QOTD #5 - Happiness Defined - Augustine

October 2008 ยท 2 minute read

So my last post was slightly unfair and…wrong. I posted on an Augustine quote on happiness with out letting him define the word. I’ll give him that privilege now:

How then do I seek You, O Lord? For in seeking You, my God, it is happiness that I am seeking. I shall seek You, that my soul may live.

–Augustine’s Confessions Book X-XX

He also makes a distinction between happiness and joy:

Far be it, O Lord, far be it from the heart of Thy servant who makes this confession to Thee, far be it from me to think that I am happy for any or every joy that I may have. For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly but only to those who love Thee for Thy own sake, whose joy is Thyself. And this is happiness, to be joyful in Thee and for Thee and because of Thee, this and no other.

–Augustine’s Confessions Book X-XXII

To Augustine there are many things in life we can rejoice in. Not all of them are ultimately good and happiness is found by rejoicing in God.

What’s fascinating to me is that he identifies the idea of happiness as universal and grounded in memory. It is a thing we all seek after in various ways. And Augustine sees it as us chasing a memory.

I think it is safe to say this is a constant theme of Augustine’s writing and probably best summed up in his famous quote:

For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.