Have you ever heard someone say, “Some people don’t know how to be happy?” My concern is not why people might say this or what they might mean when they say it. My concern is what is implied in the phrase itself. What interests me is that the phrase assumes happiness is a something you can know how to do— that is to say that happiness is a type of knowledge. This to me begs a thousand questions, but here I shall be satisfied with just a few, and they follow:
If being happy takes some kind of knowledge, then can it be learned?
Can those who know how to be happy teach others? or other wise stated, Can one teach happiness?
If it can be taught and learned, then where are the teachers of happiness?
Lastly, if it cannot be taught or learned is it really knowledge— can someone learn to be happy?
Some might think I am asking stupid questions. It might be obvious that happiness can or cannot be taught to others, but it is not so to me. I would like to think we can learn to be happy, but this is problematic. If we can learn to be happy in the same way we can learn mathematics, then why is there no agreed upon method to teach it? Everyone seems to find happiness in different ways. There seems no one prescription for human happiness. One man’s joys is another’s blight.
I do not however think our race hopeless. Rather, it is quite the opposite. I see happiness in people, I see it in myself, and I see it in my friends however fleeting it might be. I also see that we can’t seem to tell each other how to be happy. Each must find it on her own, if ever at all. I guess I must at last conclude, as Plato did of virtue, that if it cannot be taught or learned it must be a gift from the gods— a blessing from on high.