According to Russell, the present age is full of tension, complexities and commotion, which have made the men worried. The present age is the age of competition. Competition to gain more and more money and luxuries of life has made the men extremely busy and they have no, or a little time for the other affairs of life. This is also the major cause of disintegration of the family system. Modern age has made ostentation a necessary evil. Man is suffering from ills like vanity, status-consciousness, pomp and show, pursuit of some luxuries and to flaunt them. The competition of vanity and ostentation has engendered a constant tension which is a major cause of unhappiness.
Apart from these social factors, there are some psychological causes, which have deprived the modern men of their contentment. These factors, for the most part, are concerned with individual psychology. Among these factors is the sense of self-importance, self-worship, narcissism, a misconception of other people’s attitude, and envy. These factors have made life flat, dry and barren. Though the above-mentioned factors are deeply ingrained in men’s nature and their obnoxious results are evident in the present day hectic and worried life, yet Russell is not pessimistic about life. There are rays of hope and optimism and Russell is of the view that life can be made full of joys and pleasure if we are able to sort out such problems.
Russell thinks that there are certain psychological aspects of life, which can bring happiness if they are put into constructive and positive use. Actually these psychological aspects find their origin in biological factors. These are inseparable from our life and always force us to seek happiness.
Zest is the basic characteristic of human nature, which keeps the man tuned to life and maintains his interest and diligence in life. If man loses his zest, the life becomes dull and flat for him. But one can keep one’s zest alive if he involves himself in the world and does not dissociate himself from it. For this purpose one has to broaden his vision, boost his morale and enlarge his courage. The people, who have zest for life, do not shut their eyes from even horrible things. They even find out the enjoyable aspects of calamities like earthquakes, floods, shipwrecks and conflagration. But, according to Russell, people have lost their zest in life due to a check on liberty. Some restrictions are must to keep life in control, but they should be proper and bearable. Apart from some restrictions, a moderate society must provide the individuals to keep their zest alive, otherwise, men and woman will become dispirited and indifferent to life.
Lack of affection is another cause, which has debilitated the people’s zest. Affection is a natural human instinct, which seeks satisfaction. Lack of affection is a feeling, arising in man that he is not loved. If this feeling persists for long, it leads to aversion to society.
Russell attributes the lack of affection to the deprivation of parental love or over confidence. Parental love nourishes all the healthy feature of human instinct. If a child gains a little or no love from parents it leaves a bad effect on his character. Similarly lack of confidence results in the same way. A constant feeling of lack affection magnifies a person’s antipathy to society and he becomes revengeful. His revengeful nature then makes him to exhibit his horrible detrimental psychological reaction. This negative attitude can be controlled if we put our thinking on the path of realism. The individual feeling of lack of affection gives way to pessimism and melancholy and leaves one always thinking over the insoluble problems as life and death. So it is a negative attitude that makes life miserable. It is to be understood that in general, love is always reciprocated with love and hatred with hatred. If you want to be loved by others than you must fill you bosom with love and dispense love to others.
The next important factor, largely considered as the source of true happiness is the ‘Family.’ Russell deplores the fact this institution (family) has badly been disorganized in the modern age. The causes of this disorganization are numerous among which, ‘woman’ is most prominent. Here Russell reaches to a dilemma, leaving his readers confused. If woman is financially independent, it will make the family happy financially. But an employed woman may have to leave her job when she gets married to enjoy a good domestic and married life. Now, a woman dependant on her husband financially may soothe her marital life but financial problems will arise to sour it again.
Again the introduction of democratic system has brought a certain change in the relationship of siblings with parents. In the modern democratic system, children are not bound to respect their parents. The popularization of psycho-analytic literature has also loosened the ties of family relations. The popularization of the concept of Oedpus Complex has brought repulsion towards family life. It has badly effects both parents and children. Russell is of the view that this obnoxious misperception must be erased from the minds and a healthy sex education should be imparted to the children. He gives praise to Freud when he quotes him as saying that the affection of a mother to her children is different from the sexual love. It is pity that this positive and scientific aspect of Freud’s views could not gain much popularity in masses. To prove the authenticity of this point of Freud’s psychology, Russell given an example: he writes that if your friend or beloved looses his or her charm, your love diminishes for her or him. But in the case of parents it is otherwise. Whatsoever the conditions may be, your parents love you selflessly for no want or advantage. The love of parents is therefore always pure, devout, altruistic and natural. Russell sums up that sound family relations make sound character and sound character of the individuals constitutes a sound society.
If we go on working ceaselessly, fatigue overcomes us causing unhappiness. On the other if leisure time continues, boredom and monotony ensues from it. So work is also another source of happiness, if it does not exceed from certain limit. Most of the affluent people, who have nothing to do, are faced with boredom. So they get themselves busy in hunting or exploring. It must be clear that work does not connote professional work. Rather, it is an engagement in something whether it is hobby or recreation. Russell believes that the exercise of one’s skill and using it for some constructive purpose is the chief source of happiness. When a person acquires a skill, he enjoys exercising it until it becomes for him a matter of course. However it depends upon the character and tendency of the man how he uses it. Some people have constructive tendency and others have the destructive. The man with a destructive tendency always uses his skill for negative causes and becomes detrimental to society. Those who use their skill to cool the chaos and sort out the surging problems render bone-fide service to society. Russell further stresses on the point that life must be taken as a continuous struggle, a continuous process, which is purposeful.
Another source of happiness is taking interest in something beyond one’s profession work. It generally regarded as a hobby. Such an impersonal interest makes a person to divert his attention from his tedious monotonous work and be absorbed in some activity, which is not professional. The zeal and zest which one attaches to his profession is something of different nature than the interest which one takes in his hobby. Professional work involves a certain kind of burden and devotion while a hobby has an interest and attraction, which alleviates the burden of mind and keeps a person for sometime in a world, which is full of pleasure and amusement. In Russell’s view impersonal interests are necessary for relief from tedium of personal work. Moreover, impersonal interests open news ways to thoughts and bring a person out of the prison of his routinely work. They exercise of something a new refreshes one’s mind and soothes it a lot. If one keeps confined to our personal interest, he develops the habit of fanaticism and narrow mindedness. It is essential to widen the circle of our activities and look for a new horizon to view life differently. In this way impersonal interests make our life spirited and enjoyable.
Again it helps sort out our financial and family problems. If we adopt the same attitude and spare some time for impersonal interests, it will better enable us to ponder over them and hit upon some solution. It also enables us to face any misfortune as a course, and it is not so difficult if we broaden our vision and our impersonal interests.
Effort and resignation are other major sources of happiness. Effort makes one struggle for something and when it is got, the man gains happiness. The movement and activity of world owes to effort. Resignation means to be patient and contented on what has been got. Effort when exceeds from certain limits becomes a source of trouble. Similarly resignation, if taken in wrong sense makes life dull and unattractive. Success is not a windfall, dropped in the lap of man. It calls for effort and struggle. However effort is also related to the climatic conditions. An Indian beggar will easily extend his bowl for alms to passer-bye, but in
Europe where climate is fairly cold a beggar will not resort to such a practice. However, there are limitations of efforts. According to Russell, a wise man will not waste his energies and time on something, which is impossible. Nor he ventures into something, which is extremely hard to shatter his body and mind. Effort is made in the light of wisdom and beyond wisdom it becomes a mania.
Resignation, according to Russell, has two connotations. First it is despair, and second, it is unconquerable hope. If one is defeated again and again in life and alienates from all the affairs with utmost hopelessness, it is nothing but resignation. This kind of resignation is negative. Such people cannot face the challenges of life and they are overcome with a death-like disappointment. On the other hand someone’s firm belief in his success and determination also grant him resignation. But it is his utmost pessimism, which makes him nonchalant and indifferent to others and this is the positive resignation. A man with positive resignation will not loose heart even if he is he faced with worst kind defeat, disease or accident. According to Russell, the secret of happiness is enclosed in effort and resignation at the same time. But his effort and struggle must be consistent with one’s ability and power. Effort beyond his power will be fruitless and he will have to adopt resignation.
Unlike Mr. Krutch, Russell is of the view that happiness is not impossible in this world. He rejects Mr. Krutch’s view that happiness is impossible in this world. He says that if a person has got wealth, health, food and shelter, there is no question of his being unhappy. Despite having got all these things, an unhappy person is surely a psychiatric case. Again if we accept the facts and overcome the ills like, self-absorption, envy, competition and sense of sins, we can make our life happy. Again he condemns the habit of self-absorption and narcissism, which make us confined to our self. If a man wants to be happy he must come out the shell of his self and enter practically in the world. He must involve himself in the interests and attractions of this world. He should not live like a flower in the garden of life, rather, like fragrance he should move and spread in this garden. The world is full of beauties, but it depends on the onlooker to explore these beauties. And it is possible if he dives deep into this river and bring out the pearl of happiness with his own effort. Being practical, he can easily overcome his nasty passions like sense of sin, self-pity, and fear to become happy.
Russell particularly regards self-absorption as the enemy of human happiness. If it goes to extreme, it will make us greatly selfish. But selfishness has also its good features. Selfishness, to limited extent, keeps a person tuned to life. But if it crosses a certain limit it makes a person greedy and self-centered.
To sum up: Through his interest in the outside world a man can become a true citizen, with true happiness and pleasure of life.