The Duty of Happiness
“If a man is unhappy, this must be his own fault; for God made all men to be happy.”----Epictetus
Life is a great gift, and as we reach years of discretion, we most of us naturally ask ourselves what should be the main object of our existence. Even those who do not accept “the greatest good of the greatest number” as an absolute rule, will yet admit that we should all endeavour to contribute as far as we may to the happiness of our fellow-creatures. There are many, however, who seem to doubt whether it is right that we should try to be happy ourselves. Our own happiness ought not, of course, to be our main object, nor indeed will it ever be secured if selfishly sought. We may have many pleasures in life, but must not let them have rule over us, or they will soon hand us over to sorrow; and “into what dangerous and miserable servitude does he fall who suffers pleasures and sorrows (two unfaithful and cruel commanders) to possess him successively?”[Seneca]
I cannot, however, but think that the world would be better and brighter if our teachers would dwell on the Duty of Happiness as well as on the Happiness of Duty; for we ought to be as cheerful as we can, if only because to be happy ourselves, is a most effectual contribution to the happiness of others.
Everyone must have felt that a cheerful friend is like a sunny day, which sheds its brightness on all around; and most of us can, as we choose, make of this world either a palace or a prison.
There is no doubt some selfish satisfaction in yielding to melancholy, and fancying that we are victims of fate; in brooding over grievances, especially if more or less imaginary. To be bright and cheerful often requires an effort; there is a certain art in keeping ourselves happy: and in this respect, as in others, we require to watch over and manage ourselves, almost as if we were somebody else.
Sorrow and joy, indeed, are strangely interwoven. Too often
“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those
That tell of saddest thought.” [Shelley]
As a nation we
are prone to melancholy. It has been said of our countrymen that they take even
their pleasures sadly. But this, if it be true at all, will, I hope, prove a
transitory characteristic. “Merry
“We sojourn here for one short day or two,
And all the gain we get is grief and woe;
And then, leaving life's problems all unsolved
And harassed by regrets, we have to go ;”
or the Devas' song to Prince Siddartha, in Edwin Arnold's beautiful version:
"We are the voices of the wandering wind,
Which moan for rest, and rest can never find.
Lo! as the wind is, so is mortal life―
A moan, a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife."
If indeed this be true, if mortal life be so sad and full of suffering, no wonder that Nirvana ― the cessation of sorrow ― should be welcomed even at the sacrifice of consciousness.
But ought we not to place before ourselves a very different ideal ― a healthier, manlier, and nobler hope?
Life is not to live merely, but to live well. There are some “who live without any design at all, and only pass in the world like straws on a river: they do not go; they are carried,” [Seneca]―but as Homer makes Ulysses say, “How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rest unburnished; not to shine in use― as though to breathe were life!”
生命不仅仅是为了活着，而且是需要活得好。有些人“活着没有任何计划，活在这个世界只是像河上漂流的草秆：他们并未行进；他们是随波逐流，”[引自塞内加] ——正像荷马让尤利西斯代为说出的话, “停下、结束、休息而无作为，是多么无聊， 虚应故事而一无表现——好像呼吸就是生命!”
Goethe tells us that at thirty he resolved “to work out life no longer by halves, but in all its beauty and totality.”
“Im Ganzen, Guten, Schonen
Resolut zu leben.”
Life indeed must be measured by thought and action, not by time. It certainly may be, and ought to be, bright, interesting, and happy; and, according to the Italian proverb, “if all cannot live on the Piazza, everyone may feel the sun.”
If we do our best; if we do not magnify trifling troubles; if we look resolutely, I do not say at the bright side of things, but at things as they really are; if we avail ourselves of the manifold blessings which surround us; we cannot but feel that life is indeed a glorious inheritance.
Few of us, however, realise the wonderful privilege of living, or the blessings we inherit; the glories and beauties of the Universe, which is our own if we choose to have it so; the extent to which we can make ourselves what we wish to be; or the power we possess of securing peace, of triumphing over pain and sorrow.
Dante pointed to the neglect of opportunities as a serious fault:
“Man can do violence
To himself and his own blessings, and for this
He, in the second round, must aye deplore,
With unavailing penitence, his crime.
Whoe'er deprives himself of life and light
In reckless lavishment his talent wastes,
And sorrows then when he should dwell in joy.”
Ruskin has expressed this with special allusion to the marvellous beauty of this glorious world, too often taken as a matter of course, and remembered, if at all, almost without gratitude. "Holy men," he complains, "in the recommending of the love of God to us, refer but seldom to those things in which it is most abundantly and immediately shown; though they insist much on His giving of bread, and raiment, and health (which He gives to all inferior creatures): they require us not to thank Him for that glory of His works which He has permitted us alone to perceive; they tell us often to meditate in the closet, but they send us not, like Isaac, into the fields at even; they dwell on the duty of self-denial, but they exhibit not the duty of delight;" and yet, as he justly says elsewhere, “each of us, as we travel the way of life, has the choice, according to our working, of turning all the voices of Nature into one song of rejoicing; or of withering and quenching her sympathy into a fearful withdrawn silence of condemnation.”
Must we not all admit, with Sir Henry Taylor, that "the retrospect of life swarms with lost opportunities"? "Whoever enjoys not life," says Sir T. Browne, "I count him but an apparition, though he wears about him the visible affections of flesh."
St. Bernard, indeed, goes so far as to maintain that "nothing can work me damage except myself; the harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never a real sufferer but by my own fault."
的确，圣伯纳甚至坚持，“除了自己之外, 没有什么可以损伤我； 因我而发生的伤害由我担负，如果不是我自己的过错，自己就不会是真正的受害者。”
Some Heathen moralists also have taught very much the same lesson. "The gods," says Marcus Aurelius, "have put all the means in man's power to enable him not to fall into real evils. Now that which does not make a man worse, how can it make his life worse? "
Epictetus takes the same line: "If a man is unhappy, remember that his unhappiness is his own fault; for God has made all men to be happy." "I am," he elsewhere says, "always content with that which happens; for I think that what God chooses is better than what I choose." And again: "Seek not that things should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life. . . . If you wish for anything which belongs to another, you lose that which is your own."
Few, however, if any, can I think go as far as St. Bernard. We cannot but suffer from pain, sickness, and anxiety; from the loss, the unkindness, the faults, even the coldness of those we love. How many a day has been damped and darkened by an angry word!
Hegel is said to
have calmly finished his Phaenomenologie
des Geistes at
Matthew Arnold has suggested that we might take a lesson from the heavenly bodies.
" Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.
Bounded by themselves, and unobservant
In what state God's other works may he,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see."
It is true that
"A man is his own star;
Our acts our angels are
For good or ill,"
and that "rather than follow a multitude to do evil," one should “stand like Pompey's pillar, conspicuous by oneself, and single in integrity.” [Sir T. Browne] But to many this would be itself most painful, for the heart is "no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.” [Bacon]
If we separate ourselves so much from the interests of those around us that we do not sympathise with them in their sufferings, we shut ourselves out from sharing their happiness, and lose far more than we gain. If we avoid sympathy and wrap ourselves round in a cold chain armour of selfishness, we exclude ourselves from many of the greatest and purest joys of life. To render ourselves insensible to pain we must forfeit also the possibility of happiness.
Moreover, much of what we call evil is really good in disguise, and we should not “quarrel rashly with adversities not yet understood, nor overlook the mercies often bound up in them.”[Sir T. Browne] Pleasure and pain are, as Plutarch says, the nails which fasten body and soul together. Pain is a warning of danger, a very necessity of existence. But for it, but for the warnings which our feelings give us, the very blessings by which we are surrounded would soon and inevitably prove fatal. Many of those who have not studied the question are under the impression that the more deeply-seated portions of the body must be most sensitive. The very reverse is the case. The skin is a continuous and ever-watchful sentinel, always on guard to give us notice of any approaching danger; while the flesh and inner organs, where pain would be without purpose, are, so long as they are in health, comparatively without sensation.
"We talk," says Helps, "of the origin of evil; . . . but what is evil? We mostly speak of sufferings and trials as good, perhaps, in their result; but we hardly admit that they may be good in themselves. Yet they are knowledge ― how else to be acquired, unless by making men as gods, enabling them to understand without experience. All that men go through may be absolutely the best for them ― no such thing as evil, at least in our customary meaning of the word."
赫尔普斯说，“我们谈到不幸的来源；…. 但是，什么是不幸？我们说到痛苦和磨炼是好的，大多是就它们的效果而言；但是我们很少承认它们本身就是美好、就是善。它们就是知识—否则我们无从获取知识，除非让人们变为神，使他们无需体验就能领悟。人们所经历的一切，都绝对是自己最好的 — ‘不幸’或‘邪恶’是不存在的，至少就我们对这个词语的习惯意义而言。”
Indeed, “the vale best discovers the hill,”[Bacon] and "pour sentir les grands biens, il faut qu'il connoisse les petits maux."[Rousseau]
But even if we do not seem to get all that we should wish, many will feel, as in Leigh Hunt's beautiful translation of Filicaja's sonnet, that―
Makes our necessities its watchful task,
Hearkens to all our prayers, helps all our wants,
And e'en if it denies what seems our right,
Either denies because 'twould have us ask,
Or seems but to deny, and in denying grants."
Those on the other hand who do not accept the idea of continual interferences, will rejoice in the belief that on the whole the laws of the Universe work out for the general happiness.
And if it does come―
“Grief should be
Like joy, majestic, equable, sedate,
Confirming, cleansing, raising, making free:
Strong to consume small troubles; to commend
Great thoughts, grave thoughts, thoughts lasting to
the end.”[Aubrey de Vere]
If, however, we cannot hope that life will be all happiness, we may at least secure a heavy balance on the right side; and even events which look like misfortune, if boldly faced, may often be turned to good. Oftentimes, says Seneca, "calamity turns to our advantage; and great ruins make way for greater glories." Helmholtz dates his start in science to an attack of illness. This led to his acquisition of a microscope, which he was enabled to purchase, owing to his having spent his autumn vacation of 1841 in the hospital, prostrated by typhoid fever; being a pupil, he was nursed without expense, and on his recovery he found himself in possession of the savings of his small resources.
“Savonarola,” says Castelar, “would, under different circumstances, undoubtedly have been a good husband, a tender father; a man unknown to history, utterly powerless to print upon the sands of time and upon the human soul the deep trace which he has left; but misfortune came to visit him, to crush his heart, and to impart that marked melancholy which characterises a soul in grief; and the grief that circled his brows with a crown of thorns was also that which wreathed them with the splendour of immortality. His hopes were centred in the woman he loved, his life was set upon the possession of her, and when her family finally rejected him, partly on account of his profession, and partly on account of his person, he believed that it was death that had come upon him, when in truth it was immortality."
It is, however, impossible to deny the existence of evil, and the reason for it has long exercised the human intellect. The Savage solves it by the supposition of evil Spirits. The Greeks attributed the misfortunes of men in great measure to the antipathies and jealousies of gods and goddesses. Others have imagined two divine principles, opposite and antagonistic ― the one friendly, the other hostile, to men.
Freedom of action, however, seems to involve the existence of evil. If any power of selection be left us, much must depend on the choice we make. In the very nature of things, two and two cannot make five. Epictetus imagines Jupiter addressing man as follows: "If it had been possible to make your body and your property free from liability to injury, I would have done so. As this could not be, I have given you a small portion of myself."
This divine gift it is for us to use wisely. It is, in fact, our most valuable treasure. “The soul is a much better thing than all the others which you possess. Can you then show me in what way you have taken care of it? For it is not likely that you, who are so wise a man, inconsiderately and carelessly allow the most valuable thing that you possess to be neglected and to perish.” [Epictetus]
Moreover, even if evil cannot be altogether avoided, it is no doubt true that not only whether the life we lead be good and useful, or evil and useless, but also whether it be happy or unhappy, is very much in our own power, and depends greatly on ourselves. “Time alone relieves the foolish from sorrow, but reason the wise,” [Ibid.] and no one was ever yet made utterly miserable excepting by himself. We are, if not the masters, at any rate almost the creators of ourselves.
With most of us it is not so much great sorrows, disease, or death, but rather the little "daily dyings" which cloud over the sunshine of life. Many of our troubles are insignificant in themselves, and might easily be avoided!
How happy home might generally be made but for foolish quarrels, or misunderstandings, as they are well named! It is our own fault if we are querulous or ill-humoured; nor need we, though this is less easy, allow ourselves to be made unhappy by the querulousness or ill-humours of others.
Much of what we suffer we have brought on ourselves, if not by actual fault, at least by ignorance or thoughtlessness. Too often we think only of the happiness of the moment, and sacrifice that of the life. Troubles comparatively seldom come to us, it is we who go to them. Many of us fritter our life away. La Bruyere says that "most men spend much of their lives in making the rest miserable;" or, as Goethe puts it :
" Careworn man has, in all ages,
Sown vanity to reap despair."
Not only do we
suffer much in the anticipation of evil, as "Noah lived many years under
the affliction of a flood, and
"Nos maux moraux," says Rousseau, "sont tous dans l'opinion, hors un seul, qui est le crime; et celui-la depend de nous: nos maux physiques nous detruisent, ou se detruisent. Le temps, ou la mort, son t nos remedes."
"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven." [Shakespeare]
This, however, applies to the grown up. With children of course it is different. It is customary, but I think it is a mistake, to speak of happy childhood. Children, however, are often over-anxious and acutely sensitive. Man ought to be man and master of his fate; but children are at the mercy of those around them. Mr. Rarey, the great horse-tamer, has told us that he has known an angry word raise the pulse of a horse ten beats in a minute. Think then how it must affect a child!
It is small blame to the young if they are over-anxious; but it is a danger to be striven against. “The terrors of the storm are chiefly felt in the parlour or the cabin.” [Emerson]
To save ourselves from imaginary, or at any rate problematical, evils, we often incur real suffering. "The man," said Epicurus, "who is not content with little is content with nothing." How often do we “labour for that which satisfies not.” [Seneca] More than we use is more than we need, and only a burden to the bearer. We most of us give ourselves an immense amount of useless trouble; encumber ourselves, as it were, on the journey of life with a dead weight of unnecessary baggage; and as "a man makes his train longer, he makes his wings shorter." [Bacon] In that delightful fairy tale, Alice through the Looking-Glass, the "White Knight" is described as having loaded himself on starting for a journey with a variety of odds and ends, including a mousetrap, in case he was troubled by mice at night, and a beehive in case he came across a swarm of bees.
为了挽救想象之中、或者无论如何只是构成问题的不幸，我们常常惹来真正的痛苦。伊壁鸠鲁说，“不能满足于少量的人，不会对任何东西感到满足。我们常常“为了不能满足自己的东西而费尽心力。”[引自塞内加] 超过我们所用的就是超过我们的需要，因而对于拥有人就是负担。我们大部份人总给与自己大量的无谓的麻烦；这好比是在人生的旅途上带着没有需要的沉重的行李，为自己增加负累；“人们要是把尾巴拉长了，就会把翅膀弄短。”[引自培根] 在《（艾丽丝进入）镜中世界》那个可爱的童话中，“白衣骑士”被描写为在开始旅途时肩负着形形色色的各种东西，包括夜间如有需要可以对付鼠患的捕鼠器，以及万一遇到群集的蜜蜂时可派用场的蜂房。
Hearne, in his Journey to the Mouth of the Coppermine River, tells us that a few days after starting on his expedition he met a party of Indians, who annexed a great deal of his property, and all Hearne says is, "The weight of our baggage being so much lightened, our next day's journey was much pleasanter." I ought, however, to add that the Indians broke up the philosophical instruments, which, no doubt, were rather an encumbrance.
When troubles do come, Marcus Aurelius wisely tells us to "remember on every occasion which leads thee to vexation to apply this principle, that this is not a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune." Our own anger indeed does us more harm than the thing which makes us angry; and we suffer much more from the anger and vexation which we allow acts to rouse in us, than we do from the acts themselves at which we are angry and vexed. How much most people, for instance, allow themselves to be distracted and disturbed by quarrels and family disputes. Yet in nine cases out of ten one ought not to suffer from being found fault with. If the condemnation is just, it should be welcome as a warning; if it is undeserved, why should we allow it to distress us?
Moreover, if misfortunes happen we do but make them worse by grieving over them.
“I must die,” again says Epictetus. “But must I then die sorrowing? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Can I be prevented from going with cheerfulness and contentment? But I will put you in prison. Man, what are you saying? You may put my body in prison, but my mind not even Zeus himself can overpower."
If, indeed, we cannot be happy, the fault is generally in ourselves. Socrates lived under the Thirty Tyrants. Epictetus was a poor slave, and yet how much we owe him!
"How is it possible," he says, "that a man who has nothing, who is naked, houseless, without a hearth, squalid, without a slave, without a city, can pass a life that flows easily? See, God has sent you a man to show you that it is possible. Look at me, who am without a city, without a house, without possessions, without a slave; I sleep on the ground; I have no wife, no children, no praetorium, but only the earth and heavens, and one poor cloak. And what do I want? Am I not without sorrow? Am I not without fear? Am I not free? When did any of you see me failing in the object of my desire? or ever falling into that which I would avoid? Did I ever blame God or man? Did I ever accuse any man? Did any of you ever see me with a sorrowful countenance? And how do I meet with those whom you are afraid of and admire? Do not I treat them like slaves? Who, when he sees me, does not think that he sees his king and master?"
Think how much we have to be thankful for. Few of us appreciate the number of our everyday blessings; we look on them as trifles, and yet "trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle," as Michelangelo said. We forget them because they are always with us; and yet for each of us, as Mr. Pater well observes, "these simple gifts, and others equally trivial, bread and wine, fruit and milk, might regain that poetic and, as it were, moral significance which surely belongs to all the means of our daily life, could we but break through the veil of our familiarity with things by no means vulgar in themselves."
"Let not," says Isaak Walton, "the blessings we receive daily from God make us not to value or not praise Him because they be common; let us not forget to praise Him for the innocent mirth and pleasure we have met with since we met together. What would a blind man give to see the pleasant rivers and meadows and flowers and fountains; and this and many other like blessings we enjoy daily."
Contentment, we have been told by Epicurus, consists not in great wealth, but in few wants. In this fortunate country, however, we may have many wants, and yet, if they are only reasonable, we may gratify them all.
Nature indeed provides without stint the main requisites of human happiness. "To watch the corn grow, or the blossoms set; to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade; to read, to think, to love, to pray," these, says Ruskin, "are the things that make men happy."
"I have fallen into the hands of thieves," says Jeremy Taylor; "what then? They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and, unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance and my cheerful spirit and a good conscience. . . . And he that has so many causes of joy, and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to sit down on his little handful of thorns."
“我陷入贼人的魔掌内，” J. 泰勒说，“那又怎样呢？他们给我留下了太阳和月亮，火和水，一个贤妻和怜悯我的众多朋友，还有一些人救助我，而且我还能谈话；除非我愿意，他们没有把我欢欣的外貌、愉快的精神和善良的意识夺走。….一个具有如此之多、况且又如此重要的原因从而感到欢乐的人，自然是非常爱怜那些悲伤和乖戾的人，他们丧失了这些乐趣，选择在自己的一小撮荆棘丛坐下。”
“When a man has such things to think on, and sees the sun, the moon, and stars, and enjoys earth and sea, he is not solitary or even helpless.” [Epictetus]
路德说，“整个世界的确可以说就是天堂乐土。” 还有什么更多的东西我们可以替自己要求的呢？“各种各类的美，” 革瑞格先生在《生命之谜》中说，“都在我们的家庭之内应有尽有；迷惑每一个感觉的美，满足每一种口味的美；最高贵和最可爱的模样，最艳丽和最精致的彩色，最甜美和最微妙的气味，最令人舒畅也最让人激动的和谐：日间阳光的灿烂；天上月色的幽雅；湖、山、原始森林、无垠海洋；在这一半地球上的“静寂积雪的顶峰”，在另一半地球的炎热的密茂的奇观；日落的安详；暴风雨的庄严；我们生存之境地的每一事物都赋有无穷的丰沛；我们所能想象和欲求的东西，随时都在我们周遭；我们的知觉和意识对这一切从来就是非常敏感的。上天供给我们感官享受的东西真是丰盈大量；所提供以餍足我们复杂性格的其他欲求也一样。年轻人诗篇的开头散发出的狂喜，思想世界又那么丰赡令人惊讶，哪一个曾经对这对那着迷过的人没有承认过，“理智”所获得的丰厚陪嫁至少跟情欲所得一样的多。曾经真正尝试和探测过人间之爱的初恋和热恋的人们，没有不为了一种“超出了解”的福祉而感谢上天。如果我们把想象指向一位创造者，他忙碌完全是为了他喜爱的孩子们设计欢乐，我们就无法想出有任何福祉的什么元素，竟然不存在这个世界。” （全文完）
译者说明：本文取自 The Pleasures of Life 首篇，英文原著于1887年初版，风行一时，从译者手头现有的1891年版本可以看到，该著每年都曾多次重印及增补，可以相信本文是比较可靠的文本。作者卢伯克爵士（Sir John Lubbock, 1834-1913）在19世纪末的英国也是名重一时的，他早年是从男爵[后来敕封为 1st Baron Avebury “首任诶布利男爵”] 、又身为国会议员、皇家学会会员、民法博士、法学博士，原书上他还有三个头衔：伦敦商会主席、伦敦工人学院校长，以及伦敦郡议会主席；综合20世纪两本参考书的简介，他的身份可以简单地称为作家、博物学家、银行家和政治家。
Arnold, Edwin E.阿诺德（1832-1904），英国诗人和报人。
Arnold, Matthew M.阿诺德（1822-1888），英国诗人和评论家。
Browne, Sir T. 布朗爵士（1605-1682），英国医师及作家）。
La Bruyere ，拉布鲁耶尔（1645-1696），法国作家。
Marcus Aurelius 马可.奥瑞琉斯（121-180），罗马皇帝和斯多葛派哲学家。
Omar Khayyam 奥马.凯亚姆（1048?-1122?），波斯诗人。
Pater, Walter Horatio 裴特（1839-94），英国批评家和作家。
Seneca 塞内加（c4B.C.- 65A.D.），古罗马哲学家、政治家和剧作家。
Siddartha, Prince 悉达多王子（印度公元前6世纪佛教创始人释迦牟尼的本名及尊称）。
Taylor, Jeremy J.泰勒（1613-67），英国圣公会高级教士和神学家。,
Ulysses 尤利西斯（古罗马史诗《奥德赛》中的英雄Odysseus 的拉丁文名）。
Walton, Isaak 沃尔顿（1593-1683），英国作家。