Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where Is True Happiness To Be Found?

A professor at the Seoul University school of Education, who served in the past government as the minister of education, has some thoughts on happiness he wants to share. Writing in a Catholic magazine, he says that we all live with happiness and unhappiness, and the standard used to judge is different for each person. In most cases, the parents pass their standard of happiness on to the children. 

Nowadays, parents think that children will be happy if they have nice clothes, do well in their studies, and have  exceptional capabilities. More troubling is that some parents want their children to play only with the rich and not associate with the poor, also suggesting they stay away from problem families. It is reported, he said, that some grammar school children use as their standard for making friends how fine an apartment and car other children have.  

Material standards can only be temporary. Some parents see nothing wrong in cheating if you benefit from it. There  is a happiness that follows, but it is the selfish kind. If  by chance, after all the trouble in comparing yourself with others, you lose in the competition, you are left with frustration.

The writer mentions that as a child he spent most of his time at the church. This is where he studied and played; it was the meeting place in town and the only place where you could have fun. They gathered in groups of two and threes to play, and now, looking back, he sees it as his first experience of happiness that gave meaning to his life.

Happiness he tells us can be divided into three different categories. The first comes when when you have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear--satisfying  our natural instincts.  The second is the happiness that comes with the accumulation of money, honors, and success--the satisfaction of achieving material goals. The third is the happiness that comes when serving others--the satisfaction that brings joy and fulfillment in life. There are many who are examples of this way of life.

The professor feels that  society has been overly taken up with the first two: the pleasure and satisfaction of achieving personal and material goals in life. These are all good, he admits. To eat tasty food, have an abundance of financial security, and achieve your personal goals of self-fulfillment do bring happiness. They may give temporary bodily pleasure and emotional delight, but  do not satisfy the search for meaning in life--the craving of the inner life. With temporary satisfaction. we are always tempted to look for different ways to be satisfied, leading us into a vicious circle of failed attempts. 

When we are moved by an altruistic desire to help others, however, this is a value that does not disappear with time, as happens with most of our personal goals. The impressions of a mother raising her children , he reminds us, do not disappear with time but actually grow stronger. The professor ends his article by urging parents to teach their children where true happiness is to be found.



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