It’s really quite simple. Really.
A happy person is one who sees beauty all around them. Every time you see something beautiful, you get a little burst of happy juice. The more beautiful things you see, the happier you’ll be. (Looking in the mirror is nice but not a good single solution.)
I suppose one way to do this is to make lots of money and then live in an architect designed home, nail a trophy spouse, and surround yourself with great art. Listen to nothing but great music, wear nothing but haute couture and eat nothing but haute cuisine. This approach has problems. There is a long process of getting there which could get ugly if things don’t go right. Once you get there, you may have become too jaded to enjoy it. It is possible to become bored with great art. Not to mention how many bodies you stepped over on the way up and the incredible level of entitled narcissism you will develop. Inherited wealth has that problem, too.
A better way is to fall in love. Love gives you something beautiful to look at when the world turns ugly. I recommend it highly. Large jolts of happy juice initially and if you stay in love it will be a continual string of little sips as long as it lasts. That initial euphoria can’t be a 24/7/365 condition; it would eventually destroy you. As the Great Bard said:
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow..
Romantic love can be a fickle beast, especially if the object is a person. That is why I recommend loving several people. Love of a person doesn’t have to be romantic. There are parents and siblings and children and more distant relatives who touch your life as well as close friends and pets. It is a funny thing about love – it pays no heed to physics or economic laws. It is often the case that the more you give it away, the more you have to give.
There should be something you do that you love, preferably several things. One or more activities that when you engage in it, the endorphins start to flow. I hike. I take photographs. I run around naked. I write. I sing. Perhaps there is a cause you believe in. Embrace your activity and love it, be it religion or philately or your own private version of patriotism. If by some miracle you are able to make a living doing something you love and not have the commercial aspect ruin it, by all means, do so. Otherwise, keep it as a hobby and be a true amateur – one who does something simply for the love of doing it.
A possession can be the object of love. Nothing wrong with that. As children, we may have loved a doll, usually something with personal meaning. (For me it was a stuffed dog that when you wound it up played Braham’s Lullaby.) A grownup might cherish a mint condition 1960 Corvette, lavishing inordinate amounts of attention on it. (If I had one I would probably be its slave.) Some things are cherished for what they do, some for what they could do, and others for pure symbolism.
Love is a two-edged sword. When you love something, you are expanding your self-definition to include the thing you love. The counter to this is that when you lose something you love, it is like having a part of your “self” torn off violently and without anesthesia. Your mileage may vary but it is only by loving more than one thing that I am able to survive the loss of something I love. Such wounds never heal completely. If you are doing it right – over the long haul – the scars fade and the immediate pain turns to memories. Depending on how deep your love is and other philosophical matters, the process can take a long time.
Feeling deep love for something is so important that without it I would quickly become desperate. If you don’t have anything worth dying for how can you honestly say you have anything worth living for?
Of course, this flies in the face of the theory that the greatest love you have should be the love you have for yourself. Yes, you do need to love yourself – but note – why would you then run into a burning building to save a child if your greatest love is for yourself? Why would there be any sacrifice at all if there were a conflict between the supreme love of oneself and the secondary love for another?
Greater love hath no man than this,
that he lay down his life for his friend.
The result would be what we see today. Greed is good. Narcissism exalted as a primary virtue. Materialism runs rampant. You get yours and sucks to be everyone else. Thievery and dishonesty in dealings. Abuse of subordinates, sexual and otherwise. Abandoned and unwanted children. I suppose that is humanity’s lot.
No matter what we breed
We still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
However the world may drift, I stand here. I can do no other. The most satisfying life is one in which you love the entire world. Remember how Juliette said that her love was infinite? It means you can love yourself greatly and still have an even greater love for others – people, things, ideas. Without love beyond the self, there is no reason to want to control your inner demons to prevent them from hurting others.
Lots of ugliness out there. I won’t deny it. But the good stuff outweighs the bad or the species would have self-destructed long ago. Once you love the world, you will start to see incredible beauty all around. Hard work and elegance are beautiful. Flowers and sunsets are beautiful but then so are earthworms and rainy days and the very soil that the worms churn. Precision machinery is beautiful. A spiral galaxy is beautiful and so is the telescope which allows us to see it in detail. The Dirac equation is beautiful.
The ants steadily dismantling a vole corpse are beautiful. To an ant, that rotting rodent would be beautiful for it offers the promise of life to the ant colony. It may not hit my top ten list of things I admire – but who am I to argue with an ant? The wolf is beautiful and so is the moose it kills. Death is beautiful for without it there can be no life and life itself is beautiful.
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
I am at my destination here. If you would be happy, love the world. Do so and you will always have beauty to look at and enjoy. I find it in the weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk and in the sweat of the men who poured that sidewalk. I find it in the elderly and ill who stubbornly cling to life against all odds, in the portly middle-aged who refuse to let their hearts age, as well as the heartbreakingly lovely youth or maiden. In a woman’s breast as well as the baby she may suckle and in the process that produces that baby.
That is all I have to say for now. Hope I have said enough.