Sunday, October 31, 2010

Constituting happiness

Latent in Milton's rendering of Paradise in PL V is a richly imagined understanding of the world, humanity, the creator, and the purpose/meaning of this inaugural state. Clearly we were meant to be happy; the beauty of the world carried significance; as fallen descendants, we must turn back to understand our present through an imagined glimpse of the world before all went astray.

A few snippets from a multi-faith conversation about pursuing happiness (from Krista Tippett's On Being) might be relevant.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: The definition of a Jew, Israel is as it says in Genesis 34, one who struggles, wrestles, with God and with humanity and prevails. And Jacob says something very profound to the angel. He says, "I will not let you go until you bless me." And that I feel about suffering. When something bad happens, I will not let go of that bad thing until I have discovered the blessing that lies within it.

Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori: There's this ongoing tension between seeing happiness as joining with God, as communion with God, that's only possible in the afterlife, and the insistence that human beings are created to be happy, that happiness is possible in this life. There's the particular piece of Christianity that insists that sometimes suffering is a root to happiness for the larger community. That kind of suffering may not be chosen, but it contains blessing within it. The sense that our goal is this fully restored creation at right relationship with all that is and sometimes the journey there requires us to enter into suffering and to demand, to insist, that there is blessing in the midst of that, wrestling with the angel. It must be there. You have created us to be happy, you have created us to be good, now show us. Show us the way through this. Show us the possibility for which all that is is created.

Professor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr: First of all, in the Arabic language, the word for beauty and virtue is the same, and goodness, all three. In the Islam — Muslim mind, they're not separated from each other. In the deepest sense, goodness — in the ordinary sense, these were external actions. In a deeper sense, virtue is within us. Beauty can deal also with external forms and it can deal with beauty of the soul, beauty of the spirit, within us. But beauty in a sense is a more interiorizing. Beauty is what draws us directly to the Divine, to the Divine reality.

The Dalai Lama: I always believe and also share with the people, the very purpose of our life is for happiness. Those nonbeliever also they felt that religion — religious faith is a — brings a lot of sort of complication. So without that, they feel the easier to achieve happy life. So I think the very purpose of our existence is for happiness. So that mentioned, your constitution. And then also is equally their right. You see, happiness not come from sky, but we must make a happy life. So we have a responsibility. The government cannot provide happiness. Happiness must create within ourselves and our family. So ultimately, our own responsibility, isn't it?

At the point we are in Milton's idea of humankind's trajectory, Adam and Eve need not wrestle with the angel. See Dore's image here.

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