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散文:幸福之道

2006-05-25 10:23

The Road to Happiness

  It is a commonplace among moralists that you cannot get happiness by pursuing it. This is only true if you pursue it unwisely. Gamblers at Monte Carlo are pursuing money, and most of them lose it instead, but there are other ways of pursuing money, which often succeed. So it is with happiness. If you pursue it by means of drink, you are forgetting the hang-over. Epicurus pursued it by living only in congenial society and eating only dry bread, supplemented by a little cheese on feast days. His method proved successful in his case, but he was a valetudinarian, and most people would need something more vigorous. For most people, the pursuit of happiness, unless supplemented in various ways, is too abstract and theoretical to be adequate as a personal rule of life. But I think that whatever personal rule of life you may choose it should not, except in rare and heroic cases, be incompatible with happiness.

  There are a great many people who have all the material conditions of happiness, i.e. health and a sufficient income, and who, nevertheless, are profoundly unhappy. In such cases it would seem as if the fault must lie with a wrong theory as to how to live. In one sense, we may say that any theory as to how to live is wrong. We imagine ourselves more different from the animals than we are. Animals live on impulse, and are happy as long as external conditions are favorable. If you have a cat it will enjoy life if it has food and warmth and opportunities for an occasional night on the tiles. Your needs are more complex than those of your cat, but they still have their basis in instinct. In civilized societies, especially in English-speaking societies, this is too apt to be forgotten. People propose to themselves some one paramount objective, and restrain all impulses that do not minister to it. A businessman may be so anxious to grow rich that to this end he sacrifices health and private affections. When at last he has become rich, no pleasure remains to him except harrying other people by exhortations to imitate his noble example. Many rich ladies, although nature has not endowed them with any spontaneous pleasure in literature or art, decide to be thought cultured, and spend boring hours learning the right thing to say about fashionable new books that are written to give delight, not to afford opportunities for dusty snobbism.

  If you look around at the men and women whom you can call happy, you will see that they all have certain things in common. The most important of these things is an activity which at most gradually builds up something that you are glad to see coming into existence. Women who take an instinctive pleasure in their children can get this kind of satisfaction out of bringing up a family. Artists and authors and men of science get happiness in this way if their own work seems good to them. But there are many humbler forms of the same kind of pleasure. Many men who spend their working life in the city devote their weekends to voluntary and unremunerated toil in their gardens, and when the spring comes, they experience all the joys of having created beauty.

  The whole subject of happiness has, in my opinion, been treated too solemnly. It had been thought that man cannot be happy without a theory of life or a religion. Perhaps those who have been rendered unhappy by a bad theory may need a better theory to help them to recovery, just as you may need a tonic when you have been ill. But when things are normal a man should be healthy without a tonic and happy without a theory. It is the simple things that really matter. If a man delights in his wife and children, has success in work, and finds pleasure in the alternation of day and night, spring and autumn, he will be happy whatever his philosophy may be. If, on the other hand, he finds his wife fateful, his children's noise unendurable, and the office a nightmare; if in the daytime he longs for night, and at night sighs for the light of day, then what he needs is not a new philosophy but a new regimen——a different diet, or more exercise, or what not.

  Man is an animal, and his happiness depends on his physiology more than he likes to think. This is a humble conclusion, but I cannot make myself disbelieve it. Unhappy businessmen, I am convinced, would increase their happiness more by walking six miles every day than by any conceivable change of philosophy.

  道德家们常说:幸福靠追求是得不到的。只有用不明智的方式去追求才是这样。蒙特卡洛城的赌徒们追求金钱,但多数人却把钱输掉了,而另外一些追求金钱的办法却常常成功。追求幸福也是一样。如果你通过畅饮来追求幸福,那你就忘记了酒醉后的不适。埃毕丘鲁斯追求幸福的办法是只和志趣相投的人一起生活,只吃不涂黄油的面包,节日才加一点奶酪。他的办法对他来说是成功的,但他是个体弱多病的人,而多数人需要的是精力充沛。就多数人来说,除非你有别的补充办法,这样追求快乐就过于抽象和脱离实际,不宜作为个人的生活准则。不过,我觉得无论你选择什么样的生活准则,除了那些罕见的和英雄人物的例子外,都应该是和幸福相容的。

  很多人拥有获得幸福的全部物质条件,即健康的身体和丰足的收入,可是他们非常不快乐。就这种情况来说,似乎问题处在生活理论的错误上。从某种意义上讲,我们可以说任何关于生活的理论都是不正确的。我们和动物的区别并没有我们想象的那么大。动物是凭冲动生活的,只要客观条件有利,它们就会快乐。如果你有一只猫,它只要有东西吃,感到暖和,偶尔晚上得到机会去寻欢,它就会很快活。你的需要比你的猫要复杂一些,但还是以本能为基础的。在文明社会中,特别是在讲英语的社会中,这一点很容易被忘却。人们给自己定下一个最高的目标,对一切不利于实现这一目标的冲动都加以克制。生意人可能因为切望发财以致不惜牺牲健康和爱情。等他终于发了财,他除了苦苦劝人效法他的好榜样而搅得别人心烦外,并没有得到快乐。很多有钱的贵妇人,尽管自然并未赋予她们任何欣赏文学或艺术的兴趣,却决意要使别人认为她们是有教养的,于是他们花费很多烦人的时间学习怎样谈论那些流行的新书。这些书写出来是要给人以乐趣的,而不是要给人以附庸风雅的机会的。

  只要你观察一下周围那些你可称之为幸福的男男女女,就会看出他们都有某些共同之处。在这些共同之处中有一点是最重要的:那就是活动本身,它在大多数情况下本身就很有趣,而且可逐渐的使你的愿望得以实现。生性喜爱孩子的妇女,能够从抚养子女中得到这种满足。艺术家、作家和科学家如果对自己的工作感到满意,也能以同样的方式得到快乐。不过,还有很多是较低层次的快乐。许多在城里工作的人到了周末自愿地在自家的庭院里做无偿的劳动,春天来时,他们就可尽情享受自己创造的美景带来的快乐。

  在我看来,整个关于快乐的话题一向都被太严肃的对待过了。过去一直有这样的看法:如果没有一种生活的理论或者宗教信仰,人是不可能幸福的。也许那些由于理论不好才导致不快乐的人需要一种较好的理论帮助他们重新快活起来,就像你生过病需要吃补药一样。但是,正常情况下,一个人不吃补药也应当是健康的;没有理论也应当是幸福的。真正有关系的是一些简单的事情。如果一个男人喜爱他的妻子儿女,事业有成,而且无论白天黑夜,春去秋来,总是感到高兴,那么不管他的理论如何,都会是快乐的。反之,如果他讨厌自己的妻子,受不了孩子们的吵闹,而且害怕上班;如果他白天盼望夜晚,而到了晚上又巴望着天明,那么,他所需要的就不是一种新的理论,而是一种新的生活——改变饮食习惯,多锻炼身体等等。

  人是动物,他的幸福更多的时候取决于其生理状况而非思想状况。这是一个很庸俗的结论,然而我无法使自己怀疑它。我确信,不幸福的商人与其找到新的理论来使自己幸福,还不如每天步行六英里更见效。

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