The Human and Cultural Pursuit of Happiness

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Throughout history, cultures have strived for the fundament to a good and happy life. During their search, the various cultures eventually created their own basis to leading what they deemed, a harmonious life. The beliefs founded by these cultures varied from one to another, each arguably correct in its own way. For example, various citizens of the Roman Empire depict their view of attaining this good and happy life. This life is lead by the belief that life must be lived in the present, not concerning oneself with the impending reality of death; death is simply the way of nature. These ideals are described in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, as well as Epicurus' "Letter to Menoeceus". Even the ancient Egyptians had strict laws by which to abide in order to achieve a successful life, which in turn lead to eternal happiness in the afterlife. These ancient Egyptian ways of life are exemplified in "Spell 125" of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Finally, the ancient Greeks believed that a life lived in the pursuit of knowledge and love was a life not wasted. This idea can be seen in the Symposium by the famous Greek philosopher Plato. Although the methods to achieve a good and happy life are vastly different from each culture, no particular ideal could be deemed invalid. The cultures of Rome, Egypt, and Greece each define the path to living a good and happy life in different ways, yet many of the ideas coincide with each other and thus are all correct methods of life in their own way.

The Roman method to attaining a complete and joyful life can be realized clearly through Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Happiness in life can only be achieved when people truly knows themselves, because as Aurelius states, "If you won't keep track of what your own soul's doing, how can you not be unhappy" (Aurelius 19). This shows the Roman concern for living a good and happy life, as people must always know where their soul morally stands in the nature of the world. This is a consistent theme that can be seen throughout Roman culture, as they truly believed that in order to judge other people's actions, one must judge themselves first and foremost. Secondly, the Romans believed that we are all apart the harmonious nature of the world, and must live as such. This guide to life is stated, "You are a part of nature, and no one can prevent you from speaking and acting in harmony with it" (Aurelius 19). Again the idea of only worrying about oneself can be seen. This can neither be proved nor disproved as a correct moral guide to life as it can be viewed in various cultures and their worries about one's own morality. The Romans followed this idea of self in their everyday life, and through these means they lived fruitful lives. "True good fortune is what you make for yourself" (Aurelius 65). By no means was this an incorrect view on successful pursuit of happiness in life as Aurelius credits his success only to himself. The Roman achievement of a complete life can also be seen in other cultural works.

Epicurus partakes on a complementary path to life in his works. In his "Letter to Menoeceus" he too contemplates the importance of the morality of the soul and self observance. He states that "banishing those beliefs through which the greatest disturbances take possession of the soul" will truly lead an individual to "a pleasant life" (Epicurus). This coincides with Aurelius' guide to purity of the soul through good morality. Along with the idea of the soul, the two Roman authors stress the importance of nature and our place among it. Epicurus goes even further to say that "desires"…"are natural" and "will direct every preference and aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity(sic) of mind, seeing that this is the sum and end of a happy life" (Epicurus). All in all, this combines the two goals of Roman happiness: to live in harmony with nature and clearing the soul or mind of immorality.

In the Egyptian pursuit of...
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