This time, I read the Dialogue on Happiness, or De Beata Vita. It is an discussion between Augustine and some of his friends. The transcript of the dialogue was sent to another friend who was not present. The theme of this dialogue is the acquisition of happiness, which is what everyone wants. For Augustine, one must be wise to be happy. But, as a Christian, he will say that the true wisdom is Christ. So, you already know how the dialogue will end. As far as possible, I try to interpret Augustine’s advice in a secular sense too, so that the advice I find can also serve those who are not Christians.
It is safer to trust the one who teaches than the one who commands.
Augustine says this in the introduction to the work, a letter that precedes the transcription of the dialogue, sent to the friend who was absent from the discussion. He says this while reflecting on his past as a Manichean and then as a skeptic. This advice is very valid today, particularly in Brazil and the United States, two countries where politics (who commands) and science (who teaches) are in open conflict, when it comes to the subject of covid-19. The boss does not always know what he is talking about and may be acting with the wrong motivations. But he who teaches knows what he is teaching and can prove that he is the one who is right. Of course, Augustine was not thinking about this problem (covid-19) when he wrote that it is safer to trust those who teach than those who command, but if he were alive today, he would probably use that phrase in that sense as well.
To be happy, you must have what you want, as long as it is good, and you must not fear losing it.
As Epicurus says, happiness is the state in which all needs are met. In a nutshell, happiness having nothing to complain about. When something is missing, the person cannot say that he is totally happy. On the other hand, those who have what they want can still fear losing what they have acquired. Now, those who fear are not happy, because they lack security in the things they have. Furthermore, if you want something bad and get something bad, you can expect to be harmed by what you wanted. Therefore, says Augustine, happiness lies in the fulfillment of good wishes that are not transitory. He will say that such happiness is the possession of God. But, for those who are not in tune with religion, this advice can be adapted to reflect the accomplishment of any good goal that cannot be undone later.
You can’t be happy being stupid. You have to be wise to be happy.
Identifying which desires are worth fulfilling requires wisdom. Even for transitory goods, it takes wisdom to maintain what you have acquired. Anyone who is stupid ends up unable to maintain the good goals that were achieved. Or he might achieve goals that are regarded as good, but that actually are not. Because of this, it is not possible to be happy without being wise.