This is a big subject and in one post it can only just be touched on. I wanted to write about it today because I was looking at an Art book that mentioned John Ruskin, the one that was elected first Slade professor of Art at Oxford in 1870. John Ruskin (1819 -1900) grew up with great affection for Romantic literature, strong political views and a love of nature. He wrote this lovely reflection that tells us what he thinks men need to be happy. Looking at his personal life it seems he had lots of reasons to be unhappy, like his love life not being successful and his strong opinions upsetting people, but he must have got a lot of joy from the nature around him. Lots of studies are done about what makes people happy and Philosophers have been thinking about it forever. I suppose we all know what makes us happy or unhappy and everyone has their personal list. I asked someone today who has had a very turbulent life what he thinks is the secret to his happiness, because in spite of his disastrous start in life he oozes goodwill to all men and helps so many people. He said that he never lets negative feelings take hold in him, he consciously pushes them away and he said he often thinks of Judah as a great example of what can happen if you betray someone. He told me that he follows this sound advice from Confucius, Eat, sleep and lots of cuddles... in that order. Back to John Ruskin and his opinion on happiness.
All real and wholesome enjoyments possible to man have been just as possible to him, since first he was made of the earth, as they are now: and they are possible to him chiefly in peace. To watch the corn grow, and the blossoms set, to draw hard breath over ploughshare or spade, to read, to think, to love, to hope, to pray - these are the things that make men happy.