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Ultimately fulfillment, and not pleasure, is essential to a happy life - Essay Example

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The media are full of images showing individuals in pursuit of a celebrity lifestyle, characterized by consumption of expensive goods, and a materialistic romp through one pleasurable experience after another. Curiously, however, these same pleasure seeking celebrities are very…
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Ultimately fulfillment, and not pleasure, is essential to a happy life
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Ultimately fullfillment, and not pleasure, is essential to a happy life.” The media are full of images showing individuals in pursuit of a celebrity lifestyle, characterized by consumption of expensive goods, and a materialistic romp through one pleasurable experience after another. Curiously, however, these same pleasure seeking celebrities are very often the unhappiest people of all, and it is regularly reported that they fall prey to addictions, violence and early death. It seems that large amounts of material pleasure, however much onlookers may envy such luxury, do not make for a happy life.
The Dalai Lama is one famous person who has reflected a great deal on the nature of happiness. His book entitled The Art of Happiness opens with the simple statement: “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness” (Dalai Lama and Cutler, 2009, p. 13) and he goes on to explain all of the ways that human beings can cultivate an inner state of happiness through self-discipline and an awareness of the connectedness of each human being with others and with the world. For him there is a spiritual dimension to happiness, that comes with a realization that there is more to life than just what is superficially visible. He does not think that happiness comes from pleasure of a physical kind: “Happiness that depends mainly on physical pleasure is unstable; one day it’s there and the next day it may not be” (Dalai Lama and Cutler, 2009, p. 33).
A traditional Judeo-Christian perspective is found in the Old Testament in the verse “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Proverbs 3:18). This line of thinking reveals that it is in the process of working towards a laudable goal that people find happiness, and this rings true in modern experience too. Most people are happiest when they are lost in their work, or in a hobby, and they are proud and pleased when they can look back at their own hard won achievements.
The transitory pleasures of modern life can keep us amused for short periods of time. True happiness, however, comes from the inside of a person, and develops over time as an attitude of mind. Life can be very hard, and for every living thing, death is the only certainty. This knowledge can lead to feelings of deep despair and hopelessness that no amount of pleasure can ever displace. It is only when people learn to focus on something worthwhile, and channel their energies into bettering themselves and helping their fellow citizens, that they start to fill up the empty hole of despair deep inside them. Fullfillment comes from long term commitment to a goal, and it usually involves service to other people, a selfless love for others, and the development of a healthy self-esteem based on virtuous behavior.
It is no coincidence that children are renowned for their happy disposition. They are the epitome of fullfillment: waking up to each new day with an eagerness to experience all that life has to offer. They become absorbed in their activities, and devote their whole energy to learning all there is to know about the world. We would do well to imitate this childish enthusiasm, and choose fullfilling and long term goals over fleeting pleasures, because this is the only true path to a happy life.
Dalai Lama, H.H. and Cutler, Howard C. The Art of Happiness. 10th Anniversary Edition. New York: Penguin, 2009.
King James Bible. Various editions. Read More
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