Thursday, November 24, 2011

Divisions on Happiness

Perhaps it is the common experiences of humankind in general that we see the similarity of notions between very contradictory schools of thoughts, those of Sigmund Freud and Religion. In Abrahamic Religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam there is a common belief that Adam and Eve were living happily in Paradise (Garden of Eden) without any pain, needs and ageing and then got expelled from paradise because of disobedience (Whatever it could be either thirst for knowledge or eating some forbidden grain/fruit) and thereafter the coming generations all are suffering from this loss in the form of ageing, diseases and shortages of their needs… As the Adam and Eve are believed to be the first parent of human race so in a way we can call it as an early days or infancy of human race… Whatever, the Abrahamic religions believe that human race are suffering because of the disobedience of their first parent….On other hand, Sigmund Freud has his theory of unconscious mind in which he thinks that conscious mind is only very thin layer of memory. The thickest part of it is composed of unconscious mind and the unconscious mind influences thoughts and feelings by being a storehouse of instinctual desires and needs. The concept of unconscious mind is really interesting in the sense that the childhood experiences that are mostly raw and original experiences are also stored there. Freud links a lot of the psychic actions to the childhood experiences that always stay in unconscious mind. In other words as childhood is prized by most of people as sweetest time of their life (Perhaps because unconscious mind is empty and the senses are fresh so even very small things brings a lot of joys like having a bike or a soccer ball is all what is needed to have the most amazing day but adults while stuffed themselves with all sorts of gadgets do not get even the like experiences)… so the loss of the freshness of senses is a way taken as loss of Garden of Eden on the personal level…. Long story short, whether it is on the largest scale of human race or the smallest scale of personal experiences, the sense of loss is taken as the base line of unhappiness….. Even in the concept of reincarnation that is common in most of non-Abrahamic religions, the form that one will appear in next life depends on ones’ acts in existing life…. A miserable life is considered as the result of previous life’s undesirable acts…
The expulsion from Paradise was because of the burning desire for growth/progress/inquiry….and similarly a child loses his empty unconscious mind by filling it with memories he/she collects in the process of discovering the world they live and it is because of restless desire to learn and grow…. So in brief the unhappiness is by-product of growth…

Now, how to repair this sense of loss? Amazingly, though the basic experience is almost the same but the way to repair it are very different across the cultures and philosophies… Even between West and East there is a big chasm on what to seek…

On large scale, West took a vegetative (emotionless) approach and thought that Progress and power is cure for everything but there weren’t consensus for how to go for progress. Libertarians thought that open market and competition has the power to automatically fix everything while Marxists thought that competition between classes as a result of an open market is an obstacle on the way of progress so they thought struggle for a classless society is the ultimate cure…

Western Philosophers who did not take much of a vegetative approach still thought power is what human is destined to go for. Nietzsche one of tallest Philosophers of modern Western Philosophy thinks that “Will to power” drives men and even the will for over-power is what actually driving men. Though there are “Will to live” of Schopenhauer of which Nietzsche had taken a lot of influences, “Will to meaning” and “Will to pleasure” but “Will to power” is embraced widely in practice… The WWII was the most painful result of “Will to power” and one might expect that people must had gone more towards “Will to live”, “Will to meaning” and “Will to pleasure” as a reaction to WWII experiences but astonishingly the reaction to WWII came out as “Existentialism” which is in a sense refutes all those “Will to…” as existentialists tend to meaninglessness and suicide (Albert Camus) as genuine Philosophical issues…

On other hand East focused more on repairing the loss by adapting philosophies of “Becoming” instead of “being”… Abrahamic religions focused on life after death… Of course, for most of people the paradise was not accessible in this world except after death. Only people who would live in times of promised Messiah would see the earth turning again into Garden of Eden… Besides non-Abrahamic religions took mediations as a main tool to cure the losses and in fact some of their practices are adapted by secular health conscious people. Yoga is prized as a working practice for maintaining both physical and mental health….The concept of reincarnation is also a “Becoming” philosophy which sooths those who have not good conditions in their existing lives; if you have good deeds in your existing life, you will have a better life in the next one as a reward ….

Besides Large divide of West and East on how to seek happiness there are some small divisions that was mostly a mix of East and West… Notable one is Stoicism which was established in the ancient Greek and Roman cities and actually became a way of life. Stoics believed that a happy life is one that is lived according to natural laws. They believed that human suffer because of violations of natural laws. On other hand there was Epicureanism to challenge Stoic notion by thinking pleasure as the highest good. Avoiding pain and seeking pleasure was taken as a way of life and it is thought that this is going only stable when one sticks to simple life…

This was a brief charting of divisions of humankind in the pursuit of happiness… It looks like all of them have powerful appeals and also some overstepping as it is the nature of all human philosophies. Growth is inevitable but overgrowth is problem. Memories are inevitable but sticking with them is problem… Avoiding pains is inevitable but fearing pains is problem…Seeking pleasure is inevitable but taking it as purpose of life is problem…Seeking power is inevitable but committing injustices in the process is problem…Looking for meaning is inevitable but becoming inactive in the process is problem… To me, life is not something that we divide in boxes… Senses could be kept fresh by becoming receptive to life…

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