Man is created for happiness

“In his prison shed Pierre had learnt, through his whole being rather than his intellect, through the process of living itself, that man was created for happiness, and happiness lies within, in the satisfaction of natural human needs, and any unhappiness arises from excess rather than deficiency. But now, during the last three weeks of the march [as a prisoner of war], he had learnt another new truth that brought great consolation – he had learnt that there is nothing in the world to be frightened of. He had learnt that just as there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, neither is there any situation in which he should be unhappy and not free. He had learnt that there is a limit to suffering and a limit to freedom, and those limits are never far away; that a man who has felt discomfort from a crumpled petal in his bed of roses has suffered just as much as he was suffering now, sleeping on the bare, damp earth, with one side freezing while the other side warms up; that when in former days he had squeezed into a pair of tight dancing shoes had has suffered just as much as he was suffering now, waking barefoot, his footwear having disintegrated long ago, with his feet covered with sores. He learnt that when he had married his wife by his own free will (so he had thought), he had been no freer than he was now when they locked him up in a stable for the night. Of all the things he identified as painful, though at the time he was hardly conscious of them, the worst thing was the state of his bare feet, which were blistered and scabby. (Horse-meat had a nice taste and did you good, the flavour of saltpetre from the gun powder used as a salt substitute was really rather nice, the weather was never very cold, it was always warm when they were marching during the daytime and at night they had campfires, and the lice that made a meal of him gave him a pleasant feeling of being kept warm.) His feet were the only things that hurt during those early days.

“Life is everything. Life is God. Everything is in flux and movement and this movement is God. And while there is life there is pleasure in being conscious of the Godhead. To love life is to love God. The hardest and the most blessed thing is to love this life even in suffering, innocent suffering.

“Karatayev! The memory [of his friend being shot dead] flashed into Pierre’s mind. And suddenly Pierre had a vision, like reality itself, of someone long forgotten, a gentle old teacher who had taught him geography in Switzerland. ‘Wait a minute,’ said the little old man. And he showed Pierre a globe. This globe was a living thing, a shimmering ball with no fixed dimensions. The entire surface of the ball consisted of drops closely compressed. And the drops were in constant movement and flux, sometimes dissolving from many into one, sometimes breaking down from one into many. Each drop was trying to spread out and take up as much space as possible, but all the others, wanting to do the same, squeezed it back, absorbing or merging into it.

“‘This is life,’ said the little old teacher.

“‘It’s so simple and clear,’ thought Pierre. ‘How could I have not known that before? God is in the middle, and each drop tries to expand and reflect Him on the largest possible scale. And it grows, gets absorbed and compressed, disappears from the surface, sinks down into the depths and bubbles up again. That’s what has happened to him, Karatayev: he has been absorbed and he’s disappeared.”

Tolstoy, War and Peace

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