Perfect Happiness.

“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealisable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realisation of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite. Our ever-insufficient knowledge of the future opposes it: and this is called, in the one instance, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of the following day. The certainty of death opposes it: for it places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief. The inevitable material cares oppose it: for as they poison every lasting happiness, they equally assiduously distract us from our misfortunes and make our consciousness of them intermittent and hence supportable.”

“Human nature is such that grief and pain — even simultaneously suffered — do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective… This is the reason why … man is never content. In fact it is not a question of a human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but of an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of unhappiness; so that the single name of the major cause is given to all its causes, which are composite and set out in an order of urgency. And if the most immediate cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see that another one lies behind; and in reality a whole series of others.”

~ Primo Levy. In Survival in Auschwitz.

The Introductory Poem translated into English.

You who live safe
In your warm houses;
You who find on returning in the evening
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a bit of bread
Who dies because of a yes and because of a no

Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
Without enough strength to remember
Vacant eyes and cold womb
Like a frog in the winter:

Reflect on the fact that this has happened:
These words I commend to you:
Inscribe them on your heart
When staying at home and going out,

Going to bed and rising up;
Repeat them to your children:
Or may your house fall down,
Illness bar your way,
Your loved ones turn away from you.

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12 Responses to Perfect Happiness.

  1. nick says:

    Pure, unadulterated happiness seems harder and harder to achieve in this increasingly complicated world with its endless demands and challenges. Anyone who is consistently happy has a very special talent.
    nick recently posted..Privilege noted

  2. Perfection would be boring, but Andy and I aren’t doing too badly. We’ve simplified our lives so we can focus on the things we care about. Having a sense of humor is a big plus, too, of course. We laugh a lot.

    • You are very right. What helps is a sense of humour. As you know, I have been a fan of Viktor Frankl for long and coming across Levy was like returning to the same background from a different perspective. That is why I decided to share the quotes.

  3. Good post my Friend, thank you for sharing.
    Regards, Keith.

  4. Shackman says:

    So perfection in an imperfect world is unattainable. I’d say that is a blinding flash of the obvious and it is the quest/journey that is important. When the tub is empty and you have but one circling ng of the drain left, hopefully you have more positive stuff in your bag of life than negative.

  5. I think that around 80% of my life is happiness…

    I have been thinking that leaving a dirty great digger in my back yard by a contractor was an unhappy model but my best friend pointed out that it was excellent security – that anyone coming down to rob from me, might skedaddle right back up the driveway because obviously a big brute of man lives here!

    So maybe there is a silver lining in that cloud…

    She also (not exact words) said “you always seem to make the best of life, you organise to fill in your days doings fabulous things…and I admire you for that” – wow I hadn’t seen either of those sentences coming…

    But I also replied, “but so do you, differently from me…”

    I think we both have fulfilled lives, even with certain limitations – but also she is home alone…

    • At the end of the day, what matters is what we experience Cathy and not what we read about others’ experiences. Each of us has to find his/her own way. I am glad that you feel that your life is 80% happiness. If the other 20% did not exist, you would not be able to recongnise the 80!

  6. tammy j says:

    I think of myself as a happy person. and I always have thought that.
    yet my life even with its early heavy losses has been nothing like surviving or enduring such an unspeakable place like Auschwitz.
    I’m not sure that my ability to feel happy is even valid from the standpoint of his poem.
    it’s the words of Ann Frank that have always touched me the most.
    she was a happy person.
    she found beauty and happiness in that life with its narrow margins of mere existence and terror.
    am I happy because my expectations in life have not been high enough?
    or maybe too reachable? in the modern American sense that might be true.
    it has always taken very little for me to feel happy. the intangibles mostly.
    bird song. sunlight and shadow. laughter’s sounds whether children or adults. good books. cold water. cool air and windows open. nothing very huge or important. toast and marmalade!
    but I claim it while knowing that my happiness hasn’t ever truly been tested by awfulness.
    a very good and thought provoking post rummy.
    tammy j recently posted..moving on old bean

    • Why American? The modern material route to happiness leads more often than not to precisely the opposite with a never ending craving for more or perceived to be better. Joy can be found in mundane things like we find in our relationships and in just being alive.

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