Chapter Two Methods and Principles

This book is focused on the study of humanity’s fate, and it is committed to finding the answer to continued human survival and universal happiness. In order to ensure the rigorousness of scientific research, we must first determine the methods and principles of such research. These so-called methods and principles are what dictate the trajectory of our research and the criteria that research goals should be measured against. Without proper methods and principles, our research will lack direction and intent, and without correct methods and principles, the final conclusions will be wildly inaccurate or completely opposite to the truth.

 

SECTION ONE: HUMAN VALUES

The human values mentioned here refer to the needs and wishes of humans. Human values can be broken down into many categories, such as survival, happiness, pleasure, fulfillment, and so on. However, survival and happiness are humanity’s most important values; all other pursuits are subservient to them. When there is conflict with the needs of survival and happiness, all other pursuits must give way.

From another point of view, survival and happiness are also instinctive pursuits of mankind, and a most basic pursuit at that. Every human individual, every human group, and humanity as a whole are striving for survival and happiness. No normal person takes survival and happiness lightly.

We say that survival and happiness are the most important values of humanity, but that is only a general concept. There is a difference between the two. If we look at survival and happiness separately, although they both have indisputable importance to humanity, they are not equally important. Obviously, survival comes first and happiness comes second.

 

One: Human Survival Trumps All Else

 The meaning of survival is often defined in a very broad way. For example, sometimes bettering the quality of life is included in the context of survival, or survival can be equated with living. However, the survival we speak of here refers only to the existence of life—that is, to be alive. It is the more literal sense of the word “survival.” As members of the human race, we obviously stand on our own human perspective when inspecting and evaluating things. We pursue happiness, pleasure, health, conscience, and morality, but the beneficiary of all these pursuits are humans. Without life, no such pursuits would exist. People toil for life every day; farmers work in the field from dawn to dusk, workers manufacture products at all hours. Without life, they would not be able to accomplish any of this, and without life, they would not gain anything in return. Our scholars and politicians worry about the problems in society. They discuss and plan for environmental issues, resource shortages, and peace maneuvers. All of these carefully designed economic, cultural, and social constructions are carried out based on humanity. Without humans, none of these arrangements would have subjects to act on. These arrangements also rely on humans to complete them; without human existence, there would be no one to discuss, plan, and arrange things. Thus, we say that survival trumps all else. Survival is the number one, unparalleled human value. Nothing exists without survival.

Survival is also the number one instinct of mankind. When a person encounters harsh challenges, their desire to survive can propel them to do previously unimaginable things. A weak person can hold up things of incredible weight; a disabled person can suddenly stand. Countless real-life examples prove that when it comes to life and death, survival can make the most of a person’s potential and create remarkable miracles. This upholds the argument that survival is the most important human value.

The pursuit of survival can be extended from human individuals to human groups, or even all humanity. No matter if it is a country, a nation, a group like an organization, or the whole of mankind, self-survival always remains the goal above all else. If self-survival cannot be guaranteed, all other pursuits are empty. The carrier of all human pursuits is the survival of mankind itself.

 

Two: Happiness—the Eternal Human Pursuit

Happiness is an eternal human pursuit; that is a universal, fundamental truth. Happiness is the purpose of life; all human life is spent in the pursuit of happiness. Defining happiness is much more difficult than defining survival. What is happiness? How is it obtained? In people’s minds, these questions are often vague and confused. Everyone is pursuing happiness, and everyone wants to be happy, but few people clearly understand what they are pursuing in life. Even fewer people manage to hold on to that choice and maintain it relentlessly.

Happiness should be described as an emotion, a satisfaction, and peace of mind. Those with money, status, and honors may not necessarily be happy, while someone who is penniless could very well have happiness. The psychedelic pleasure brought on by drugs is not true happiness, but the mother who bears the pain of childbirth is truly happy. The reason for all this lies in the satisfaction and peace of the mind.

Happiness comes from hope; one cannot be happy without hope. If today is an improvement upon the day before, and tomorrow is expected to be even better than today, the soul will be happy and satisfied. Contrarily, if life deteriorates day by day, happiness will be elusive. Happiness is especially present in the comparative sense of hope. If living standards have been increasing quickly for the past decade, a sudden slowing down of such increase would interrupt peace of mind. Although today would still be better than yesterday, the increase rate has slowed down compared to before, making it hard to feel as happy as before. The same conditions may bring different levels of happiness under different circumstances. If your daily standard of living was ten dollars ten years ago, you might have been happy. But if your daily standard of living was still ten dollars ten years later in the exact same living environment, not only would you not be happy, but you might be very pained and disappointed. That is because ten years ago your life was good compared to those around you, but after ten years, everyone else’s living condition has improved with only you left behind, thus destroying your peace of mind.

True wealth is the absence of greed, so happiness is dependent upon satisfaction of the soul. Greedy people cannot be satisfied even with mountains of gold, while content people are happy with just bread and water. The reason the rich are not necessarily happy is that they wish for even more wealth. The poor may be able to obtain happiness if they have less lofty pursuits . . . perhaps basic food and clothing may suffice. A person’s happiness is largely determined by their desires; the easier it is to achieve such desires, the easier it will be to feel happy, and the opposite applies as well.

It may help to understand happiness by examining the psychological changes Chinese people have gone through in the past forty years. Forty years ago, we were in the Mao era. The entire country was poor, and in our isolated state we did not know the situation abroad, so we thought that was how the world should be. Therefore, people often found happiness even in their impoverished state. After China’s reform, the nation’s economy developed rapidly. As the overall standard of living improved, the gap between rich and poor widened as well, and the community became increasingly restless. Those who lagged behind development-wise were often unhappy and disappointed, even though their lives had improved. All they could see was that their neighbors had just replaced their bikes with cars when they themselves had just bought bikes; and their neighbors had upgraded their dwellings from fifty-square meters to one-hundred-square meters to one hundred-andfifty- square meters, but they themselves had just moved into a one-hundredsquare meter room.

Hence, peace of mind is produced in comparison. This comparison can be with the surrounding population and environment, with our own past, or with our desires. If an entrepreneur who had originally planned for the company’s earnings to reach ten million this year only achieved five million, he would certainly not be happy. But if he objectively analyzed his business at the beginning of the year and set the profit target at one million, he would undoubtedly be happy with a five million figure. With the same five million profits and the same entrepreneur, the feelings of happiness can be completely different. This is due to the change in satisfaction one experiences through comparison.

We often lament that happiness is cheap . . . so cheap that even a penniless man can experience it. But happiness also costs dearly, so much so that even billionaires cannot afford it. To be happy we must also feel secure. If we existed in constant terror over war and murder, it would be difficult to feel happy. A stable, peaceful society, on the other hand, provides better conditions for happiness. Happiness is not entirely dependent on the amount of wealth one possesses, but it does require some economic support. One who lives barely clothed, constantly hungry, and always cold can hardly feel happy. Happiness also depends on healthiness of body, as it is hard to feel happy when constantly suffering from illness. Happiness is inseparable from joy and pleasure, but they are not one and the same. Joy and pleasure are natural experiences, while happiness is the combination of natural experiences and reflections of the soul. Engaging in sexual activities with someone you do not love may produce a temporary pleasure, but it will not produce happiness; enjoying the stimulation of drugs and alcohol may be somewhat joyful, but not necessarily happy.

Happiness goes hand in hand with suffering. Without experiencing pain, one cannot understand true happiness, just as one who has never failed cannot understand the joys of victory. Only those who have suffered the destruction of war can truly understand the beauty of peace.

Suffering is happiness’ mirror. Only those who have suffered in the past cherish and find satisfaction in the present. The suffering of others can also be a mirror into one’s own happiness, for the suffering of others can reflect the happiness we possess. Happiness is continuously gained through an eternal pursuit. There is no absolute happiness, just as there is no eternal happiness. Life always has imperfections; there cannot be perfection without such imperfections.

Happiness is influenced by one’s outlook on life. Different life views produce different feelings of happiness. Terrorists see the killing of innocent civilians in retaliation against their political opponents as a kind of happiness; war maniacs view conquering the world, killing, and plundering from others as happiness; a noble person gains happiness from contributing to others; loving parents find happiness in caring for their children and watching them grow up happy and healthy; devoted children find happiness in caring for their elders.

Because of this, the pursuit of happiness can be guided. The ethical and moral aspects of life value are dictated by social history. Different times and cultural backgrounds form different life values and different views of happiness. In history, we can often see noble people sacrifice boldly for their ideals and feel deeply happy doing so. These ideals are a type of life value; they can dictate people’s feelings of happiness.

We can break down life pursuits into detailed and specific components such as food, clothing, residence, travel, wealth, status, achievements, familial affection, love, friendship, health, environment, and morality. At a cursory glance, satisfying any of the above pursuits can make some people feel happy while failing to do so for others. Just as one person can feel happiness from enjoying a good meal, another might only feel slightly happy from it, or no happiness at all. When measuring from the standpoint of all humanity, all of the above can be included in the scope of happiness, but none of them can be equated to happiness. Happiness includes all the above components, yet it is not the result of all of the above combined. It should be said that the pursuit of any abovementioned component is only one small portion of the happiness map.

 A person can have any number of pursuits, but only by pursuing their main goal in life and achieving correspondingly can they experience happiness. Achievements in all other pursuits can only produce joy, pleasure, or other similar emotions. For example, if a woman saw a happy family as the primary goal in her life, she would feel happy once she reaches this goal; perhaps buying an unflattering set of clothing might frustrate her sometimes, but it would not change the satisfaction and peace of mind deep within her. If a man deemed a successful career as the number one goal in his life, he may experience joy from a glass of good wine, but it would not be able to undo the sense of disappointment and misfortune brought on by professional failure.

The main goals in life can be adjusted and changed. For example, a woman who fails in the pursuit of a happy family may turn towards a successful career, and a man who fails in his pursuit of business may change his focus to a happy family. Similarly, the main goal of a person’s life before the age of thirty may be a high degree of education from university or a PhD, but after age thirty, one may adjust their life’s goal to more specific areas like business or politics. Once this person enters old age, their life focus may change to health and family harmony. No matter the type of goal, as long as it is the main goal during that stage of life, its pursuit may produce happiness or unhappiness, depending on the situation.

Further expanding the concept of happiness from individual to group and even all of humanity, the same goals exist and can be adjusted accordingly as well. A nation may wish to be respected by other nations, and a country may want to dominate the world. To them, respect can produce national pride, and world domination can acquire additional wealth. If this nation or this country cannot achieve their goals, they may turn to simpler goals like peaceful coexistence, or not being invaded or occupied by other countries. Therefore, from the perspective and interests of all mankind, we cannot only consider whether humans can survive and reproduce endlessly, but we must also consider whether our generation and future generations can exist in peace and prosperity. Whether on an individual level, a group level, or the level of all mankind, the pursuit of happiness is eternal and innate.

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