If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Tuesday 10 Apr 2012
If we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.
Edith Wharton (24 Jan 1862 – 11 Aug 1937)
What I can say about happiness also applies to what I wish everyone would appreciate about a particular bête noire of mine: self-esteem.
Thus, neither self-esteem nor happiness is – in Aristotelian terms – a τέλοϛ telos ‘result, end, purpose, point, goal’ actively sought. You will no more ‘make it’ if you say to yourself, “My goal today is to be happy” than you will if you say to yourself, “Today I have as my end the fashioning of self-esteem.”
Nor will you ‘get there’ on the basis of somebody’s telling you that you should be happy and that you now deserve to feel self-esteem for whatever it is that you have or have not done.
No: each is achieved, to the extent that it is on any given occasion, not as the result of purposefully setting out to realize it but as the incidental byproduct of doing other things right. For example, I utterly deplore the self-esteem movement that appears in our day to have invaded so many territories from which it ought to be kept at a sanitized distance: the third-grade art class, the overcoming of a deficit you have recognized in yourself, your very own special uniqueness, …
Just do whatever it is you’re doing, for somebody else less fortunately situated than you are, to the best of your ability and with a bit of enthusiasm and, I would venture, it will be vouchsafed you to “have a pretty good time”!