Post # 235  VOYAGES OF DISCOVERY (redux)

The word “happiness” is a beautiful word in contemplation, but in practical terms, is impossible to rationally define or accurately describe. It is a useful term in philosophical or ethical parlance, yet, otherwise, the word and its conception, may be elusive and even potentially misleading. In too many instances, it has served as a fatal trap, or preoccupation, like the alchemist’s vain search for gold from base metals, or Ponce De Leon’s search for the fountain of youth; all inevitably, leading to frustration and defeat, and materially delaying any reasonable search for desirable attainment.

It has been the consistent mantra of this blog, that the pursuit of the nonspecific goal of “happiness” by external means, such as seeking it in alternative venues, or in new relationships, will only defeat, or at least, delay existing potential for joy and self-realization. Self-realization and satisfaction are essentially, internal phenomena, developed within the psyche of the individual over time, by the personal achievement of meaningful goals, leading to a sense of valued self- identity, and an enhanced self. We have all learned, through the media, that the attainment of “celebrity” status (widespread public recognition), or by the accumulation of expensive assets, such as Rolex watches, yachts, jewelry, and other externals, do not seem to do the trick. This is unhappily evidenced by the number of suicides and drug dependencies, reportedly attributable to many of our show business idols .Additionally, the drive for external success has proven to be disorienting and disappointing, once actually attained.

If one were (merely) to employ useful, alternate vocabulary, in lieu of the dreamy and ethereal designation, “happiness,” he will have taken an important first step toward the attainment of his aspirations for satisfaction and peace. We have consistently suggested the words, self-realization and personal enhancement, as appropriate and achievable designations for such ultimate life goals.

The acquisition of sought- after success and true joy in life, are manifested in satisfactory self-realization, personal enhancement, and at least a modicum of accumulated wisdom. The sense of self-realization is perhaps the sweetest success. It consists in a confident overall feeling that one has led a useful and productive life, perhaps in the pursuit of essential knowledge, understanding and wisdom. The pursuit of skills, capabilities, knowledge and, indeed, the appreciation of great literature and the humanities have been among the well-recognized routes to such attainment.

With apologies for an obvious reiteration, (since the principle is so vitally important) we maintain that the search for happiness in the external world is predictably unrewarding and, no doubt, greatly discouraging, since personal Identity and felt purpose are internal (psychological) phenomena.  The discovery of a worthwhile cause, a self-engrossing interest, literary, cultural, scientific, mechanical or natural, among others, can provide a beginning step towards satisfaction and self- fulfillment.

The impetus for such an engrossing life interest, or calling, may be discovered while ruminating in one’s favorite easy chair, sitting quietly in the library, during attendance at a lecture, in a visit to a museum or from the occurrence of an unusual personal experience. Its discovery can provide an ultimately rewarding addition to one’s life. The opportunity to explore and delve in depth into a subject, perhaps only barely apprehended previously, may be a fortuitous resource for the embracing of new dimensions in one’s life, and can provide that missing ingredient for self-fulfillment and ultimate joy. Those who travel the world in search of themselves, may, fortuitously, ultimately discover their long sought inner identity while at home.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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