In Search for Happiness: Fear v Hope


Caspar David Friedrich: Two men observing the Moon

Caspar David Friedrich: Two men observing the Moon


I am a subscriber to the New Philosopher Magazine  and I like it tremendously. Articles of the magazine are getting  a mention on their Face Book page and they are then being discussed.


The publishers of the magazine think that “Happiness” is an important subject to discuss, because  most  people strive for it. In their striving for “Happiness” people overlook the fact, that their real motivation in life is “Fear”. Life becomes a struggle and there is not much to be happy about.


I think, “Happiness” in an imperfect world is almost impossible to be achieved and since we, we humans that is, are an imperfect lot we rather tend to destroy other people’s “Happiness” if we can’t have it ourselves.


The other day they quoted Edgar Alan Poe (Edgar Allan Poe, from New Philosopher magazine issue #3 “Happiness”):

I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy, nor more wise – than he was 6,000 years ago.

Edgar Allan Poe was right of course. When the enlightenment came people thought it was the age of reason. But today, as 6,000 years ago and before, fear is running our lives. Reason is only a tool, not more, we can use it to counter fear, but not many can see through the fog of fear. The most we fear is “the others”. We think “the others” will devour us.


Here in Australia we regard boats as the vehicles in which those “Others” arrive, like  aliens from outer space,  arrive at our shores. Everything bad, we can imagine, they bring to our shores. The fear of others even gave us a government we really should fear though.


Climate change we should fear, but no, we fear the costs of electricity. People who live on an island always fear the arrival of “Others”. And we know why ! We are guilt ridden and fear that someone will come, like Mr Putin, and ask for their island back. Fear runs our lives the same as it ran the lives of Neanderthals, who were sitting in their caves and feared the arrival of Homo sapiens. New arrivals always have a little bit less fear because they are motivated by a possible future less fearful than the present. This is called “Hope”!


You remember the Vikings? They gave us the fear of God as we cowered in our little villages in England. The Vikings did not fear death, as by dying on the battle field they would go straight to Valhalla. Their fear was not to die on the battlefield. 


So fear runs our lives. We fear the power of the stock market, the collapse of the housing market but not that young families can’t afford a home. I wish we all could be a bit more stoical about life on Earth.


No wonder we are all so concerned with this elusive “happiness”? We need it to balance our “Fear”. “Happiness” is being discussed since the ancient Greeks and probably before that. In any case, it is not a feeling of permanency; more a fleeting moment. It is hidden, somewhere, like the “G” spot and we can’t pin it down. It is more like a beautiful butterfly we can sometimes hold in our hands before it disappears again in the blue yonder. If we try to catch it and keep it, it will wither.


It is like a subatomic particle that registers only for a nano of a fraction of a second. If we humans experience it, it shows up as a smile in the face of a lucky person, most likely a child who hasn’t learnt to fear yet  It can be infectious and it jumps from face to face till it appears again to where it came from.


But please, don’t perpetuate this moment of Happiness. It is with us, but only as a visitor.





10 thoughts on “In Search for Happiness: Fear v Hope

  1. I too believe that no one can prescribe happiness to others, we can only share what makes us happy, and what may make them happy.

    I remember visiting a site like that for a very brief spell of time, in place of making me happier their site was making me realize the loops and holes in my life – so, before getting touched by them i bolted 🙂

    • Thank you for commenting, Sharmishtha. There is no prescription for happiness and I am not telling you to do anything. You are free and remain free.

      I only write about my observations.

      • I believe that human civilization has reached a point from where we can take turn to a very positive civilization, global, or if we are unlucky destroy it totally, maybe stay the way we are who can say….

  2. Since happiness cannot be defined, it cannot be quantified. Happiness is a relative term, and is the province of philosophers and semanticists. However, reason is more than a tool. It is, as Walter Kaufmann noted, our best protection against fanaticism and terror. It also gave birth to mathematics, a universal language in which the human ego disintegrates into an infinite number line of possibilities.

    • Hi Robert, thanks for commenting and as always there is something to be learnt. Thanks also for pointing me to Walter Kaufmann. He must have been a person for my liking. His personality and education is spanning different cultures ( in which I include religions) . languages and geography. I shall read more about him later.

      ” Happiness is a relative term” – right you are and people will argue about it for ever. I was always mystified how the “pursuit of happiness” could end up in the American Constitution. I believe it will give simple minded people the idea that they have the freedom to do anything they like, as long as THEY are happy.

      If humankind would use reasons we would recognise climate change as real and do something about it.

  3. I was challenged by Breanna, (

    who had read this post, with the following comment:

    “Interesting! I like your thought on “tranquillity,” although I’ve never seen anyone bursting into laughter from sheer “tranquillity,” so “happiness” (or even “joy”) is definitely a front-running goal of mine. What are your thoughts on tranquillity also being relative?”

    I gave her this answer:

    You are right, “tranquillity” is no laughing matter. It is more a condition sustained over a longer period of ups and downs. Within that tranquillity we have periods of sheer joy ( is that what you want?) but also periods of sadness and grief. It allows us to cope with life, even if we are not happy.

    The ancient Greeks believed one could not say one was happy until the end of one’s life. The aim of the stoics is to achieve ‘tranquillity”. Marcus Aurelius said that we should be calm even in the midst of a battle. There is calm at the centre of a storm (hurricane).

    “Happiness” is not so easy to define, it is fleeting and also in the eye of the beholder. People often define it what they want and not have yet. Not achieving leads to unhappiness. “Tranquillity” can be achieved with not having anything.

  4. Good post Berlioz. I have always thought ‘happiness’ was over-rated. Mainly by the west and especially by the US. Many make millions by writing books about how to attain ‘happiness’. Advertisers really know and understand the dichotomy of the aim for happiness and the reality of life’s struggles and pain. They cleverly exploit this endless and utterly futile aim by linking happiness with a product. We queue up to buy the product because we seek ‘happy’.

    I do like tranquillity and I suppose it is really a balance between both happiness and sadness. They are like the ocean’s waves. They come and go. It is like breathing and the reason for our existence.

    Would endless ‘happy’ not be very boring? I like experiencing and growing towards finding some truth or reason why we live. That includes a lot of joy including laughter and a lot of pain or sadness which includes tears.

    • Thank you for your comment, Gerard. I can only say, “Yes, yes, yes…” We speak the same language here!

      The Americans were so dumb writing “the pursuit of happiness” into their constitution. I can understand why they did it. The new settlers all came from countries where despots ruled and in the “land of the free” they thought happiness was theirs as soon as they had killed all the Red Indians and stole their land.

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