Preface (textul este inclus mai jos)
PART 1: THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
Chapter 1: What is Happiness
Chapter 2: History and Geography of the Search for Happiness
PART 2: ABSOLUTE HAPPINESS
Chapter 3: What is Absolute Happiness
PART 3: SECULAR HAPPINESS
Chapter 4: What is Secular Happiness
Chapter 5: What is Well-Being
Chapter 6: What is Life Satisfaction
Chapter 7: Measuring Secular Happiness
PART 4: SECULAR HAPPINESS IN PRACTICE
Chapter 8: Secular Happiness in Real Life Situations
Chapter 9: Increasing Secular Happiness through Public Policies
Chapter 10: Happiness and the Technology Revolution
Epilogue: Is Happiness Still Achievable?
What is happiness and how do we know we have achieved it?
When dealing with happiness, researchers use a multitude of terms that both intrigue and confound: “happiness”, “joy”, “life satisfaction”, “well-being”, “the good life”. Such terms are often used interchangeably and, in fact, reflect only part of the Happiness concept. Researchers in this field, usually give detailed definitions of such terms, and appropriate them to “affective”, “cognitive”, or other types of affects. These terms cover a range of life’s dimensions from the biological to the personal, relational, institutional, cultural, moral, through to universal dimensions. Even after recognizing such differences amongst these affects and dimensions, scholars, almost without exception, end up putting all the terms under the label “happiness”, for want of forming a better classification.
Thus, Part 1 of this book aims at finding out what happiness is. In Chapter 1, I present the diversity in the meaning of the term happiness from available research. Spirit, soul, mind, emotions and rational thinking all interact to crystalize how happiness is felt and experienced by humans.
I present happiness in the form of a pyramid using a holistic approach. I first proffer my personal definition of happiness, which I formulate in part, by clarifying old, established definitions of the same and secondly, by distinguishing between the secular and spiritual aspects of our lives. I introduce the terminology of absolute happiness which is only available to a relatively few number of individuals, who are mostly preoccupied with their spiritual life and after-life. By contrast, I summize that the rest of humanity, avail themselves of primarily, secular happiness, a term I define as being that component of happiness centered on day-to-day, mundane activities. I further divide secular happiness into well-being and life satisfaction. Well-being encompasses that part of happiness stemming from material belongings, be it public goods and services, or each individual’s private wealth. Life satisfaction reflects how people react to the well-being available to them and to others, and how they make use of their lifetime. From a ranking perspective, the components just introduced are stacked as a pyramid. Well-being forms the base layer, with life satisfaction immediately above it – both contribute to secular happiness – while absolute happiness, distinctly, occupies the apex of the pyramid.
In Chapter 2, I explore the evolution of the search for happiness, both historically and geographically. I observe that people distinguish between false and true happiness. False happiness is heavily centered on material belongings, while true happiness arises from the non-material part of life satisfaction. Social activities, family life, sharing experiences, and faith are some of the sources of true happiness.
Preoccupation with the search for happiness is by no means a modern concept. It has been ever present throughout the historical evolution of mankind and in all regions of the world. The focus has shifted from the above mentioned components of happiness to others over time and space, depending, inter alia, on the environment in which humans live as well as their cultural and moral norms.
In Part 2, I present and explain the concept of absolute happiness. Absolute happiness sits securely on top of the happiness pyramid. It is, like all components of happiness, an affective status. However, in stark contrast to secular happiness, the feeling of absolute happiness is long lasting, continuous and, as such, enjoys a much higher elevated status. Essentially, it taps into the individual’s higher spirit.
In Chapter 3, I present the characteristics of absolute happiness. I then discuss the prerequisites of absolute happiness, and why observance of secular morality is not enough to reach absolute happiness. I advance genuine kindness, alongside spiritual faith, as the ultimate path towards absolute happiness. While art and hobbies in general, offer glimpses of absolute happiness, they cannot sustain it in the long run. I conclude Chapter 3 with an assertion of the precedence of absolute happiness over secular happiness and its components: well being and life satisfaction.
In Part 3, I introduce the components of the lower ranked, secular happiness which are available to most of the populace. In Chapter 4, I set out the definition of secular happiness, along with its formula, and how secular happiness relates to moral values, pleasure and money. In Chapter 5, I detail the concept of well-being, the base layer of secular happiness. I define well-being and then go on to explain its theoretical formula. This divides well-being into its dual components of public welfare and private wealth. For the rest of the Chapter, I discuss the impact of well-being and its components on secular happiness, and I further introduce the concept of ‘how much well-being is sufficient to attain happiness’, a concept that I explore, more fully, later on. In Chapter 6, I introduce life satisfaction, define the term and propose a formula for it. Furthermore, I discuss the positive and negative affects and moods that influence people’s life satisfaction, and the impact they have on secular happiness overall. Chapter 7 is dedicated to measuring secular happiness. I adjust the formulas introduced in the previous Chapters to allow for a practical assessment of public welfare and private wealth as components of well-being.
Finally, in Part 4, I deal with the practical aspects of secular happiness. I start in Chapter 8 with a presentation of 11 real life situations and how people perceive happiness in such situations. In Chapter 9, I outline a number of public policies that may increase the secular happiness of individuals, through both its components: well-being and life satisfaction. Public policies that target “happiness” in general, may improve people’s well-being in two ways. Firstly, by offering high quality and affordable public goods and services to all citizens and secondly, by increasing provision for the environment (businesswise, cultural, social, legal, etc). Together, this would maximize the private welfare of individuals. Life satisfaction may be enhanced through education, social equality, by the existence of a fair and strong social contract, and by instilling moral values into Society. In Chapter 10, I observe that an era of affluence, social media, and increasingly more leisure time is shaping humanity today, very differently when compared to any previous time in our history. I discuss how AI and the technological revolution will further change mankind, our lives, and more importantly, our perception of happiness.
The Epilogue questions whether happiness is still achievable in today’s world. People seem more preoccupied today with material belongings than with their happiness, absolute or secular. The solution I propose to being happier is to firstly, understand what makes us happy individually and collectively, and then pursue that goal instead of focusing on other aspects of life.