Let me ask you a question: What is it in your life that if you lost it, you would think my life just went down in value? What would you have to lose to become unhappy? What is it? Your spouse? Your children? Your job? Your degree? Your money? Your house? Your religion? Your fame/popularity?
All humans have a common denominator; every man, woman, and child have something that unanimously binds them. All humans are united in this singular action. WHAT IS IT? Simply put, it is the pursuit of happiness. Every human, while living their life on earth, is searching for that one object that can bring them happiness, so we could say that the highest and common good for man on this earth is his pursuit of happiness.
For Christians and all people of faith, whether Mormon, Muslim, Jew, Scientologist, or Zoroastrian, the highest good is God. Deists would say that it is their duty to pursue God. God is their highest and common good. So this begs the question, if the highest good for man is the pursuit of happiness, but most men believe the highest good is God, how can these two statements be true? Simply, Because God is Happiness.
All men when they seek happiness do not seek happiness in things which are bad, do they? No, they seek that which they believe to be good, so it can also be said that man seeks goodness when he seeks happiness. This makes one realize that happiness and goodness are one in the same. A man seeking happiness is seeking goodness. If happiness is the same as goodness, and God is happiness, then it can be said that God is Goodness, which we know to be true. Therefore we can see that it is not wrong to say that God is Happiness. He is the summum bonum, “the highest good.”
Now, let’s return to the proposition that man seeks happiness through objects. If happiness is something that all men seek, can it be said that happiness can be found in a singular object? Do all men find their happiness in wealth? What of fame? What of power? What of their career? What of their family? All men find happiness in different objects, so can it be said that man can find happiness in an object? If all men seek happiness, but all men seek it through different objects, can it be said that the happiness comes from the object? No, for the happiness is not in the objects, but in what we have stated earlier, God, who is Happiness and the Goodness itself.
So what does all this mean? What is the purpose of proving Happiness is found in God and not objects? Contentment, something that is not often preached in our day and age, but has been praised by all men whether Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, St. Paul, or Jesus Christ. Boethius, a fifth century lawyer and Christian thinker, wrote, “A man who knows how to find contentment can be happy in any and all circumstances.” (1) This is similar to what St. Paul said in Philippians 4, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Every object found in our world is not constant. Every object is given to us and taken away from us by fortune or misfortune. Therefore it makes no logical sense to find happiness in things that are inconsistent, but in that which is the true constant, God.
One will always be happy and content if he realizes how he came into the world, and from whom he receives all things. Your happiness will be constant if you find it in the Happiness itself which we know to be God. If our happiness is to be found in God, we must be free of finding our happiness in objects. This is not to say we cannot enjoy objects, but it does mean that we have to give thanks for all objects. Every man for all of history has come from his mother’s womb naked and without any objects in his possession, and every man leaves this world the same way, without the things of this earth in his possession.
So What is it? What object would cause your life to lose value? What object would you have to lose to become unhappy? Whatever it is, remember that it can never satisfy your desire for happiness, for there is no happiness in an object that can be lost. Happiness can only be found in the one constant in all of history. God, who is Happiness and who is Goodness.
1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Book II.