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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

Pope Francis warns against couch potato happiness

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 09:48:00 +0000 Posted in Digital Religion

In his speech to the young people at WYD 20-16 in Krakow, Pope Francis warned them against confusing happiness with comfort and consumerism; of believing that being happy consists in having a good sofa to rest and to enter the world of video games, spending many hours in front of the computer.

"We did not come to this world to vegetate, to spend it comfortably, to make life a sofa that lulls us to sleep; on the contrary, we came here to do something else, to leave a mark. When we opt for comfort, for confusing happiness with consumption, the price we pay is very high: we lose our freedom".

I think that this description is attributable to the young passive and Ninis (neither studying nor working), not to the two million who heard it from the Pope. Most of them, to pay for the trip, had to do extra work; then they did not sit on an armchair, but on the floor; some slept on the ground and others where they could.

The Pope asked them to be missionaries to the "pre-retired" of their generation. They will have to communicate to them what happiness is not; that there is no such thing as hedonistic and utilitarian happiness.

These young people have been given a beautiful task: to explain to their classmates and friends that happiness cannot be acquired as just another product of the consumer society. For example, pillows that guarantee a deep and happy sleep (without nightmares); bracelets that eliminate anxiety; a chair that relaxes, massages, caresses and lulls. Seekers of magical objects are usually people who feel driven to fill some inner emptiness.

Many people seek happiness in the cult of the body (the temporal) with forgetfulness of the soul (the eternal). Taking care of the body is good as long as it is not an obsession, since the latter is dangerous for health. Christians who do not understand the spirit of mortification get up very early every day to "work out" by running for several hours at a time, even when it snows, and not because of a medical prescription, but to show off their great body.

It is important promote that young people help each other to demystify false concepts of happiness. This method of mutual financial aid proposed by the Pope is innovative and effective, because young people are more influenced in their deep convictions by those of their own age than by their elders. But it is not enough to know what happiness is not. Young people must also find out what true happiness is and where it comes from.

Aristotle said that happiness is not in the ephemeral (sensible things and pleasures), but in the honest life, according to virtue; therefore he advised to live and act well(eudaimonia), which includes leading an austere life. He added that happiness implies conformity with one's own lot, without ambition(autarchy). To be happy he proposed the "good life" (virtuous) as opposed to the "good life" (gentrification).

Happiness includes a certain Degree of pleasure and material well-being, but pleasure and well-being are not, by themselves, source of happiness. Happiness is a spiritual reality; that is why no materialism has ever been able to make man happy.

To those young people who seek immediate happiness, it should be made clear that this is an impossible mission statement . Aristotle affirmed that happiness cannot be sought, since it is something that happens; it is something added to some of the activities in which we are engaged; it is a consequence, and not something that is sought in itself. It is only achieved when it is not pursued.

That thesis was shared by Thomas Aquinas, for whom happiness is the joy or bliss that derives from having achieved a certain good, because of the fullness or perfection staff that it entails. We can express it in modern terms with a slogan: "to happiness through perfection".

Alejando Llano links happiness to the achieved life. "Happiness is not a place, nor a state of things, nor an object that can be given to us submit, because I have to conquer the achieved life myself through my original and creative operations (...). What causes my life to be spoiled or intensified does not depend intrinsically on what happens to me, but on how I deal with what happens to me" (La vida lograda, 2010).

This conquest requires forgetting the armchair to walk with effort, step by step, blow by blow, the road to happiness. It is not a passive waiting, but an active one. It will be less costly for young people who have hope: to live in anticipation of something that is good and that I do not yet have.