Idea of Happiness
Maybe our greatest misfortune was to discover the
idea of happiness. As Friedrich Nietzsche said scornfully
about modern man: "He discovered happiness!"
spoken, he is right. It seems that the idea of happiness
has only recently been developed
and is only in our western culture so prominently
present. The 18th century inaugurated
a systematic flow of writings about happiness. We
placed happiness in front of us, and so close that
it is within our reach and so we want to reach it
(what is logical). The age-old nostalgia for the
lost paradise has taken in our culture a unique and
strange turn, the expectation that the original paradise
will be found back in the future.
All cultures had
their myth of paradise; I call it their myth of Arcadia.
It tells that humans had to leave paradise or were
expelled out of it.
This implied the desire to return to it, the will
to find it back (an unavoidable human dream?). But
the idea that the paradise is situated behind us
implied also a sense of impossibility. And this contains
I donít know what happiness is. I have
no definition of it. But I can presume that happiness
something to do with to deny oneself something, renounce something.
It could be that resignation, acquiescence is an
essential part of happiness. The unlimited doesnít
necessarily make happy, but the refusal of the offer
sometimes does. And letís be honest. Havenít we all
once in a while the urge to refuse all things, to
throw everything overboard, to dump our TV, mobile
telephone, computer, laptop and to go on living on
a desert island with a few good friends? There is
something very attractive in this total refusal,
and that says something.
An intuition of this we all
experienced (a real experience!)
some day in the form of a short-lived, vague, transitory
feeling of happiness, for instance when on a warm,
sunny summer day we sat upon a hilltop and contemplated
a deserted landscape, met with the immutability and
didnít want anything more. At such a rare moment,
we are suddenly caught by an unspeakable, restful,
soothing feeling of contentment with the world, of
alliance, of harmony. This happiness, in which rather
absence and emptiness play a part, is the opposite
of the happiness of product development as I described
it. The fully realised presence of all possibilities
in the world (put in prospect by product designers)
might be the greatest obstacle to happiness. The
high-semiotic and virtual products bear enmity to
happiness, in spite of their pretensions.
have always made a distinction between privileged,
short, fragile, rare experiences of happiness
and a fundamental mood of happiness. Deep happiness
has something to do with a profound contentment.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein writes in 1916
in his "Tagebücher", his diaries: "Um
glücklich zu leben muss ich in Übereinstimmung
sein mit der Welt. Und dies heißt ja Ďglücklich
seiní." (To live happily, I must be in agreement
with the world, and this means Ďto be happyí).
For him, to be in harmony with the world is to renounce
the ambition to manage the world. It is not the artificial,
moulded reality, but an acceptance of the reality
as it presents itself, inclusively the vicissitudes
of life and the fact to die.
It is certainly not forbidden
to dream of happiness. Living is perhaps even impossible
without this dream.
Aristotle already called "eudaimonia" (happiness)
the goal of human life. But the increasing confusion
of dream and reality in the actual product development
is a dubious, dishonest case. Itís disastrous that
the dream of happiness has been fastened to the consumption
of material and immaterial goods: as well the high-semiotic
as the virtual products are carried by a deep-human
dream, a promise of happiness. That is the tenacious,
indestructible motor that drives and propels the
future trend in product development. And this motor
wonít come soon to a standstill. So I predict product
development a great future. But I donít predict a
bright future to human happiness.