Thursday, October 27, 2016

Happiness is....

Now before you think I am off my rocker -- or calendar -- I know it is Thursday. But hear me out; the twelve hour day of school + conferences is over.  Everything is cleaned up in the kitchen, and there is nothing pressing in the inbox that won't wait until tomorrow.  My head is already accepting that it is Friday.

And yes, I do decorate for Christmas  on Thanksgiving weekend, now that my sister hosts the event and I can get away with premature decoration.

A Working Definition, to be Sure....

Have you ever tried to define something with words that you totally think you understand, only to find yourself dancing around the very tangible and understood concept, feeling like you are completely inept?  Yeah, sure, that makes for all kinds of security and happiness.  Sometimes in Themes in Lit, everybody is upbeat, and other times I drag everybody into that totally gray area that lies between BLACK and WHITE.  I know it's painful, because I see it on their faces.  The disequilibrium they feel is that queasy uncertainty where the answer is easy -- until it is absolutely impossible.  So today, after examining the importance of happiness as it applies to the founding and governing of nations, and checking out the
On display at the University of London
horror story-like pictures of Jeremy Bentham and his shriveled head, and considering his  Greatest Happiness Principle,  I challenged my classes to write their own definitions.  (I applaud my restraint at not singing  the Happiness Is song courtesy of the gang from Peanuts.  Primarily because kids today don't know what a skate key is.)

The definitions were fascinating - a sample is provided below.  
  • Happiness is a rush of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonine, and endorphins.
  • Happiness is a short or long term condition of feeling content and joyful. 
  • Happiness is feeling complete with oneself, whether it be religiously, morally, or socially
  • Happiness -- the feeling of elation or satisfaction from the environmental, social, and emotional aspects of an individual person, usually brought upon by the action or thought of either the person or the surroundings
  • A condition derived from relevance and satisfactory feelings that provide pleasure within a person's own virtues
  • I believe that while happiness itself cannot truly have a definition because the condition of happiness is different for each person, the way that this condition of happiness can be achieved can have a definition of sorts; pruning external practices and using your internal setting to create a feeling of prosperity.
  • Happiness is having a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure, and it can vary based on a person's social relationships and environment.
  • Happiness is . . . Strong, Loving Relationships + a Sense of Belonging + a feeling of Gratitude and Pleasure + a State of Positivity + Satisfaction in what you do 
  • When you feel complete, as if all your needs are met. All problems are not important at that moment, and you can only focus on your emotions.
  • Happiness is a feeling of joy that comes from giving to others, finding yourself, and finding a purpose in life.  
I challenge you to try to define happiness for yourself -- with or without the Peanuts gang singing along.  And then start asking questions - just as the kids in class did today:

  • Is it possible to be happy then if situations are not going well, or if contentment is lacking? How would you define the difference between happiness and joy? 
  • But are joy and happiness not different?
  • Do you think that you would have more happiness if you tried something outside of your boundaries? 
  • Do you think it is possible to be unhappy while accomplishing things inside your moral boundaries? For example, if I think it is morally right to eat dessert all the time, and I do, couldn't I be unhappy because of the effects? Or would I change my moral boundary...?  
 Now you see why I love what I do.  I'm fairly certain Jeremy Bentham is having his head reattached as we speak, just so he can ruminate about these questions, and redefine Utilitarianism.
And let me be the first to wish you a Happy Friday!

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