When is happiness?

Would happiness be rare, a precious moment that we would capture only intermittently?  A spark or a continuous current? The temporality of happiness is experienced and considered in different ways. The perception of its frequency depends of course on how each person defines happiness.

The passage through different states is a constant of human experience. Happiness, like everything that comes from the inner life, is subject to change, and therefore to a form of impermanence.

Faced with this impermanence, which seems to be the common experience, the question arises of a state in which it would become permanent. Philosophies, religions, spirituality, and personal development, without necessarily making happiness the center of their concerns, have often sought to make room for it, to cultivate it. Part of personal development has undoubtedly made permanent or quasi-permanent happiness its quest. One may wonder about the relevance of such a project. If it turns out that this quest is an unattainable ideal, accepting the unattainability of constant happiness would be wise.

While psychology and personal development focus on the question of happiness in the immediate experience, many ancient philosophical currents believed in a state of happiness in another dimension. Socrates believed that he would reach such a state beyond his death. Christianity and Islam, as well as part of Judaism, while giving a place to happiness and its development here on earth, hope for its full realization in a resurrection.

So, when is happiness?

For Plato, happiness is having what one desires and humans desire what they lack. The things thus posed make happiness inaccessible. Indeed, happiness disappears with the lack when the latter is filled. This vision induces a cycle without happiness, an oscillation between:

  • frustration, period of lack
  • and boredom, after the filling of the lack and the death of the desire.

The moment of happiness is there when “we desire what we have, what we do and what is”. André Comte-Sponville