The Stream of Life

The pervasive unhappiness of the corporate and media world also permeates into the world of politics, given that politics is the least efficient and most indirect means of achieving one’s ultimate end and goal, namely, happiness. Thus, the irony is that those whom we deem as the most intelligent people in our society such as the ones in the corporate, political, and media world are actually the least happy in our society. As Ernest Hemingway said: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Hannah Arendt argued that “political action and its ultimate goal stand in the same relationship to each other as war and peace, that is, the end of political action is not only different from politics in general, it is its very opposite.” 

Thomas Jefferson said that the place of happiness lies “in the lap and love of my family, in the society of my neighbors and my books, in the wholesome occupations of my farms and affairs” and in turn, happiness is found “in a place as far removed as possible from Congress and in a life upon which the public had no claim” to borrow from Arendt. The “outstanding characteristics” of those who are deemed “men of letters” include their withdrawal from society, and the fact that some of them “educated themselves and cultivated their minds in a freely chosen seclusion, putting themselves at a calculated distance from the social as well as the political, from they were excluded in any case, in order to look upon both in perspective.” 

Hence, rather than seeking happiness in places such as the corporate, media, and political world where happiness will ultimately not be found, the key to happiness, as Bertrand Russell argued, is doing away with egotism and self-absorption and having a genuine interest in the mysteries of the universe and in the welfare of others. As Russell wrote: “All unhappiness depends upon some kind of disintegration or lack of integration; there is disintegration within the self through lack of coordination between the conscious and the unconscious mind; there is a lack of integration between the self and society, where the two are not knit together by the force of objective interests and affections.”

Russell added:

“The happy man is the man who does not suffer from either of these failures of unity, whose personality is neither divided against itself nor pitted against the world. Such a man feels himself a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle that it offers and the joys that it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because he feels himself not really separate from those who will come after him. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found.”

This “stream of life” is perhaps best illustrated by a J.R.R. Tolkien quote, which states: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” And what many of us lose sight of is the fact that the changes which we seek for our surroundings can take place only if we are willing to turn inward and make those changes within ourselves first and foremost. As Rumi famously said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

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