CHAPTER 1, THE NATURE OF HAPPINESS
WITH THE LOVING LIBERALITY of a Lord Whose wealth is never lessened, no matter how much He gives away to others, God has made man an image of Himself, a being with mind and free will, with the power of self-mastery; and then, with an excess, as it were, of Divine generosity, he has given man a share in the government of the corporeal world. "Let Us make man to Our image and likeness; and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to His Own image; to the image of God He created him." (Genesis 1:26-27.)
IN THE LONG HISTORY of man upon the face of the earth we read the tale of his efforts to fill the earth and subdue it. In the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, in the mounting and falling waves of civilizations and cultures, and even in the slight ripples caused in the vast sea of life by the individual actions of individual men, we see man seeking to master himself and the world God has given him. And whether man does his work in the world well or poorly, we know that the world gives glory to God; for God is the absolute Master of His world.
BUT WHEN WE LOOK at the bewildering complexity of man's work, and the manifold motives that drive him to work, we cannot help asking what inner compulsion moves man to his labors. Does the poor man work just for a crust of bread or a roof over his head? Is the rich man seeking only to build up large reserves of wealth? is the roué interested only in pleasure? Is power the only goal of the ambitious? If mankind is really one, if all men really possess a similar nature, what is the key to all their actions?
BENEATH THE MULTITUDINOUS and even conflicting desires of men we can see the one desire which gives unity and meaning, force and decision to all human desires. All men seek what they seek for one reason: they think it will satisfy them, they believe that the accomplishment of their desires will make them happy. Happiness is the goal of all human activity, precisely as it is human, that is, free and deliberate. The child with his nose pressed longingly against the pet shop window is seeking, not just a dog, but happiness. The miner in the bowels of the earth is seeking, not just coal, but happiness.
BECAUSE HE CAN THINK, man can always look beyond the action of the present moment to the goal which he seeks in all his work. The goal of his act is a lamp lighting the way for his will. Because the goal beckons him on, man goes the way of his life, from act to act, from free choice to free choice. And the common goal, the ultimate end of all human acts is happiness, the perfect good which satisfies all human desires.
THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS is the common ground on which all human desires, all human ambitions meet. The child riding the tight circle of a merry-go-round, the jet pilot flying swifter than sound the vast circuit of the earth, the beachcomber avidly sifting his little treasures from the sands of the seashore, and the great banker seriously charting the course of financial empire, all are searching for happiness.
THE TRAGEDY OF MAN is not that he cannot find happiness, but that he looks for it in the wrong places. Because the desires of man are boundless, no particular good, whether outside himself, or in himself can perfectly satisfy him. The wealth of the earth, whether natural or artificial, can never completely satisfy him. For the natural goods of the earth, such as food, can only be use din a certain measure, though the desire for more still remains. And an abundance of money, the artificial wealth of the world, brings, not rest, but a restless striving for even more. Nor can honor, fame or human glory bring man the complete happiness he desires. For these goods are outside a man; they are the world's acknowledgment of the good which is inside a man. Nor again can power, even absolute power, satisfy all man's longing; for power does not bring that rest and repose which is characteristic of happiness. Rather, power, is not an end, but a beginning; for power must be put to work, and so demands further actions, for further ends, for new goals. Besides, power can be used for good or evil; whereas happiness is concerned only with man's good.
NOT EVEN THE PARTICULAR GOODS of a man's body or soul can bring him complete satisfaction which is happiness. The goods of the body, health, strength, beauty and pleasure, are delicate things; they wax and they wane, and at death they cease to be. The body itself exists for the soul; it is the soul's instrument for ma's work in this corporeal world.
SURELY, THEN, WE MUST SAY that man's happiness is to be found in the good of his soul. And in a way this is true. But just as the hunter must be more wary as he approaches nearer to his quarry, so we must be most careful as we come nearer to the end of our quest, the definition of real happiness. Obviously happiness is not the soul itself; if it were all men would be happy from the beginning. But this is contrary to all our experience. Nor is it some particular perfection of the soul, such as science, or prudence or virtue. For these, once again, are particular goods, which always leave something further to be desired. No, the only object which can completely satisfy all human desire is the absolutely universal good, which is outside man, even outside the whole created world. Nothing can satisfy man's will completely, except the universal good, which gives complete rest to his appetite; and this is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone. Man's happiness, then, is to be found in the possession of God. Briefly, God is the ultimate object, the ultimate end of all man's desires; and the possession of God by the soul is happiness.
BUT CAN MAN, whose powers are all limited, attain God, the Infinite Good? It is clear that man cannot attain God by any of the acts of his body. Since God is a pure spirit, man cannot consume God as he consumes food in nutrition. Nor can he see God with the eyes of his body, or hear Him with his ears, or touch Him with his hands. If man's desire is to reach to that Absolute Spirit which is God, he must do so, if at all, with his own spiritual powers of intellect and will. Only the vision of God, then, can fully satisfy all man's desires.
ONLY THE INTELLECTUAL VISION of God, Who is all Truth can put an end to the quest of man's intellect for an understanding of the Cause of all: truth. Only the intellectual vision of God, Who is all Good, can bring rest and never-ending enjoyment to the quest of man's will for the universal good which leaves nothing to be desired.
IS THIS VISION OF GOD really possible to man? Can man contemplate the Essence of God as it is in itself? The puny, limited intelligence of man is not in itself equal to the task. The small cup of man's mind cannot contain the ocean of being and goodness and truth which is the Essence of God. By himself, then, man does not dare to assert that he can see God. But God Himself has told us that He will make it possible for us to see Him. "Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like to Him, for we shall see Him just as He is." (1 Epistle of St. John 3:2)
THROUGH THE GIFT OF GOD, promised by God Himself, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived, we can hope for what seems impossible, the vision of God Himself.
TO SEE GOD as He is in Himself, this is the essence of perfect happiness. But this is an act of the mind, of the intellect. And men, even after death, when the soul is separated from the body, are not just intellects. It is natural for us to ask what happens to our wills, which seek God in love; to our bodies, which are our soul's instruments in the search for God; to our friendships with other men, who helped us to reach God.
As FOR OUR WILLS, the answer is obvious. Through the intellectual vision of God we are in possession of the Sovereign Good, and our wills necessarily take delight in the presence of God.
AS FOR OUR BODIES, it remains true that the essence of perfect happiness is the soul's vision of God. The soul is entirely at rest in the vision of God. But because it is natural for the soul to desire to enjoy God in such a way that the body may share in this enjoyment, God has promised us the resurrection of the body at the time of the Last Judgment. Then our souls will be reunited to our bodies, and in such a way that the fullness of happiness in our souls will perfect our bodies spiritually.
IT IS CLEAR, TOO, that when this blessed condition of soul and body has been achieved, we shall no longer need the material things of this world, such as food and riches, which are necessary for the imperfect happiness of this present life. The external goods of this present mortal life are needed to support the animal life of our bodies. But our risen bodies will be spiritualized, immortalized by the power of our beatified souls.
A FOR THE FELLOWSHIP of friends, once again, it is not necessary for perfect happiness. God alone is that Sovereign Good which sets all desire at rest. But the fellowship of friends will add charm to happiness. And if there are friends also enjoying the vision of God, our own love of God will lead us to love them in God. The love of friends, therefore, will accompany perfect happiness. How is this perfect happiness to be attained? Since the vision of God, the essence of perfect happiness, is beyond the natural power of any creature, it follows that it can be attained only through the gift of God. This is supernatural, surely, and a mystery which we must accept humbly, trusting in God's word.
BUT IT IS NOT OPPOSED to the proper independence of the human personality. Strictly speaking, an all powerful God could have created us not simply with a tendency to find our happiness in the vision of Himself, but with the actual enjoyment of such a vision. Then we should enjoy perfect happiness without ever having asked for it, without ever having had the freedom to accept it or to reject it. But God has respected the dignity of each human being too much to have acted in that way. God has created each of us with free will so that we may turn to Him of ourselves, asking Him for the gift of perfect happiness. God has given us our freedom so that we may seek and find Him by our own free acts. Although perfect happiness is a gift from God, nevertheless, those who achieve it, do so through the proper use of their own free will. Part of the charm of man's ultimate happiness is the fact that he has chosen it for himself.
EXPERIENCE SHOWS US, TOO, that this perfect happiness cannot be found in this world. No man sees God face to face in this present life. Besides perfect happiness leaves nothing to be desired. But true happiness must be everlasting; else man could always desire it to be so. Since this present life always ends in death, no present happiness is everlasting, and, therefore, cannot be perfect happiness.
PERFECT HAPPINESS can be achieved only in the next life, only in eternity. As the life in the apple seed cannot produce the tree, nor the blossoms, nor the fruit unless the seed die in the earth, so also, man's free will, even with God's grace, cannot bring forth the fruit of perfect happiness, until the man dies and grows into eternity.
How FOOLISH are those men who cry petulantly for perfect happiness in this life! They are like the over tired child who weeps and stamps his feet and shakes his fist at his father because he is not allowed to stay up as late as his parents. As the child grows, and grows stronger, his childish weakness will be replaced by the strength of maturity. So it is, too, with the life of men in God. In this present world, we are as children, who must be satisfied with the work and the enjoyment proper to children. If we live according to the power and the rules of conduct which God, our Heavenly Father, gives us, we shall one day grow up to the Everlasting Day of eternal happiness.
HOME----------CHRIST THE KING