This is Part 5 of Bliss & Struggle blog series and applies the concept of bliss to our life (a life of bliss) in order to derive a universal human aim. You can visit the series home page for the full table of contents.
Michael: She was feeling a little lost so I gave her a self-help book to restore her confidence.Michael (Ted Danson), Janet (D'Arcy Carden)The Good Place Chapter 3 - Tahani Al-Jamil
Janet: Now I'm living my truth and creating my bliss.
We’ve come a long way, so this should be pretty straightforward, right? We know what is bliss, so a life of bliss should be easy to understand…
The thing is, the subjectivity that we have allowed within the definition of bliss opens infinite interpretations to what exactly a life of bliss entails. So again, at this stage, we can just roughly describe general common aspects about what we mean with that sort of life.
Summing up (while trying not to repeat myself too much):
1. A life of bliss is a conscious experience of being
If bliss is an attitude, then a life of bliss is a conscious experience of being through that attitude.
As such, a life of bliss doesn’t need to be narrowed to a process, a journey, a goal… It can be experienced in any way, at any moment.
2. A life of bliss responds to a framework of understanding
A life of bliss is a conscious experience of reality. As such, it’s based on a perception of:
- meaning (either pre-existent or subjectively assigned, and
- individually merited role/value/significance.
And both those perceptions are aligned and make perfect sense with how those individuals conceive themselves and their reality. In other words: A life of bliss is more than enjoyment; it makes sense. A life of bliss is meaningful and fulfilling. Click To Tweet
3. A life of bliss is unafraid of judgment
In the same way as bliss is untroubled and unafraid, a life of bliss is a life untroubled and unafraid of the ultimate test: the existential judgment (regardless of how that judgment is conceived by the individual).
Does that mean that if you live a life of bliss, then you won’t be afraid of death? Not really. A life of bliss is incompatible with an existential fear of death (I can stop living anytime and I won’t have any regrets), but it’s perfectly compatible with the will to live longer, to enjoy more time with the loved ones, or with the fear of the physical pain and suffering associated with death.
4. What about suffering?
And on that same note, a life of bliss is not (necessarily) a life without suffering. You may (and probably will) keep on suffering, but it won’t be about your Self, your meaning and your value. It won’t be existential suffering.
Now, if we turn that argument on it’s head, then we might be tempted to believe that suffering because of material deficits, like hunger, or lack of adequate housing, wouldn’t necessarily hamper the possibilities of a life of bliss.
“Isn’t that good news, little hungry orphan boy? You are as close to bliss as anyone else!”
But that is bullshit. The kind of bullshit that theoretically checks out, but that doesn’t translate to reality. Why? Because we cannot isolate types of suffering, and suffering derived from material deficits will almost certainly translate into some sort of existential struggle, in regards to one’s worth, role and existential meaning, or in regards to the fairness or unfairness of one’s situation within reality.
As such, it is better to understand a life of bliss as one without unnecessary or unjustified suffering (without suffering related to something that would threaten our perception of Self, worth and meaning within our understanding of reality).
Is a life of bliss meaningful enough to be used as a universal benchmark?
This is where we bring together everything that we’ve been discussing in the last few posts. If we all thrive in meaning and purpose, if we all live and we all die, if we generally recognize that somewhere within the time that we are born and the time we die there’s going to be some form of judgement (internal or external), then it seems pretty logical that we all should be inclined to:
- live life in a meaningful, purposeful way,
- live a life that we know will generate the best possible outcome on that judgment, whenever and wherever it takes place.
So yes, a life of bliss is indeed a human universal; and an incredibly powerful one. At the risk of sounding too cheesy, we could argue that: The aim to live a life of bliss is the ultimate expression of our evolutionary journey, from genes to culture. There is perhaps nothing more human than the aim to live a life of bliss. Click To Tweet Because… If we don’t aim to live a life of bliss, then what the hell are we doing? Everything else is accessory and superficial in comparison.
A tiny unresolved issue
And while that is true… (a life of bliss is a universally objective subjective aim), it is not really that practical. How can we prepare a project for a supposedly better common future when the meaning that I give to a life of bliss will certainly be different to yours? Sure, they will share plenty of commonalities (as we already described), but not near enough to bring us all together with a common action plan…
After all, for some humans a life of bliss will be one that guarantees access to heaven, for some others it might represent a life of meaning through dedication to others; but let’s not kid ourselves, it could also mean not-such wonderful things. Under certain frameworks of reality, a life of bliss could be a life dedicated to converting all heretics (and if that proves impossible, killing them), or a life dedicated to committing any other number and form of atrocities in the service of a higher power that seems to require them. That’s a bummer, right?
But don’t despair. Because even though the current objectively subjective definition is not enough to formulate a common plan (we’ll fix that later), it is more than enough to determine whether the way we live our life is conducive or not to bliss. Why?
Because while we might differ on the precise definition of a life of bliss, we have a number of shared commonalities without which, we know that a life of bliss is NOT possible. We’ve seen, for example, that a life of bliss can coexist with sadness and anger, but is incompatible with depression, unjustified struggle, meaninglessness, existential fear, anxiety and lack of sense of worth.
In other words, we have more than enough information to identify the ABSENCE OF BLISS (universally).
So instead of asking ourselves whether the life that we are living (the reality we live in) is conducive to bliss, we must question whether our context is detrimental or downright incompatible with our aim to live a life of bliss. And to answer that we just need to look around us:
What is our current experience of reality?