The Happiness of Constant Striving

Philosophers of happiness have often said that humanity’s eternally recurring and seemingly insatiable desires are a crushing burden and a debilitating problem. To live with an unsatisfied desire, the argument goes, makes one unhappy. Therefore, if one is to be content, expunging desires is of the utmost importance. This dubious notion is the foundation of entire self-denying spiritual practices. Advocates of self-denial invoke the myth of Sisyphus, the king in ancient Greece who offended Zeus. As punishment, he was condemned to push a huge boulder to the top of a hill. However, the simple (but sweaty) game was rigged. Whenever the boulder neared the top of the hill, it rolled back down to the bottom. Some prefer the less strenuous, but equally frustrating Danaidean example. In Greek legend, the Danaides were daughters of the Egyptian prince, Danaus. After they had murdered their husbands, they were condemned in Hades to fill water jars with holes in the bottom.

The Danaides by John William Waterhouse, 1903

Success may not be necessary to attain happiness. For many, the striving itself becomes a fulfilling and satisfying way of life. (Image: public domain.)

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