Fondazione Zoé
Thoughts on happiness in three acts. Here I published the third and last part…


prof. Carmelo Vigna

Nothing finite can satisfy human desire, because human desire is infinite. A person however is, in a certain sense, something which is infinite; at least it is a desire of the infinite, an infinite desire. Because of this we can love infinitely and be loved infinitely. Happiness lives in stubbornly pursuing this possibility. Indeed, it is impossible for a person not to cross this stubborn desire. It has never happened in the history of mankind. We are often unhappy because we refuse our opportunity to be loved. And our opportunity to be loved lies in our ability to love.

No kind of happiness is possible without us being willing to be happy. The Latin term “felicitas” comes from root (“dhe” which becomes “fe”, but also “be” as in “beatitude”) which means “to suckle” (“fere” in Latin), which is present in the word “fecundity” and also the Italian “figlio” for son. This language, a memory of ancestral past, alludes, then, to a relationship of dependence, like that of mother and child, in which one nourishes and one is nourished. This relationship seems more based in our origins that that of simple reciprocity, the relationship of a couple as equals. Actually, the relationship of reciprocity turns into one of co-dependence. Indeed, when we love each other, we symbolically nourish one another.

Happiness is not possible if we are not inclined to make others happy, to nourish others having been nourished by them. Keeping the happiness we receive to ourselves means betraying the economy of giving on which happiness is based; it means taking what does not belong to us. But jealously guarded goods can only satisfy for a short time, while desire runs wild. Leaving a gap which cannot be filled.

Unhappiness is an inability to relate to others, either because we do not know how to give or how to take. Those who do not know how to take refuse to confess their own need, thereby preventing this need from being satisfied; those who do not know how to give refuse to treat the gift as such and use this claim to extend their dominion, thereby wasting any opportunity of finding an understanding subjectivity in another.

Happiness, in our relationship with the world and with others, needs to be protected, as it is very vulnerable. Protected, above all, by those who, in trust, are always able to welcome us despite our weaknesses (parents, partners, friends, all people who are able to lovingly welcome another). Protected, beyond all else, by a relationship which is absolute; relationship which has no shadow of infidelity. But although such a relationship is within our desire, only a prayer can find it.  

 

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