What makes a Stoic happy? Preconceptions of Stoicism as emotionless and stark miss the deeper sense of well-being that Marcus Aurelius said “depends on the quality of your thoughts.” It is happiness that comes from knowing what we can control and what matters most in our lives.
The many forms of happiness, and common threads between them, are explored in this issue’s feature that queries Washington State University experts in philosophy, history, psychology, and more. From the joy of self-actualization to the fleeting pleasures of material items, the last couple of years in the pandemic have been a time for us to reflect on what makes us truly happy.
People have often found their bliss through the creative process. Making art in the physical world brings great satisfaction to WSU art professors Io Palmer and Harrison Higgs, as it does for many of us. Whether you’re growing plants like a unique Latah squash or making graphic novels and movies like Rantz Hoseley, the sense of accomplishment lingers.
That’s not to say that basic pleasures of food should be ignored. I’m one of the many people who love Cougar Gold, WSU honey, and the cornucopia of other delicious foods from Washington State.
Visits to Ferdinand’s for ice cream were definitely a wonderful memory for many Cougs. We asked alumni, faculty, and others to send in fond remembrances of life at WSU, and this issue’s lead story shares those happy times from our readers.
I connected with many of the stories of WSU life from my own time as a student and then staff member. One particular memory sticks out: a fine morning in early October of my first year, with the sun streaming into a Bryan Hall classroom during Philosophy 101 with professor Don Bishop. He made us think and grapple with new ideas. After class that day, I sat on the Holland Library lawn with friends and took in the blue sky.
I was first introduced to Aurelius in that class, and his quote remains meaningful: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”