“Others give you the appearance of happiness, but I give you the reality.” (Socrates, Apology)
What is the difference between seeming to be happy and actually being so? How can it be that I am not actually happy when I think I am? Does this correspond with my own experience? And if it does, what does Socrates offer in place of the “appearance of happiness”? What good to me is Socrates’ dictum that the “unexamined life” is not worth living? Is that dictum not some sort of self-torture? I certainly acknowledge that I often feel that there is something lacking in my life, that there should be something more in the daily round of my activities. But what is this “something more”? What for me is happiness? It is sustained activity in accordance with my basic being. What do I mean by “basic being”? Though there are many possible answers, the one that comes to me again and again is that my “basic being” is ethical – that is, I want most deeply to be a good human being. I believe no harm can come to me if I am actively living in accordance with my own ethical intuitions. I don’t mean that I would not suffer but that whatever suffering I experience would not be able to touch me. The happiness I experience when I do live “from the inside out,” acting out of that ethical core, makes me inviolable.. Not even death can harm me. So what about what Socrates offers, the examined life? Is that not precisely what I am doing here and now in this journal entry. It is. His dictum recalls me to myself, my basic being, my ethical core.