Essay on Are we Happier than our Forefathers

To deal with this subject one must first understand what ‘happiness’ means.

We have not to misunderstand ‘pleasure’ with ‘happiness’. A lavish life style, a rich home a big bungalow and a luxurious car — these are today treated as the means of ‘happiness’. We are very ‘happy’ if we have all these. But it is such a mistaken belief. All these are ‘pleasures’ and ‘comforts’ of life. Physical comforts are the mirage which give a false sense of ‘happiness’.

Man has three parts of his being — the physical, the mental and the spiritual. Physical comforts are the lowest in the ladder. Healthy thoughts, right behaviour give one the mental well-being. Serving others, being good to people, gives one an miner solace and satisfaction — that is a spiritual well being.

So here lies the difference between ‘pleasure’ and ‘happiness’. To have a lot of eat and drink is all enjoying the pleasures of life.

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    A hermit living in a hut may have so much of self-satisfaction. He serves people who go to him with words of high thoughts and advice on worthy living. He is a man in rags, eats whatever he gets as charity, still he is ‘happy’. He does not have the ‘pleasures’ of life but he has the ‘happiness’ of his mind and soul.

    We today have everything at our command, Science is at our beck and call. We have all the comforts of life which our ancestors never could even dream of. Means of transport, means of communication, means of entertainment Cinema, T. V. with so many channels phones, E-mails, Fax, Internet — what not. Still if you ask even the richest of men if he is really ‘happy’, he may just shake his head to show ‘no, not that’. There are worries, there are anxieties, there is no sense of satisfaction or contentment.

    Men of the past had little but they lived all in a joint family serving each other, one another in their needs — sharing whatever they could produce or earn. They lived a life of frugality but contentment. They worked hard and could have a sound sleep at night. The home housed cousins, brothers, uncles, aunts all under one roof. Now there are two room cubicles in large busy towns— no space even for parents to come and stay. There had been an affectionate bond binding all in the past; there is a
    distance now even among the brothers. ‘What is this life so full of care’ is what can be said of today’s living.

    What is happiness? It’s a question that depends on social progress and quality of life, including technological developments. In assessing the extent to which we moderns are happier than our forefathers, one must look at different facets of well-being.

    While technology brings convenience and progress, it also creates problems like alienation from others and too much information. Examining the balance between technological benefits and drawbacks is necessary to grasp this on overall impact of happiness.

    Changes in social values affect happiness. Looking at how priorities, personal relationships and community participation have changed offers a window into whether contemporary societies are happier or less happy than our ancestors.

    Economic prosperity can help make people happy, but one has to look at such things as income inequality and distribution. Looking at how economic conditions influence total well-being gives us a glimpse into trends in happiness over generations.

    With better health care, life expectancy has risen and mortality rates have fallen. Ancient people actually enjoyed life more than modern.

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