To live well

‘Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.’ Thus concluded John Stuart Mill, the ninetheenth (sic) century British philosopher, after a period of profound unhappiness. He realized that to pursue happiness directly is a mistake. Rather happiness is a by-product of a life. It comes with the air we breath. Or as he also put it, happiness is like a crab: it approaches us sideways, not head on.

It is perhaps like the Olympic runner whose target is to get fit, improve their technique, gain experience, and perhaps win – from which happiness may follow, or not. What the runner doesn’t aim for is felicity. They aim to run well.

But if it is a mistake to aim for happiness as if it were a target, then what might we aim for? And, more darkly, what might get in the way?