Being Human and Being Good

I argued last week that happiness makes us more active members of the community. We need to maintain ourselves and take joy in what we do, to be open to other people, build community, and work on problems. Happiness gives us the energy to follow-through and to do what we think needs to be done. 

This week I will start some occasional posts to help us be happier. There’s no magic solution, no simple test. Even tried and true methods have their limits, and we don’t know a lot. We can be certain a bit of ancient wisdom, something Aristotle emphasized. Being happy requires more than knowing what is good and right. We must reform our habits of thought and feeling. That is, we must get rid of vices and cultivate virtues, to become an effective, engaged, thriving, happy person. Evolution supports Aristotle’s claim here. We evolved bit-by-bit. Our brains are a hodge-podge of systems, each with its own agenda and goals. They work together well enough for us to survive, but they don’t make us happy. Without an effort to change our habits, we eat too much salt, fat, and sweet, we struggle to prioritize long-term goals over short-term pleasures, and we keep seeking happiness outside ourselves. We try to buy, possess, or eat something to be happy. We see recognition from others. Rather than looking outwards, we need to change our habits of thought and feeling so they support us rather than divide us.

Each post will remind us of something—sometimes something quite obvious—that we might forget when we’re buried in our regular habits. We can use these reminders to start to reshape the way we think and feel about ourselves and our relationships with others.