Is happiness just an experience? How do you answer this question with clarity, precision and quality using an authentic experience of nearly dying from appendicitis and now believing that happiness is accepting what life throws at you.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Happiness is a state of mind. We have many experiences, and what makes one person happy does not work the same way with others. However, I believe that happiness is a choice. Some people can be happy with life's basic necessities. Other people can have more money than they know what to do with and never be happy.

I always figure that finding pleasure in small things, being able to laugh easily and discovering satisfaction in helping others or giving of yourself can bring surprising happiness because it's not about things—I believe life is about people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A film you may enjoy that deals with this topic is called It's a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart. In the film, Stewart's character gets to the see how the lives of his friends and loved ones would have been poorer without his existence. The film reminds us that a flirtation with death can not only make us see more clearly the happy aspects of our own lives but can also helps us perceive the ways we can (and often do) bring happiness into the lives of others. Having had an experience somewhat similar to yours (mine involving open heart surgery to correct a seriously defective valve), I know what you mean. I don't think I've ever felt happier or more truly alive than in the days after that successful, and the experience has also helped change my general outlook on life.  Each day is precious.  I always knew that, of course, but now I deeply feel it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The chemical reaction of "happiness," which is caused by endorphins flooding the pleasure centers of the brain... is meaningless in this context, but I thought I'd mention it.

Paraphrasing, your point in post #3 is that after a near-death experience, you are content with your life, even in harder times, because you know how fragile it is. This is a valid response and one that many people have; after the epiphany that life is something you only get once, it is easier to see even chores, or work, or neck pains, or whatever as something you have because of your life itself. This is similar to a certain type of faith-based reasoning; the philosophy "What will be, will be," and thereby refusing to be angry or upset, is something you might look into. I'm not arguing in its favor -- I firmly believe that if your situation is hard, you should try as hard as possible to change it -- but it's something that has lasted for many thousands of years.

However, don't let this take away your new-found joy in small things; coffee, kittens, slippers, junk food and TV... every moment is one we will have only once. Even we who haven't hit the epiphany yet should treasure whatever it is we have.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that happiness comes from a sense of feeling like you have a life purpose, or that you are fulfilling your destiny.  Waiting for "happiness" as an emotion, I think can make people quite unhappy...because I don't think most of us ever get everything we are waiting for to make us happy....BUT if we feel that at the end of the day we have added to the world and made it better...I think that speaks happiness to me.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
It sounds like what you are actually trying to say is that happiness is a choice that can be made much easier as a result of an experience (in this case, a life or death experience).
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is said that those who have a near-death experience learn very quickly, unexpectedly, and powerfully that life is not guaranteed.  Learning this, and having survived the threat, the person is grateful (for the first time in their experience) for merely being alive.  They thus have an new appreciation for something that they had taken for granted all along.   They are happy just to be alive, and no longer discouraged by small bumps in the road that are a part of daily living. For them, the near-death experience has engendered a new perspective on life.  Yes, the circumstances of the experience may have been terrifying, but the relief and gratitude more than make up for the negativity. It is the emotional equivalent of making lemonade out of a lemon.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think most people who have near-death experiences do appreciate life more.  It has less to do with happiness and more to do with gratefulness.  People are grateful to be alive, and therefore more willing to face life’s challenges because now they have some perspective.  This may or may not lead to happiness!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I don't agree with your premise. I don't think very many people would see a near death experience due to appendicitis as happiness, but that certainly could be an event life "throws at you."

I would consider happiness to be an emotion that is experienced in reaction to situations that a person has experienced in life. A person who has had a near death encounter may feel happiness in response to life events that may not be noted by others who have not gained a perspective of appreciation for the mere fact of being alive. Happiness may be felt in response to a positive event, in connection with the end of an unpleasant occurrence, as part of feelings of gratitude for circumstances. I don't think happiness is an experience in and of itself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial