A good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge
The American philosopher and author Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
While we enjoy words of wisdom, we rarely comprehend their actual significance since we rarely strive to follow them in our daily lives. How many of us have ever attempted to find meaning in our lives? How many of us make an effort to be valuable to the world and work hard to improve it? How many of us are willing to suffer for the millions of poor and powerless individuals in our planet in order to live a life of meaning?
Most of us would rather live a good life for ourselves while ignoring our obligations and responsibilities to the rest of the world. For us, a happy life is one that is comfortable and luxurious, with few troubles or concerns. It entails possessing a lot of money, a large home, fancy automobiles, and a modern newspaper. We work hard all of our lives to acquire such a life, even if it means sacrificing our ideas, principles, and relationships. The majority of people are unhappy because they never reach their goals. Due to failing health, broken relationships, and often a guilty conscience, a few fortunate people who become successful also fail to live their lives effectively.
So, what is the key to a happy life? “It’s a process, not a state of being, to live a happy life.” “It’s a journey, not a destination,” observed Carl Rogers, an American psychologist. If we want to be happy, we must take the appropriate steps and adhere to the right ideals. We must first earn a good life by making the world a better place. It means that we must use all of our abilities to strive to make a difference in the world by contributing to the welfare of society. We may have to suffer and sacrifice our enjoyment for the sake of others as part of this process. We provide significance to our lives when we observe the impact of our good work on the world.
To understand how we may contribute to the world, we must first understand ourselves. “An unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said a long time ago. We can only know how we may contribute to the world and so identify the meaning of life and act appropriately to make the world a better place if we examine ourselves deeply. The actual difficulty is to maintain performing excellent work, to forgo quick gratification, and to accept hardship in the present in order to build a better future.
Love is the most vital aspect of a happy existence. A mother sacrifices all her comfort to take care of her child because she loves her. Similarly, a person might give up all for the love of his or her life. People who care about their country are always eager to give their lives to protect it. Love is the all-powerful force that allows anything to happen. “Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey,” British poet Lord Byron put it succinctly.
It’s tough to do good things for others when we don’t have love in our lives. When we simply perform the right thing as a responsibility, we find our act to be so taxing that we quickly burn out. When we perform the same thing out of love, however, we not only enjoy it more, but we also do it better, since love is the food of the human soul. “A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love,” remarked Max Muller, a German philosopher.
Love, on the other hand, is insufficient to live a happy life. Love is an emotion that frequently causes us to lose sight of reality. As a result, even with the best of intentions, we are unable to provide positive outcomes for our loved ones. To do good to others, we must have a thorough understanding of the real world so that our activities result in the desired result. False knowledge is the most dangerous of all. “Beware of false knowledge; it is more deadly than ignorance,” remarked George Bernard Shaw.
If love is a car’s engine, knowledge is its steering wheel. A car can’t move if its engine isn’t powerful enough. A car with even the most powerful engine might crash if the driver does not have control over the steering. The implications of having love but without having the wisdom to direct us along the proper path can be terrible. “Ignorance is the punishment of God; knowledge is the wing with which we fly to heaven,” William Shakespeare correctly stated. We can only live a good life if we have the appropriate knowledge in our heads and a heart full of love.
The narrow view of happiness based on ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ may have short-term benefits, but it is certain to cause long-term injury and suffering. A good life based on comfort and sensory fulfilment quickly leads to more misery as we sabotage our health by a lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, and a persistent need for comfort. In our desire for sensuous pleasure, we may also degrade our character by taking the immoral road.
A truly good life is therefore realised when we have love in our hearts and are guided by the correct knowledge, since when we live such a life, we do not seek goodness for ourselves, but try to make the world a better place by doing good to others. When we do good for others, we receive love in return. We feel grateful and immensely fulfilled when we are loved. “A heart is not assessed by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others,” stated American actor Frank Morgan.
When we allow love to inspire our lives, we are self-motivated to make our world a better place by self-discipline and supporting one another. We receive love, honour, and respect from our fellow humans, which provides us with long-term joy and happiness.