Imagining Happiness

From Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
by Matthieu Ricard

To imagine happiness as the achievement of all our wishes and passions is to confuse the legitimate aspiration to inner fulfillment with a utopia that inevitably leads to frustration.

In affirming that "happiness is the satisfaction of all our desires" in all their "multiplicity," "degree," and "duration," Kant dismisses it from the outset to the realm of the unachievable. When he insists that happiness is the condition of one for whom "everything goes according to his wish and will" we have to wonder about the mystery whereby anything might go according to our wishes and will.

Even if, ideally, the satisfaction of all our desires were achievable, it would lead not to happiness but in the creation of new desires or, just as likely, to indifference, disgust, or even depression. Why depression? If we were to convince ourselves that satisfying all our whims would make us happy, the collapse of that delusion would make us doubt the very existence of happiness.

If I have more than I could possibly need and I am still not happy, happiness must be impossible. That's a good example of how far we can go in fooling ourselves about the causes of happiness. The fact is that without inner peace and wisdom, we have nothing we need to be happy.