Happiness For All
( Originally Published 1914 )
Happiness through Goodness
I. If a conscious principle had presided over the creation of man, it must have pursued this course of reasoning:
"The feeble creature which, in developing, will become man, will be exposed to every peril. He will suffer from contact with his fellow-creatures. Envy and wickedness will cause him numberless pangs. In the struggle for life, the weak will be crushed by the strong. A prey to constant discouragements, man will lose faith in the future. He will need a companion to brighten his life with the softest rays. He needs a warm hearthstone to vivify his depressed mind."
And man received, on this occasion, the gift of a beneficent power.
The tireless partner of his joys and of his sorrows, this gift never abandons him. Child and adult, mature or aged man, all profit by its heavenly action. Mankind owes to it the better portion of its past and of its present. Everything even leads to the belief that the future will owe it still more than have former years. Yet we have never ceased to slander its deeds, to scoff at its motives, to ridicule its efforts. It should have left man. Abandoning him to his fate would have been only an act of justice. But it preferred to remain with him, for it is Goodness.
II. We frequently resemble those tribes of Central Africa that pride themselves upon possessing bits of broken glass, empty bottles, or articles of ordinary hardware. On the other hand, they set no value on priceless pieces of ivory or on precious stones.
Accessible to all, Goodness, in its germ, exists in all men. Like the sun, it contains an inexhaustible energy. Like the sun, it shines for the entire world.
It bestows royalty upon the humblest human being. Set in action, it adorns the soul in which it grows. It does more; it revives all by whom it is obtained.
When goodness takes possession of a heart, it makes it a queen of queens, but its sovereignty is discreet. It remains hidden, like that of all the best rulers. Yet to come within its reach is enough to make us feel the divine mercy which pervades the space in which it shines.
In the midst of an icy night, the wearied traveller perceives a simple house. The light from its windows, the heat that comes from this abode of men, fills his heart with delight. A sense of comfort enters his soul, even before he could have approached the distant dwelling.
He only surmises that he sees before him the refuge of goodness, and a joyous hope fills his heart.
III. Genius visits rare beings. Wealth often chooses its elect as a gold coin falls unexpectedly on a dung-hill. Birth lavishes its privileges with the blindness of chance. Goodness alone extends its brotherly arms to every human being. It makes no distinction between the lofty and the lowly, between religions, sexes, ages, the poor or the , rich, the men of talent or of genius. All may practise its worship. The most destitute or the most unfortunate man preserves the privilege of being good and of exercising goodness. It holds its followers, no matter whence they come, equally dear.
IV. Miracle of miracles! We lavish goodness outside, and it increases within our souls.
Lodged in the heart, goodness pervades it entirely. The soul, in its turn, then dispenses a fragrance of rare quality. The sight of goodness renders faces serene. It lavishes strength upon the weak, hope on the despairing. A little portion of goodness, like the bread of the Gospel, is enough to appease the hunger of a multitude. Acting like Providence, goodness creates much from nothing. The rays diffused by it, in returning to their source, bear the sweetness collected along the way. Thus we create blessing around us, and fill our own hearts with the divine essence.
V. Genius needs to be admired. Talent re-quires to be recognised. Wealth desires to be envied, and also demands homage, the only token of its importance. Goodness exacts nothing from any one, finding its recompense in its own royalty.
The question: "How to be happy" often re-solves itself into: how are we to exercise goodness? Real happiness is the joy brought by the benefit on returning to the soul of the benefactor.
True goodness remains conscious of itself. As lightning, however swift it may be, contains heat, the most spontaneous act of goodness bears portions of our hearts. This is its natural fire-side, and also the spring by which it is ennobled and purified. It gives it the sanction of its own superiority.
Goodness which remains outside of our conscience is only an act of unreflecting and irrational weakness. It marks the disorder and not the harmony of our souls. Like a well-regulated weapon, goodness does not flash without a cause. Exercised blindly, it may create some benefit, but its action also produces misfortune; it may aid the strong against the weak; it abases the humble and passes suffering misery with indifference.
Plutarch relates that the inhabitants of Asia Minor were reduced to slavery for the sole reason that they did not know how to say : No. A sad example of the effects of goodness through weakness. Goodness which is really worthy of the name is always sensible.
VI. We say innate goodness, but it is chiefly acquired. It grows and perishes in our consciences. Divine in its beauty, goodness nevertheless remains human. It would be necessary to introduce it into souls where it is lacking, and it would require developing where it is only a germ. It would need directing toward worthy subjects, and it i would also need to be turned away from things which would make it lose its dignity. A course of goodness in the high schools for the practice of youthful minds! The idea seems paradoxical. The paradox is often only a truth of the future. Let us wish it to triumph. Above all, let us wish that it may find enlightened masters working for the salvation, through goodness, of youthful souls.
A Pestalozzi of goodness! Perhaps this mysterious being is growing up somewhere. He will guide and develop childish goodness as certain wise instructors understand how to direct toward beneficent destinies the sons of sovereigns who are confided to their charge.
Some day courses of goodness will be established, whose lessons will have attractive foundations. Surrounded by irresistible charms, goodness will lead the souls of children through flowery paths. It will be, perhaps, the most charming of all the sciences of youth, and it will also be the most useful to its happiness and to that of the community.
Thanks to it, the pupil would follow the most delightful paths of life. When, from the earliest childhood, their charms have been demonstrated to him, he will desire to follow them in later years. He will seek and will find in them the loftiest reasons for happiness. Emulation in the domain of goodness will be the most noble and the most fruitful of rivalries.
How many subjects can be brought into these lectures upon goodness! They will be as varied as life itself. The art of obliging our neighbour would play the dominant part, but how many are the imperceptible shades in the way of rendering service! Gratitude, in its turn, presents infinite aspects. The fetters which bind men together have numerous links. These lectures upon goodness would bring out unity, charm, and beauty. By teaching us to know them, this section of the Science of Happiness will render them more widely known and loved.
VII. Goodness draws after it love, as the sun brings fair weather. We love better those to whom we have rendered service, and we render service to those whom we love.
Love is the flower that blossoms on the stem of goodness. These two virtues penetrate and complete each other. Their approach warms the little nooks and corners of our hearts. Under their influence the evil seeds deposited there by life and heredity are transformed. Both, when remaining a long time in any soul, render it capable of sacrifice, for what is sacrifice, except the expression of goodness and love?
Closely united sisters, goodness and affection accompany each other. Both form one of the necessary conditions of happiness, which is ennobled and broadened by their contact. They might be compared to two careful gardeners, who, like watchful keepers, drive away any mischievous birds from the precincts of our hearts, thus aiding in their complete development.
We often encounter a happiness of vulgar essence which can dispense with their co-operation. We also find brambles and nettles which grow with-out any care. But where is the man who would not prefer the pretty flowers which ensnare our senses?
Goodness! Love! Happiness! delightful trinity ! Once realised, it never leaves the heart. The three entities composing it are interlinked with perfect art. One summons the other, and all three mutually support one another.
VIII. In every age, Love has enjoyed royal homage. The mystics erect altars to it, and the sociologists see in it one of the bases of solidarity.
Highly esteemed, it is nevertheless little practised. We respect it as we do certain divinities. We bow while uttering their names, but we turn aside from their precepts.
Paytone+Ones, scientists, sociologists, priests, or politicians, men of thought or men of action, all laud the benefits of love.
Catherine of Sienna has perhaps best summed up the virtue of loving. In her letter to the Lord of Milan, she says : " Love, love, and remember that you have been loved before loving."
Entirely from the Gospel, Saint Augustine has drawn the conclusion of the unconquerable plea-sure obtained for us by love. " We love to love, " he cried in his expressive language. Amabam amare. But Saint Augustine lived in his dreams, and took his visions for realities.
No, we do not love to love, for we lack education in loving. People have preached the duty of loving, but they have forgotten to teach us its moral advantages, and especially its repercussion upon happiness.
For to love means to live a multiple life. We come out of ourselves, but we return far richer than at the moment of departure. We re-enter our souls accompanied by delightful companions. The kindly affections on returning to our hearts, constitute a royal procession. Our ego is multi-plied, holds to existence with more ties, and existence is more closely united to us.
There are affections which betray. What does that matter! Others come to replace these, for the heart, the hearthstone of love, attracts the affections as the hive attracts the bees. We are never victims of love and goodness, for no one can deprive us of the pleasure of having been good or of having loved.
IX. We develop toward goodness, as we develop toward veracity. By a singular mirage, we believe the contrary. We are almost all convinced that the primitive peoples were more refractory to falsehood, and more devoted to goodness.
And yet the history of falsehood through the ages constantly denies this belief. Above all, it proves that the legendary virtue of the idyllic days is but a legend.
Primitive or savage peoples, warlike or nomad tribes, have always had a marked partiality for deceit. The Greeks, whom we like to regard as the ideal type of the nations, had a very mitigated respect for sincerity. The gods deceive men and, moreover, deceive one another. The principal heroes of Homer lie like the financial prospectuses of our own times. The wise Ulysses is an incorrigible teller of falsehoods. Pallas Athena gives us to understand that she loves him for that very reason. The other deities practise the same lax morality. Oaths are violated with extraordinary indifference. Men set little value on honesty, for the gods themselves favour liars.
The Gospels, doubtless under the influence of the period, have not broken away from falsehood. In Genesis, the Lord reserves a wealth of indulgence for the lie of Isaac. In Kings, Jehovah has recourse to a false spirit to ruin Achab. Else-where God (Ezekiel) ingenuously confesses that he is going to deceive the prophets who are not according to his heart.
Lastly, what shall be said of Jeremiah, who openly turns his back upon the truth?
Later Saint Paul makes a confession which disconcerts us. God, he tells us, has drawn glory from falsehood.
The governments of the Middle Ages often maintained themselves by falsehood. According to Salvien, the Franks regarded perjury as a mere oratorical form. Diplomatic science, up to these latter days, sought its powers and its abilities solely in stratagem.
The progress which is denied nevertheless lowered, with the lapse of the ages, the reign of falsehood, even compelling mendacity to apologise to truth, which is gradually spreading more and more into the relations between nation and nation. Scorned, false-hood shrinks and even denies that it is falsehood.
The famous despatch of Ems, in which a diplomat of the fifteenth or the sixteenth century would have gloried, made the blood mount to the brow of a Bismarck. Was not the effort to mask the lie put forth on this occasion a sublime homage to honesty?
Truth, .more and more triumphant, draws in her train goodness. Both complete, and harmonise with, each other, as cunning and falsehood complete each other in wickedness. Social truth is only social goodness. The noblest of Homer's heroes does not give proof of as much provident kindness with respect to the aged as does the social aggregate of our own day. But individual and social goodness are mutually interlinked. One is immediate goodness; the other is goodness at a distance. Both are translated in concrete acts. Both, thanks to their reciprocal support, grow equally in the atmosphere of truth.
X. Affection renders the poorest human beings the equal of sovereigns. It assures us boundless power. We can love, even against the will of the object of our affection. The pleasure of loving, as well as its benefits, lies within ourselves. No one can deprive us of them for, inalienable, they are hidden in the depths of our individuality.
It would be wrong to judge of the quality of wines without having tasted them. Who is the person who has practised goodness sufficiently to appreciate all its advantages and all its charms?
Goodness and love furnish the most efficacious remedies for the troubles of life. They breathe upon pess'mism and disenchantment, and transform the latter into reasons for existence. Now, the reason for existence is the salvation of the soul.
Sully Prudhomme was a man devoted to goodness. Ill for twenty years, and a prey to super-human sufferings, he retained a touching sweetness of disposition. Pain furrowed deep lines in his face. Yet his gaze, reflecting the treasures of his soul, triumphed over all his bodily weaknesses. His eyes smiled. The great poet, who honoured me with his friendship, often talked of the vivifying power of Goodness. He spoke openly, lovingly, of the principle, while secretly and constantly cultivating its virtues. And as he had practised it, without discernment, toward all who approached him, he was frequently victimized. He had encountered both the wicked and the ungrateful. But he felt kindly toward all for having contributed to his supreme enjoyment. He was so imbued with goodness that he beheld it every-where, and it became to him Duty and Beauty. To scatter around him the treasures of his soul, without hope of heavenly reward or of earthly gratitude, became a divine joy. Goodness had become to him almost a luxury. The delights it had procured had set a heavenly impress upon his countenance, so ravaged by suffering. One day the poet was found dead, wearing the expression of happiness peculiar to a man going forth under the guidance of Goodness.
Goodness implies consciousness of the necessity of practising goodness; love, the imparting of this goodness to some one. Thus we proceed toward action. The imperious voice which en- joins goodness and love impels us toward the life which it fills and adorns for our use. Love and be good, ought to be enjoined upon the pessimists, and you will come to your senses after a time.
XI. Science and modern life preach powerfully regarding the benefits of goodness, the sociological virtues of love.
The salvation of the wealthy classes lies in a rightly understood solidarity. The prosperity of the poor is found in a rational development of the State. There is no longer any question of orders dictated by vaguely religious feelings. Their principles, wearied by long practice, no longer act. It is our thoroughly comprehended happiness which preaches and directs the exercise, on a large scale, of goodness and social love.
Universal warfare, we may hope, will some day be replaced by universal love. Humanity is moving toward it, very slowly, no doubt, but it is infallibly moving in that direction.
All the systems of contemporary morality find their definite expression in the principle of Goodness, which, among other things, includes solidarity and human perfectibility. Outside of the ideal of goodness, Fouillée says' we find only poor diminutives or succedaneums of morality. And the same Paytone+One deduces from it this precept of morality that is independent of time and environment: "Be good, with a view to universal goodness,which would constitute universal happiness."
Vainly do we scoff at goodness as the indispensable foundation of moral progress and the salvation of human beings. It is constantly enlarging and developing. It is increasing before our eyes, as it has grown through the centuries. Only, invisible, it is seen solely through goodness itself. We must be good to perceive its development and its blessings, as we must believe in God to see His activity on earth.
XII. Have we become better? is asked on all sides. Like religions, the social sciences give a negative answer. The religions and the sciences' are equally mistaken. While the former wrongly ' identify pity or credulity with goodness, the latter suffer themselves to be influenced too greatly by the deceptive statistics of crime. We may observe, per contra, the rising edifice of solidarity, which is chiefly constructed by the efforts of loving and beloved collectivity. Everywhere the same cry is raised: let us make sacrifices for a happier and better humanity. The number of those who die for this cause is constantly augmenting. And these martyrs are devoting themselves, not in the selfish interest of a heavenly reward, but in the name of the impersonal principle of the human race of the future.
The physicians who brave death to enrich science with an undiscovered microbe; the aeronauts who expose themselves to the most terrible accidents; the revolutionists who give their lives for the Society of the future; the workmen who, without any immediate necessity, join in the strike, are all labouring, in the main, solely for the benefit of generations which perhaps will exist only in their imagination. And what is this solidarity, which produces the greatest sacrifices, if not ideal goodness, intense goodness, emancipated from the narrow bonds of the unity of blood or of visible interests? Of what value are the patriotism and the virtue, often purely theatrical, of the great heroes of Greece, almost always fighting for the spectators, in comparison with the martyrs of the Russian revolution, who died in obscurity for the. citizenship of the future? The goodness that animates the latter is of a superior essence. Their death, we are told, is often barren. What does that matter? The uselessness of the sacrifice does not take an iota from its divine virtue.
Social institutions tend more and more to diminish the wretchedness of the humiliated. They also tend to sow upon earth the happiness of all through all. Goodness takes possession of human beings. Conscious in some, instinctive in others, it acts under all circumstances. Rich or poor apply its principles under the form of forced taxes or voluntary contributions. Its results tend to render earth more attractive and men perfect. Goodness has ascended in rank. It is more complex and, for that very reason, more unheeded. Under the form of weakness of the soul or of instinctive emotions, we should be softened. Classified and in the position of a social duty, it remains indiscernible. This does not prevent it from growing. The day is not distant when it will be understood that the best human being is the one who does, the most good to his community.
XIII. The teacher of my childhood, with whom I enjoy examining human affairs, laid his spectacles' carefully on his desk, smiled pleasantly at me and' continued: of Good Hope touched at a little island. While the vessel was being unloaded I went ashore. The pleasant appearance of the country charmed me. The inhabitants we met on the way manifested a fraternal friendliness in their greetings, a touch of tenderness in their gaze. Every one welcomed the stranger with a kindly word. At last I stopped in front of a house where the prominent people in the village were assembled. Their conversation ceased for a moment. An old man welcomed me. I expressed my delight at finding myself among people who were contented with their lot."
The old man nodded assent:
"You may add," he said, "and very happy! We have lived thus for years under the reign of a good sovereign whom we all worship. We owe to him the joy that fills our souls, for we owe to him the affection that colours our lives, the goodwill of our relations. Ah ! great heavens ! Why shouldn't we love him? He has destroyed envy among us. He has revealed to us the resources within our-selves. He has also taught us that love is the source of joys which fortune cannot purchase. We are happy without thinking of our happiness. Envy has no hold upon us. We are not bound to it and it does not dwell in our hearts. You will find among us neither false luxury, nor the desire to lord it over our neighbours. And the longer we live under this monarch's government, the more we adore, love, and practise his laws."
"What is the name of this sovereign?" I asked in delight.
"Goodness," replied the kind old man.