it turned out they did not want to be there. Oblivion was a bore. They wanted success.
Meanwhile, phony philosophers were busy convincing people that happiness was imaginary, unobtainable, and immoral. They did not say what is was, just what it wasn't. They said that reality is nasty, and should be dealt with gingerly. So the idea of searching for a secret of happiness faded away.
But if some people do lead successful lives, and reap an emotional reward, what's wrong with calling that happiness? To find out how to achieve happiness, we only need to find out what brings success in life. If it's a secret, we can reveal it.
A successful life would contain success. It would consist of scholastic success, social success, success in love, a productive career, and a satisfying old age. All these things would be done mostly right, instead of mostly wrong.
But wait! There's no secret to doing things right instead of wrong. It just takes methods for avoiding mistakes, detecting mistakes, and correcting mistakes. Those methods are identifying things objectively, finding logical relationships, and keeping things in context. It's called reasoning.
If happiness is the successful state of life, then it results from successfully using your means of survival: reason. So the key to happiness is an open secret. It is known, but widely ignored.
Why would the obvious power of reason be ignored? Well, it does have one big drawback: it is not automatic. You have to work at it. You have to learn to keep identities straight, relationships straight, and contexts straight. When you have learned how to avoid mistakes, detect mistakes, and correct mistakes, then you have to actually work at avoiding mistakes, and detecting mistakes, and correcting mistakes.
Maybe there is a secret to be revealed, after all. To have a successful life, you have to be willing to try.
|Next Essay||Previous Essay||Essays Index||Home|