Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Real Happiness


Happiness is a feeling of satisfaction and well being. It's something which we all strive for and dream of however few of us attain it.

It is my belief that material possessions can never provide satisfaction. No one has ever had enough money. I have personally known a man worth several hundred million dollars who never smiled and I have known a rabbi of modest means who never stopped smiling.

What can provide happiness is a total absorption with a love of God.

Imagine the infinite wisdom and power of God. Realize that all the beauty in the universe flows from Him.

Don't think of yourself. Selfishness is the poison which destroys happiness. Selflessness creates happiness.

Even when you care for yourself, by eating or sleeping and so on, do so not for your sake, but so that you can love God and continue to serve Him.

Don't think about how other people can help you. Stop using and exploiting others. Think about how you can help them. If you are married, God has given you a spouse as a partner in life and to give you the opportunity to help others. If you have children, realize that they were given to you so that you would be able to care for them. Through this we can emulate God who cares for the universe.

Repeat this like a mantra. Meditate on it. "It's not about me. It's about Him."


In response to some comments on this post, I want to add that I am not claiming that love of God and selflessness are the only paths to happiness; instead I am claiming that they are the the only paths to stable, constant happiness. Injecting heroin will also make you happy for a few hours; however that it is not what I mean by “real happiness”. Likewise, nothing material can bring real happiness since once the material thing is gone, as it surely will be eventually, the happiness is gone too. Meditation, anti-depressants and exercise can numb pain, which is valuable, however that is not happiness. Accepting one's situation without complaining is also not happiness.

Secondly, real happiness is not an easy, instantly attainable goal. It is something which requires great effort every hour of our lives. It is something which we can gradually come closer to. And the rewards are well worth the effort. I would advice praying constantly “God, please help me to love You.” If someone were to ask me if I am happy, I would say that I am working toward happiness.

Also, incidentally, this post is not merely good advice, however it is obligatory, as the Torah states "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."

42 comments:

Child Ish Behavior said...

Ah, there is the rub isn't it? Who says we all strive for happiness? And who says we are all the same in what brings that happiness, if we all happen to be striving for happiness?

DrJ said...

I can't disagree with an exhortation about selflessness.

However, a humanist or atheist could write exactly the same thing as you and subsitute "god" for "humanity" or "people" and it would make just as much sense, and be just as inspiring...

jewish philosopher said...

I purposely gave no sources in this post, because it is something which can be directly experienced. Try it for a few weeks and if you aren't happier, you get your money back.

For a Jew, by the way, the daily prayers offer a perfect opportunity to focus on God and our love for Him.

alex said...

Child Ish Behavior: Your second question is so obvious, I'm surprised you even asked it. JP surely knew that, too.

"Think about how you can help them." DrJ agrees with your statement about selflessness, but thinks that it works for atheists, too. But does it really?

I submit the following thought-provoking joke, relayed by R' Abraham Twersky:

There is a story of two loiterers who were arrested for loitering. When they were brought before the judge, he asked the first loiterer:

"What were you doing when the officer arrested you?"

"Nothing", the man answered.

The judge turned to the second man, "and what were you doing?"

"I was helping him," he answered, pointing to his companion.

alex said...

Oops, I meant to say "third question" not "second question."

jewish philosopher said...

I doubt that happiness can be achieved through altruism alone without monotheism, because no addiction recover program has successfully used a system like that as far as I know.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/05/god-anti-drug.html

Child Ish, if you're happy being unhappy, then I'm happy for you.

DrJ said...

Budhists seem quite happy

jewish philosopher said...

I have a never known a Buddhist, however the religion basically seems to promote asceticism and pessimism, rather than a balanced, productive and optimistic lifestyle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascetic#Buddhism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Noble_Truths

DrJ said...

Your opinion of Buddhist theology has nothing to do with whether buddhists are happy.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3047291.stm

Besides, most people adapt to whatever their circumstances are and become happy.

By reading wiki about jewish theology could someone tell whether Jews are happy or depressed ot neurotic?

DrJ said...

Having said that, Judaism, along with other spiritual traditions, gives people meaning and mission in their lives, and their community gives them a strong sense of mutual support.

I get these things from Judaism but without believing in your fundamentalist views. God isn't even in the picture.

And I'm a happy guy. No prozac needed.

jewish philosopher said...

"They found that experienced Buddhists, who meditate regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry compared to other people."

The question is compared to which other people? Atheists - probably. Orthodox Jews - who knows?

"Besides, most people adapt to whatever their circumstances are and become happy."

Not that I noticed.

"And I'm a happy guy."

References please?

DrJ said...

ask my wife :)

jewish philosopher said...

Who is she and what's her number?

DrJ said...

She's a happy monotheist, but I won't post her number :)

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, excuse me, but for all I know, you may be living under a highway bridge somewhere.

DrJ said...

"DrJ, excuse me, but for all I know, you may be living under a highway bridge somewhere."

With wireless internet access, I'm OK.

jewish philosopher said...

There's Internet in most libraries.

Take health. Let's say I would write that the path to good health is following the Weight Watcher program http://www.weightwatchers.com/Index.aspx , which I think is probably true. Now someone is going to say "Hold on! I know plenty of healthy people who eat whatever they want to, never exercise, etc." Fine, but how healthy? For how long?

In this post, I am explaining the direction a person has to take to happiness. Instead of loving oneself, one must focus on love of God. Someone will say "I don't believe in God and I'm happy." Fine, how happy? For how long?

Child Ish Behavior said...

In the end we all end up in the same place, dead and buried. Sorry to be a buzz kill. But as happy as you get you still die when it's time to go. There is no way around that. Even the greatest sages died when it was their time. All your realizations don't hide that depressing fact. This existence is fleeting, and any happiness we get here is only short lived. So you comfort yourself with the idea that by doing God's will you have the chance of living for entirety in Heaven, and you try as hard as you can to do what you think it right, but there is no guarantee that you will get into Heaven in the end. Kol Yisroel Yesh Lahem Cheleck... But there are many who lose there portion, and lose their chance at an eternity with God. You believe in God, you do everything right and you are happy, but how happy and for how long?

jewish philosopher said...

Repeat this like a mantra. Meditate on it. "It's not about me. It's about Him."

jewish philosopher said...

My impression is that there are ways to numb oneself to suffering - meditation, medication or exercise for example. It's my understanding that Buddhism is not so much a religion as it is a system to mentally numb oneself.

Also, there are various ways to enjoy oneself. Some people enjoy helping others, some enjoy hurting others, some enjoy sports, some enjoy alcohol, etc. However all enjoyment is temporary.

I think that true happiness can only come through a love of God. I would urge everyone to pray constantly "God, help me to love You."

DrJ said...

"My impression is that there are ways to numb oneself to suffering - meditation, medication or exercise for example" OR-

delusional beliefs in non-existent all powerful supernatural entities.

jewish philosopher said...

Frankly, I don't think that anyone really denies God's existence. That is something which is too obvious to possibly seriously question. The choice which we have is to either love God or hate Him. Many choose to hate Him because they feel that He infringes on their own importance. They choose to worship themselves rather than worship God.

Child Ish Behavior said...

I think you are being disingenuous. Everyone at some point has some form of existential crisis, the end of which culminates in a person choosing their own belief system. It can be an agreement with what they were brought up to believe in, or it can be a rejection of that. Truth and God in the abstract sense have nothing to do with this process. It is about a person choosing their own path. I think that after such an experience is past, for the most part, the person will be happy with whatever choice he happened to make, theism or atheism, religion or secularism. You chose Judaism as your own choice, by owning the religion as your own you think you have found your happiness. But you are missing the point if you think that God himself, and rejection of selfishness, automatically brings about happiness. It is the process, and the eventual finding, of your real goals in life that bring about that sense of fulfillment. For many people being brought up with God isn't enough, everyone does deny some form of God or another in their search for self direction.

Anonymous said...

>It is my belief that material possessions can never provide satisfaction. No one has ever had enough money.<

Another dopey dictum from the master of mindless speculations.
I know many people with who have plenty of money and are very happy.
They live a modest lifestyle and are content to live with their means, eschewing a rapacious desire for more wealth.

jewish philosopher said...

"the person will be happy with whatever choice he happened to make, theism or atheism, religion or secularism"

So why do AA and other twelve step programs require a belief in God?

jewish philosopher said...

"They live a modest lifestyle"

Right. The money is not what makes them happy.

Anonymous said...

>What can provide happiness is a total absorption with a love of God. Imagine the infinite wisdom and power of God. Realize that all the beauty in the universe flows from Him.<

Absolutely! That is why you need to renounce your false religion and embrace Allah and his prophet, Muhammed, P"BUH.

jewish philosopher said...

If you aren't Jewish and don't kill infidels, I think Islam might be OK. Same goes for some Christian churches.

Child Ish Behavior said...

"So why do AA and other twelve step programs require a belief in God?"

AA is a program to break an addiction. That is the goal. It isn't about defining yourself as a person. It is about fighting a bad habit that you develop through lack of direction. In order to do that you have to forget about what you actually want because what is just a product of addiction, it isn't a long term life goal. The best way to forget about your own wants is to focus on how insignificant you are in the scheme of things, ie. God. While embracing God may rid you of a previous addiction, it in itself doesn't necessarily bring about true happiness.

jewish philosopher said...

AA gives people the tools they need to cope with stress without abusing chemicals. Those tools are monotheism and altruism - both originating in Torah.

Child Ish Behavior said...

Very nice, but is the end all just not abusing chemicals? The point is to rid yourself of the stress causing factors. Not just, not resorting to the easy chemically induced solution.

jewish philosopher said...

I think this is an indication of the positive psychological value of Judaism.

Anonymous said...

>Right. The money is not what makes them happy.<

Wrong !

Money does make them happy, among other things. I know many people who are affluent athiests or agnostics and its disblelief in god that contributes to their contentment.

Anonymous said...

>So why do AA and other twelve step programs require a belief in God?<

Because they need a psychological crutch to spawn the emancipation from their addiction.
You can achieve the same results if you by indoctrinating them that Hindu cow worship is just as effective.

jewish philosopher said...

"Money does make them happy, among other things. I know many people who are affluent athiests or agnostics and its disblelief in god that contributes to their contentment."

You're lying.

"Because they need a psychological crutch to spawn the emancipation from their addiction."

I guarantee that you yourself are an addict, in denial.

"You can achieve the same results if you by indoctrinating them that Hindu cow worship is just as effective."

Has it ever? Any examples?

DrJ said...

You harp on 12 steps in AA and the god part, which is just a tool, in one of many methods of dealing with addiction. Of course there are many atheists who are not addicted to anything, and don't need god to stay non addicted.

Much greater suffering is caused by tobacco addiction, and many other techniques are effective for that, including medication, and have nothing to do with god.

Perhaps you are speaking of your own journey. If so, fine. But there are many other paths.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm adding a few additional comments to this post which may clarify it a little.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, Orthodox Judaism seems to not only help people recover from addiction, however it also prevents addiction.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/orthodox-jewish-crime.html

Nicotine addiction seems to be much milder than other addictions, perhaps because nicotine causes no sense of euphoria. There is no residential rehab facility for smokers.

Anonymous said...

Here's a definition of cope:

To contend with difficulties and act to overcome them:

That is what atheism does magnificently.
It advances irrefutible evidence for the non-existence of god, and demolishes the pseudo-scientific sophistry of god's champions.

jewish philosopher said...

"That is what atheism does magnificently."

Doesn't seem like it.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/03/heroin-diaries.html

Yehuda said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I don't know what I can add other than I think that Hashem or G-d or Higher Power whatever you want to call Him has the answers to the human dilema. I know people who have a hard time with this and others who militate against it. The ones who militate against it are the types of people who cannot deal easily with abstract ideas but are rather people who are very sensory based. In other words the type of people who say, "if I can't see it, hear it touch it, etc., it doesn't exist."

shesaidhesaid said...

i dont believe its fair to make fun of the Buddhaist religion, sir