“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if this advice has been given to every generation, worldwide, since antiquity. Democritus is not a modern thinker, but a Greek philosopher from Thrace, in northern Greece, in the 5th century B.C. He is hailed by many as the ancient “Father of Science”. His writings are well known and respected by academics internationally.
If this is old advice, that just about everyone has heard before, why make any kind of fuss about it? When I look at my life now, and in the past, I see that many of us are caught up in consumerism and the quest to make more and more money. Working hard to make a comfortable living has always been important to me, and, I know I’m not alone in this.
It is very easy to get caught up in the accumulation of ‘things’. We work hard towards the acquisition of the spacious, more luxurious home; the car with the latest technological toys; computer and cell phone technology, clothes, and the list can go on and on. We’ve all heard the news reports about consumer debt rising to record levels, and the accompanying warnings from economists that this situation is unsustainable.
Democritus warns his contemporaries, and us indirectly, that we will not find happiness in the possessions and gold that we lust after. Of course, he is correct! If we did find happiness in these things, would we not end our quest to accumulate more? Or is it that we believe happiness is quantitative – the more “stuff” we have, the happier we become?
Happiness lies within us, in our soul, says the Greek sage. I have always understood my soul to be the invisible, untouchable spirit, which is my essence – my person – my identity, if you will. Of course, my Roman Catholic upbringing taught me that we received our souls from God, and it is His will that it returns to him at the end of our lives. I don’t know whether or not this is true. It is a matter of faith. I believe very strongly in the presence of souls within humanity, and I believe that we are, therefore, spiritual beings.
For me, the question now becomes, how does happiness come to reside in the soul? Logic dictates that live entities need to be nurtured so they may grow and blossom. If not, they starve, shrivel and then expire. Is our preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth and possessions nurturing our souls? I cannot speak for anyone but myself, and my answer is, no!
So many times in my life, I have lusted after different possessions, but their acquisition did not make me a happier person. Yes, there is always that rush of pleasure in the purchase, in taking possession, but that evaporates quickly. So I doggedly go after my next retail pleasure fix. In repeating this cycle, over and over, I have done nothing about nurturing my soul, but perhaps, I have enslaved it. The religious, who withdraw from the world, into havens of physical work and prayer, would make this argument.
How do I nurture my soul? I’m sure that the first step is to focus within – to take stock of who I really am. Who or what have I become after six decades of living? Once I have contemplated my current state of spiritual health, I need to take steps to begin to nurture my essence and discover the fountain of my own happiness. I believe it is how I live that will nurture my soul – how I love others, how I work to develop and share my own talents – and then encourage others to do the same. It sounds simple. It is simple. But it is not an easy path to tread. If it was, I would not have bothered to write these 654 words.