Sunday, April 12, 2009

George Sand Defines Happiness

"The consciousness of self as animal, vegetable and mineral, and the delight we feel in plunging down into that consciousness, is by no means degrading. It is good to know the fundamental life at our roots, while we reach out toward that higher life which is completely attained only in flashes of insight and in dreams.

"In striving for truth and happiness we should not allow ourselves to regard these two goals of human effort as illusions. When we struggle for truth we find a part of it. When we dream of happiness it is already ours.

"The satisfaction of a personal passion is pleasure or intoxication. It is not happiness.

"Happiness, to deserve the name, must be enduring and indestructible. Those who try to find happiness in excitement attempt the impossible. The highest form of excitement is exaltation, a state so exceptional that if persisted in, it would end in killing us. A nervous system completely abandoned to transports of emotion would burst asunder.

"Spring means fever. Autumn means repose. Late autumn leads slowly to mistiness and sleep. Maturity loves quiet and accepts it as an expression of happiness. In youth, happiness is still unrealized and unsought. Youth prefers joy, exhilaration, the sense of power.

"When we are young it is enough to feel alive. which is always possible under normal conditions; it is enough to live fully, take risks, know the price of experience and accept the consequences. To live thus is to believe in life.

"Maturity finds happiness in a state of grace, that is, the consciousness of good behind one, before one, and within one. The capacity for such happiness shows complete absence of mean motives. In the state of grace one cannot bear to give pain or do injury. One need not be a saint or a great man, not even pose as virtuous in order to attain this state of being. It is within reach of everyone.

"I deny that there is any happiness in wealth.

"But I have been dwelling on individual happiness. I submit that it is incomplete. Complete happiness requires the general happiness of society. Without this vicarious quality it is so fragmentary, so personal, that it scarcely exists and cannot be accurately defined.

"The happiness of others is absolutely necessary to our own. Opinions to the contrary must be boldly fought. On the other hand, there is a certain type of socialist who exaggerates this aspect of the question.

"The error of socialism, thus understood, is that it overlooks the importance of the individual. It hopes to impose the happiness of all on each. It is true that justice and liberty will make room for more individual satisfactions. But we cannot hand out happiness to others. The individual must win his own. Violence destroys happiness, whereas time and education will develop men and women until they find their own happiness in harmony with social well-being."

- The Intimate Journal of George Sand: Sketches and Hints.

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