With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun.
Happiness, according to psychologist James R. Averill, a Eudaemonist, is a means-to-an-end, contrary to what his predecessor Aristotle thought. After taking into account both survey reports and behavioral observations, he devised a table of happiness (see below). It is a 2×2 table, one axis being “Activation,” the other “Objectivity.” The four types of happiness he identified were joy, equanimity, eudaemonia, and contentment. He narrowed it down to the objective standard of high immersion known as “eudaemonia,” a term for overall well-being that finds its roots in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle wrote that eudaemonia was achieved through activity, as when we are so engaged in doing something, we forget we are doing it, and lose a sense of time—time flies when you’re having fun. As such, happiness for Aristotle is not a typical emotion in that it occurs for periods of time. You cannot always be in a state of eudaemonia. Rather, it can be actively pursued when you immerse yourself in meaningful work. To be happy is not to be happy about or for anything because it is essentially an object-less emotion, a pure feeling. Eudaemonia is distinguished from equanimity by the fact that the latter is the absence of conflict, the former the resolution thereof. Equanimity has been valued by philosophers as a state of total inner peace; on the other hand, eudaemonia is the result of achieving a goal, which necessarily entails conflict, viz. desire vs. intention. When you are confident in your abilities and set realistic goals, when you are able to complete their goals, having overcome conflict, you can achieve happiness. Too many short-term goals means not experiencing enough of what life has to offer, while too many long-term goals means not being accomplished or confident in yourself. The measure of happiness, then, is relative, not absolute, and differs from person to person. What remains absolute, however, is that this sense of achievement can be had privately, by yourself, and publicly, when it is done for your community, family, or close friends. Inherent to eudaemonia, Averill asserts, is purpose: Behind happiness is direction, intention, and devotion. This led him to claim that “Pleasure without purpose is no prescription for happiness,” meaning you should not resort to hedonism to be happy, but must seek pleasure in meaningful actives into which you can immerse yourself.
Averill’s Table of Happiness:
For further reading: Handbook of Emotions 2nd ed. by Michael Lewis (2000)
The measure of life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.
Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), helped hide Jews from the Nazis during WWII, and was a Dutch clockmaker.
What we love to do we find time to do
John Lancaster Spalding (1840-1916), Catholic author and poet
I suppose that people, using themselves and each other so much by words, are at least consistent in attributing wisdom to a still tongue.
William Faulkner (1897-1962), famous Southern American writer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1946)
We spend too much time talking to one another—I think it is about time we start talking with one another.
We might add to this talking about another, by which we mean talk that focuses on another person, often in a derogatory way. In the case of the latter, we refer to gossip, which is malicious, narrow, and crude. Unfortunately, it occupies speech most. Over half of conversations, I would argue, concern others at one point or another, in which they are discussed behind their backs, without knowledge, the unwitting victim of vitriolic verbal venom. Psychologists say this arises from two motives: First, gossip is engaged in order to learn about threats, about who is dominant, as this was important in Neolithic times; second, to compensate for one’s own self-esteem, or lack thereof. Picture nothing worse than two people scheming together in private, and you are the subject of their ridicule and criticism, and you have no knowledge of it as they attack and slander your name and reputation, so that it spreads into rumors, which are accepted prima facie, then used against you—infectious, like a virus, a deadly one.
When we talk about the former, we mean it in a sense with which we are more comfortable; in fact, it is used colloquially by almost everyone: “I was talking to my boss the other day,””My friends and I talked to each other on the phone,” or ”I love talking to people.” The word “to” is a preposition, so used transitively, it takes a verb and is directed toward an object. Already, we see a twofold implication. Plainly, the word “toward” when used in the context of persons is alarming and carries with it negative connotations. While we can be gracious toward another person, it is rare; we usually hear angry, hateful, prejudiced, etc. toward another person. In other words, the word “toward” means to direct something at someone, like a projectile—which words are. Therefore, we hurl words toward another, which is precisely what “talking to” means. This in-itself implies one-way communication. To better illustrate what I am describing, replace to with at. “I was talking at my boss the other day.” While they are different words, the meaning is not changed; rather, the word “to,” seemingly less aggressive and affrontive, is accepted as more acceptable and respectful, despite masking a darker message. Similarly we say we “give things to people,” as though they are the recipient. Taken this way, “talking to” means delivering words to people. But a gift given is not reciprocated. A delivery is sent to one destination to be received, meaning the interlocutor is the receptacle for the speaker’s words—they are reduced to something which receives, as though it is lifeless. Just as a mailbox is designated for receiving mail, so the person whom is being talked to is designated as “something” to receive their words. This leads to the second implication of the preposition “to.” Because “to” receives an object, it means the other person is become an object—that is, they are objectified, made into an object. The person becomes a mailbox, a mere thing, an object whose only reason for existence is to house mail, to be that which receives words; the person is something into which words are deposited and then left. When we endure something, we “take” it. We take the abuse, take the lecture, take the pain; when we talk to people, we expect them to take our words.
Thus, when we talk to one another, we are not having a conversation. A conversation requires that two people be involved. It involves an exchange of words—not a depositing of them, nor a receiving of them. When we reduce each other to receptacles, things to store our baggage, we leave no room for exchange. Nobody puts mail into a mailbox and expects it to come back to them; so when you talk to someone, you hurl words toward them and expect them to receive it, but not return it. Talking to is hurling-toward-to-deposit. Everyone knows, however, that if you want a response, you do not just throw it and expect it to stay there. Accordingly, we must learn to talk with one another, rather than to one another. To talk with is to engage in conversation, in two-sided talk, in which words are passed from one to another. Not hurled or thrown but passed, granted, welcomed, exchanged. Whereas one deposits money into the bank to keep it there, one exchanges money into the bank to get its equal value. Who exchanges a 10-dollar bill for 10 one-dollar bills gets the same value back from what they gave. Conversation is an exchange. We converse with. From this we conclude that talking with is exchanging-for-equal-value, by which we mean that: What we put in, we get back. This is conversation. This is discussion. This is healthy communication, where both parties are heard, none prioritized ahead of the other, and where neither is objectivized, reduced to an object, but heard out. Everyone’s opinion is heard in talking with, whereas only one is in talking to. I think it is about time we stop talking to one another and start talking with one another.
Such will be a good start to creating a better future.
Friends, books, a cheerful heart, and conscience clear
Are the most choice companions we have here.
William Mather (fl. 1695) was the author of The Young Man’s Companion.
“‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God. I want poetry. I want real danger. I want freedom. I want goodness. I want sin.'”
“‘In fact… you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.'”
“‘All right then… I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.'”
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), noted philosopher and author of the dystopia Brave New World, from which this is taken.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (2007)
I was aware that the reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of thoughts.
René Descartes (1596-1650), French philosopher and mathematician of the Early Modern period.
Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason by René Descartes (1990)
“We are right to blame those who misuse the natural love of inquiry and observation by extending it on unworthy objects. Every man is able to turn his mind easily upon what he thinks good. It is a duty to contemplate the best”
-Plutarch (46-120 AD), Greek philosopher and biographer.
Hamilton, The Echo of Greece, p. 198
The Echo of Greece by Edith Hamilton (1957)