Christopher Laurence Examines – The World’s Happiness, or Christs?
Written by Christopher L on 06/10/2021
Christopher Laurence Examines – The World’s Happiness, or Christs?
In Greek and Christian philosophy, following from the Aristotelian tradition, there are levels to happiness:
Laetus is material happiness. A happiness reliant on things, objects, possessions and money. Fleeting, shallow and far too conditional to have any penetrating depth or longevity. You have a cheeseburger; you are happy while eating it. The cheeseburger is gone; the happiness you derived from it is, also. Line up an endless procession of cheeseburgers; between each one you are (philosophically) empty. This is also your collection of Disney blu-rays, your neighbor’s swimming pool and Corvette, my stack of Playstation games, his boxes and boxes of comic books. These things bring happiness which can scarcely be called such. And it is also, sadly, the main vehicle of happiness for many (perhaps most) Americans. Consumerism is a wicked mistress, akin to the dealer of drugs and vice. And like a drug, the high from buying those new Nikes, that Supreme hoodie, the limited-edition version of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” in the steelbook case, is fleeting and often comes with a crash. Either you’ll look at your bank account and despair, or you will realize the enjoyment you can wring from these items is very short-lived. And far worse yet, it may not only cost you financially, but spiritually. You can be deprived of far more than your dollars: you may be deprived of Heaven.
As the Scripture says,
“Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.” – Matthew 19:21
“Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” -Matthew 6:19-21
Next is a happiness derived from perceived advantages. You have more Pokemon cards than your friend. A bigger pool than your neighbor. You are better at Mario Kart than your cousin. This is an unstable and inherently selfish type of happiness. Once you fail, or your lead is lessened, or you are lapped on the racetrack of worldly gain, you are crushed. And it is impossible to maintain this type of happiness and have healthy relationships with others. Other people are just marks on a comparison chart; milestones to attain; markers to surpass. This type of happiness can also tie into the former type. The acquisition of material possessions is often perceived as giving some advantage. You can’t be better at Mario Kart if you don’t have your own copy to practice on. Consumerism again shows that its slimy tentacles are far reaching and multitudinous. They will put a lasting stranglehold on your morality in exchange for a tangible yet short-lived benefit. And the pursuit of happiness in this manner logically requires the subjection or demeaning of others; you’re wearing the aforementioned Supreme hoodie and those Nike Air Max 2090’s; looking fresh. Your neighbor has a Walmart fleece and some flip-flops; gross. You’re winning, right? Wrong.
For Jesus said,
“Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as redemption for many.” -Matthew 20:28
“I have showed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how He said: It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive.” -Acts 20:35
“You must never act in a spirit of facetiousness, or of ambition; each of you must have the humility to think others better men than himself, and study the welfare of others, not his own.” -Philippians 2:3-4
Per the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and which thus denies the existence of God and the soul.”
Consumerism is the trickle down and even more base result of Materialism. And how can such a philosophy be anything but exiguous and spiritually deleterious? Even someone with zero forming in the True Faith of Catholicism can look at the Scriptures and see both the examples I have provided and many more besides, which show how diametrically opposed such a worldview is to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His being the way to the only true and lasting happiness there is. Let us proceed through the remaining types of happiness.
Following this second form of material happiness is Felicitas, or happiness found in others. This type of happiness is most congruous with the true definition of human love; which is to will the good of the other. This is the love, the caritas, which the Church teaches as being truly meritorious. It is not the love in the world’s method, where a person’s feelings and pride are to be protected at all costs. It is not a love that contributes to vanity; not a love which (as we have seen) heaps material good on another to attempt to shore up their well-being. This happiness derives from seeing the true good in others, and doing true good for them. Naturally, this happiness is in conflict with the other types, being unselfish in nature. It provides the most lasting and pure form of happiness found in life, the happiness which comes from following the command of Christ, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. This may be hard to hear, but even if someone be homeless, it is not enough to simply feed and clothe them. Of course, these are the natural goods that the Lord tells us to provide to our brothers in need, but we cannot stop there. For while giving these material necessities to those who are lacking them may gain us spiritual benefit, it does not the same for them. The true end of these acts is to provide for their spiritual well being. The origin of any and all good works we do is Christ, therefore all these works should point back to Him as well, and in this we find Felicitas, a much more enduring and rightly-ordered happiness. Yet, even still, this is not the highest form of happiness, as it is reliant on the impermanent contingency which is other persons.
“Human Nature is not so completely corrupted by sin as to be totally lacking in natural goodness.” says Aquinas.
“What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.” –James 2:14-17
Finally, there is Sublime Beatitudo or Eudaimonia, the synthesis of the pursuit of virtue and happiness in line with reason. A blessedness; the attaining of perfect knowledge of God. The pursuit of which transcends and is fundamentally at odds with hedonistic pleasures. As Aristotle taught, “Happiness is an operation according to perfect virtue,”
“Our heart is ill at ease till it find rest in Thee” says St. Augustine. “The possession of God is happiness essential.” “To know God is life everlasting.” This most perfect type of happiness cannot be attained in this life, but can be only fully realized when we contemplate God face-to-face in the Beatific Vision. It certainly cannot be found in material goods, no matter how shiny, how pricey, how sought-after, whatever pride and adulation and envy they may bring is on earth. Nor can it be found in experiences which are of the world; no trip to Disney World, no midnight showing of Star Wars, no sipping of $3,000 bottles of booze. True happiness, complete and lasting for eternity, can only be found in God. All other forms of happiness, their origins, the worldly items that inspire them, will crumble and return to dust, without hope of being risen again.
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