“The sign that shows real progress in every creative work is the pleasure we derive from it, and then we realize that only work is what is pleasurable, and this alone is enough.”
Here, Aristotle refers to a concept that philosophers have long discussed for several centuries, and it is the meaning of “happiness” that stems from “pleasure” and “delight.” Both of these sentiments are not only a spiritual feeling or a physical sensation devoid of any sense, but are also directly linked to the mind and thought, that is in fact the way by which one can achieve happiness.
A poetry verse by Al-Mutanabbi, a musical piece by Mozart; maybe a chocolate bar, a delicious meal cooked with passion, a movie, a scientific equation, a dance, or feeling the warmth of the sun one afternoon near a water pool, all of these may give you the desired happiness. These things may be enjoyed by a multitude of individuals, but they will not necessarily derive the same pleasure, and perhaps some may even find them boring.
“Happiness” has been converted from a moment we live and experience to a mere picture to be posted on Instagram. Once happiness is caught by the physical lens of a camera, it ceases to exist like a hunted gazelle soaking in its own bloodHassan Al Mustafa
This disparity in influence, apart from being the result of differences from person to person, and from one experience to another, is mainly due, according to Aristotle, to “happiness” being, linked to the “wisdom” achieved through contemplation.
Contemplation designates the act of reflecting about things; to identify with the moment and seek joy in the present, not what comes after the work. It is a practice which immerses a person in the life he now lives and not the dreams he aspires to achieve one day!
For example, there is the scent of a perfume when it works on our senses, its fragrance actually does not only linger in the nose, but also in the spirit and the mind. When one is made aware of the history behind this fragrance, where it came from, how it was made, the herbs and precious oils used in it, and the farms and high mountains from which it was brought, then all this history and narration will be impossible for us to feel in our souls for just a brief moment. We are attracted to it the moment we sense this fragrance, and it will linger like it’s two lovers’ eternal embrace.
The meaning of happiness
This does not complicate the meaning of “happiness,” which even the simplest people and individuals from society who can neither read nor write can feel. This is another path for tapping at its source and its apogee. It is a path which normal people would not follow for every individual has his own happiness, the one that most suits him.
Returning to the concept of “contemplation,” Socrates believes that happiness’ only limits are those of contemplation as the more we develop our ability to contemplate, the better our prospects for achieving happiness. For him this relationship is not “coincidental, but the result of contemplation as one can even say happiness is a kind of contemplation.” Contemplative thinking is a type of spiritual and mental sport which relies on anchoring and adapting one’s self. Through contemplation one even perceives happiness in the burning of a forest or the crashing waves of the ocean.
This has nothing to do with what some modernists are trying to promote via a distorted concept of “positivity”, which has become a mere product of consumption tastelessly marketed via shallow writings that are far from contemplation and knowledge and that work on modeling humans and turning them into simpletons with meaningless smiles which they rush to capture with their blunt lenses and share on social media networks while depicting them as moments of joy and happiness.
“Happiness” has been converted from a moment we live and experience to a mere picture to be posted on Instagram. Once happiness is caught by the physical lens of a camera, it ceases to exist like a hunted gazelle soaking in its own blood!
Happiness does not require its memories to be imprinted by a machine, or recorded on videos to be shared on mobile phones, but only demands of our souls to be in harmony with what makes them joyful, and to be what they want and not what others want, even if it means for this soul to wander alone. The soul can live in a state of suspended joy as long as one knows the way.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.