Saturday, November 14, 2015
Review: Finding True Happiness
The subtitle of this book, “Satisfying Our Restless Hearts” is a concise summary of how and why we find true happiness. The dedication page says something similar in the words of Augustine: For Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
This is the first in a series of four books aimed at “those who feel themselves to be at an impasse -- not knowing whether to take their faith seriously or to let it slip away.” Spitzer intends to provide logical and scientific proofs for our yearnings: for happiness, for meaning in life, and for a relationship with God. These books are written to help all to deepen their faith. He begins the series with this book on happiness, since it is the key to most major decisions made in our lives.
Spitzer points out that our desire for happiness is a natural yearning, but it is also a choice. He identifies four levels of happiness, the first two (material and ego-comparative desires) are our self-seeking happiness desires: “I’ll make myself happy.” The latter two higher levels of happiness (contributive-empathetic and transcendental-spiritual desires) are a form of reflective happiness: “I’ll find happiness in making others and God happy.”
The first third of this book is focused on explaining these levels of happiness, how they are achieved, and problems which are often encountered in achieving them --- one of the key being our inability to move beyond the second level of happiness because so much in our culture supports the supposition that we must focus on our own happiness, and not that of others. To the degree that we DO focus on other’s happiness, it is often over our concerns about their “rights” to pursue their own happiness --- and no one better get in the way of anyone’s rights. Spitzer, with supportive studies, shows how distorted is that perception of life’s priorities.
The latter two-thirds of this book is focused on how we measure and achieve that transcendental level of happiness: having a relationship with God. This section starts with a chapter titled: “Is Level Three Enough?” Spitzer makes it clear, just achieving level three of happiness is NOT enough. But he also gives guidance on how someone wanting to grow in his friendship with God can do that. He gives you actions, steps, and ways to measure your progress toward the book’s final chapter: “The Assurance of Eternal Life with God.”
And along the way, Spitzer is reminding you: “These are steps to even higher levels of happiness; you will be glad you took them.” And I’m sure he’s right.
I liked this book, and the many scientific, philosophical, and theological studies he quotes and analyzes. The next book in this series has even more references to studies, proving the points he raises.