What makes anyone happy? Is it all much the same? Enough food, shelter, and good relationships? Myself, I’d summarise it as ‘being loved and having someone to love’. Although, you could have all that, and yet be unhappy – say if the two of you were in prison, or dying, or, of course, if the person you loved wasn’t the same person who loved you. But requited love would be the main thing – not necessarily the adult kind, could be the love between me and my kids, or me and my mother, or friends, or siblings. Seems the more of it one has, the happier one is. Which I guess is why sweetipie is not very happy. He loves and is loved, but not by many people. Just by me and maybe his younger daughter, when you come down to it, and even she’s on the fence. So that doesn’t make for a very safe emotional situation. No wonder he’s edgy and anxious.
Is it the same for everyone? Do even violent thugs and drug dealers and psychopaths and warlords want to be happy in the same way? I guess some people would find happiness in violence and power – but that’s surely dysfunctional, for humans. And yet, I read somewhere that most bosses are psychopaths, so it can’t be that unusual. Maybe the leader of the clan was usually a psychopath, in caveman days. Or would that be called happiness? or some other rush, more like taking a drug or drinking a lot or running a marathon or scoring a goal.
Or have I got this the wrong way around? Is it ‘feelings people find pleasant and seek out’ that define happiness? So that if people got pleasure from pain, pain would make them ‘happy’. But of course people don’t usually find pleasure in ‘pain’, so happiness is defined by the norm, and dysfunction by the norm.
So going back to Buddha, maybe all he meant by ultimate ‘good’ (better, best) was a state of affairs which most people would find pleasant. So to paraphrase Buddha (though how you can paraphrase a guy when you’ve never read anything he’s written is another story) – it’s ‘better’ to perform ‘good’ acts because that creates more ‘good’ in the world, ie a ‘gooder’ world, ie, one which most people will enjoy living in more. And if someone performs enough good acts, and trains themselves to view the world with compassion but without desire, they will get to a point where they are completely ‘happy’ – defined as, experiencing ongoing (if somewhat ineffable) pleasure. So THAT’s why you’d want to be ‘enlightened’.
Ah ha! And I thought it was the world’s worst advertisement for heaven ‘work hard, be good and one day you won’t feel a thing!’.