I have read several posts and articles that ask whether a person would choose Freedom or Happiness? Why must we choose, unless of course, we are talking about the book by Yevgeny Zamyatin entitled “We”, where the characters in Paradise were given a choice, “Happiness without Freedom, or Freedom without Happiness”, and there was no third choice! But, in real life, why do we have to choose one or the other? What is Freedom? What is Happiness? Are they always subjective? And, why can’t we have both?
Ancient Greek historian and author, Thucydides, says, “The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage”. But, he also states, “The strong do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.” Aren’t those really the same thing? Doing what you have to and accepting what you have to, are the same thing. I see strength as synonymous to courage. So, is the secret to happiness just doing what you have to do in life? That would not make me happy, nor would I feel free since that is what I have done all my life, so far.
I am pondering these things because my life is changing, mostly for the better. Though, I confess, I had very little freedom or happiness in my life and soon will have more freedom than I have ever had. To give you an example, I wasn’t allowed to choose my own clothing until I was an adult, and when I did go to buy a piece of clothing for the first time, I didn’t know what size I wore since I never had a reason to look. That may seem odd or humorous, but that is how I was raised. I was also told when and what I could eat. I don’t know what to do with my personal freedom? I already speak my mind, eat mostly what I choose/afford, dress as I want, so is just being able to continue those things freedom? And, happiness? Few things make me happy and for the most part, those things are fleeting. There is only one thing that truly makes me happy and that is unattainable. So, are the fleeting pieces of happiness all there is to happiness? Is being able to risk my life doing some thrill-seeking sports activity happiness? Is being able to drive very fast on a road freedom or happiness? Is going to a museum or hiking a mountain path happiness? I know material things don’t make one happy. And, I have heard people say that happiness is waking up to a new day and knowing they are alive and can walk and so on, but isn’t that really just gratitude?
I read that having freedom allows one to do good deeds. That if someone is forced to do good deeds then their motivation is merely self preservation, or that being forced to choose between freedom and the greater good is a false choice. I think that is true. But, is doing good deeds happiness? It only made me happy briefly, but not always.
I am at a crossroads in life, and I know very well that all people go through one or many, as I have in the past. But, this is a very new path and I am not confident about what happiness is or how to have it on more than a fleeting basis. Philosophers are no help because they don’t agree and they all have “cutesy” ideas of what happiness is, like “the ability to solve ones own problems”, yes, well, that is just part of life, it is not happiness. Religion isn’t helpful either, as it tells me that my happiness is selfish and I should be trying to make other people happy. I have been down that road and know there is no way to please everyone all the time!
I suppose only time will tell whether I will ever feel free or happy in this world.