Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Quest for Happiness

A Catholic priest philosopher, writing in the Kyeongyang magazine, headlined his article: Those Who Want Happiness Need to Walk the Way of Love. He then gives us some examples of this theme.

For St.Thomas the answer to the question What is happiness? was the beatific vision. Many have difficulty with his "sugared, intellectualized," as it has been called, meaning of happiness. The writer goes on to say that this happiness that comes with  gazing (the beatific vision) is the purified and completeness of love. When St.Thomas speaks about happiness what is presupposed for him is that full knowledge equals full love. Shakespeare said something similar: “Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with dearer love."

The answer to the meaning of love is love. We learn love by loving. We have to find the way of love to get to happiness. We are all weak and scared individuals, but the first step on this road to love is the way to happiness.

The musical made from The Tale of Two Cites was popular here in Korea, and the priest uses the story as an example of love. It is a melodrama, with the French revolution as background. Old fashioned but with skill in the presentation, the musical leaves a strong impression on the viewer. Sydney Carton, a very talented lawyer, has lost faith in himself and in society. His unreciprocated love for Lucy, pure and full of mercy, remains and, in thanks for what he was given, offers up his life for love. The last scene shows the  saintly and happy death of this once lost soul.

The thesis that love  is happiness is known by those who walk tirelessly along this way.  Is this not the love of imperfect human beings for other imperfect humans? Though this love is still finite and selfish, is it not the imitation of infinite love and the beginning step on the way to happiness?

Another example in our times is the sister Emmanuelle, who lived with the trash collectors in Cairo for 20 years, showing her love to a forgotten segment of society, living in their poverty-like circumstances. In her words: "Many people carry within themselves the eternal face. Their gaze gives a response to love. They very naturally grow close to those they meet. Even their everyday duties, which are repeated over and over again to accomplish their tasks, are freed from emptiness and finiteness." Isn't this the result of love?

The priest concludes that his love is his happiness. For his happiness to be real he has to eagerly desire that his love be real. St. Augustine said after finishing writing one of his books, the book is finished but the quest is not. He ends  his article on happiness by wishing that we all continue the quest in learning how to love.

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