Within the context of schooling and parenting, the issue of whether children are happy or not frequently arises. It seems obvious that happiness is a preferred state of being — but is it. If we were happy all of the time what would that mean. Indeed, what is happiness? Whereas this might appear to be a simple question, it caught me off-guard in that upon reflection a simple answer is evasive. What does it mean to be “happy”? Is happiness a state of being or a momentary sensation? I asked myself “Am I happy?” and then reflected that if I had to think about it, perhaps I wasn’t. I may be happy with the results of a test or happy with a purchase or happy to wake up and not be greeted with a snowstorm. But by and large the term “happy” seems to apply to specific instances rather than to a state of being. Perhaps then “happy” is like a dot and “happiness” is like a series of more or less connected dots. But do all of the dots need to be connected and if there is a lapse, did we cease to be “happy”?
Perhaps taking too many philosophy courses has resulted in my seeing problems with language where none exist. That being said, excursions into the ambiguous can result in a clearer perception of what is meant implicitly in everyday language. Or at the very least indicate that we should perhaps employ more care in the application of the language we use.
I am happy with the negative result on my covid rapid test this morning but am I happy with my life and what would that mean? Perhaps it all depends on when you ask me or, perhaps the question is largely meaningless other than to designate an aggregate of connected points in time subjectively defining the number required to satisfy the statement in the positive or negative. As such, it seems that happiness is not a state of being but more accurately states of being. More accurately, happiness is a present phenomenon and as such has an existence as fleeting as the moment in time we presently inhabit.
Is ‘happiness’ equitable with ‘contented’ as in ‘upon reflection, I am happy with my life’ or is this simply a misuse of the word or is it that at this precise point in time when asked I am indeed feeling happy and because I am presently feeling happy, I am therefore feeling happy with my life. Is happy with my life as I feel it to be in this moment equatable with being happy with my life as a generalized statement. Would it be possible to be happy unless we were sometimes unhappy, and could the word have meaning unless defined by its opposite? If we were unhappy most of the time would the rare periods where we were happy be necessarily more intense. If we were happy most of the time would the feeling be dulled? What is the meaning of ‘happy’, ‘happier’ and ‘happiest’ when you are either happy or you are not? Can you be more happy any more than a statement can be more true?
Language can either be a blunt-edged instrument or a surgeon’s scalpel.