A Guidebook On How To Live Your Life
June 9, 2015
By REY FLORES
Finding True Happiness — Satisfying Our Restless Hearts by Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.
“For thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee” — St. Augustine.
Summertime is almost here and one of the best things about the season is finding a good book and either taking it to the beach with you, reading it on a plane as you travel, or enjoying it while relaxing on a hammock in your backyard.
This latest offering from Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, Ph.D., is titled Finding True Happiness — Satisfying Our Restless Hearts, and it is not a tome for the timid. This book may have a light and breezy title — but, like the canary shown on the cover, resting on some thorny branches — the book will cover some thorny issues.
In the first chapter we learn about the different types of desires that we as human beings have. There are first and foremost the kinds of desires that are external, give us pleasure, and are materialistic. The second kind of desire is more ego-comparative, and the third kind is contributive-empathetic.
We are then invited by the author to examine what it is that may make us happy, choosing those things and then determining how to go about attaining that type of happiness, once we better understand it. Subsequent chapters up the ante by asking questions on whether we are transcendent, challenging us to escape our personal hell and what we see in others that shapes how we determine our own happiness.
As far as self-help guides go, I am no fan of them, especially if they are of a secular nature, but what makes this book different is that it comes at you from a Catholic perspective. Also, because a Catholic priest wrote the book, it gave that much more value to me as a reader.
I was especially moved by Fr. Spitzer’s humble words as he wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that I would not have had an explicit awareness of the transcendent, let alone spiritual life, were it not for the Catholic Church, and so I feel a deep gratitude, not only to the people who taught me and guided me, but also to the Church Tradition, which began with Jesus Christ.”
It is with that same spirit of love and zeal for the faith that Fr. Spitzer researched and wrote this book and it shines through in every page and in every word.
Trying to explain an intense book like this is like trying to describe an intense trip to a foreign land, where one has to experience it in order to best understand it, appreciate it, and benefit from it.
You will want to decide whom you should give this book to after you’re done reading it.
The philosophical, psychological, and theological systems of happiness are well researched and explored, so expect to find out quite a bit about yourself and how you see the world when reading this book. Consider it a practical guidebook and an instruction manual on how to live your life as God meant for you to live it, in full happiness in His truth.
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Rey Flores is a Catholic writer and speaker.
What’s Your Happiness Level?
May 29, 2015
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
For: intercollegiatereview.com and Patheos.com
Fr. Robert Spitzer’s new volume Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence) is excellent.
I get umpteen books for review and my policy is, “If the book sits there and I have a desire (not a duty) to read it, then it makes the cut and I’ll read and review it) This is one book that did. I hope to write a more complete review when I’m finished, but one of the great insights comes in the opening chapters in which Fr Spitzer discusses the four levels of human need and therefore happiness.
He gives the four levels different names, but I’ll call them 1.) Animal 2.) Egotistical 3.) Altruistic 4.) Transcendent
The first level which I call “Animal” simply refers to our primal physical needs. We need food. We need drink. We need sex. We need shelter. We need power. We need warmth. The thing we need for survival bring us a certain level of satisfaction and happiness, but because we are more than animals we have greater needs and desires.
The second level is very interesting. Fr Spitzer points out how this level of need develops in later childhood and adolescence. He calls it “ego-comparitive”. This is the need to achieve and the need to gain self esteem not only through achieving, but through winning and not only through winning, but by defeating others. We gain self esteem not only through accomplishment on its own, but by being better than someone else. Thus in Middle School and High School the emphasis on sports, academic awards, artistic achievement and other awards becomes important to us. We gain satisfaction by being better.
This is okay in middle school and high school. In fact, it’s relatively healthy. The problem is, a vast number of us never move on from that. We continue to gain whatever self esteem, satisfaction and happiness that we glean from life through competition of some sort. In fact, we spend an enormous amount of our time, money and effort finding new ways of being better than others. This is where this natural desire and natural quest for happiness becomes pitifully inadequate.
We don’t really care about the new house, but we want it because it is in a better neighborhood. We don’t really care about the new job promotion, in fact we don’t actually want more work and responsibility but we seek it for the status and what is status unless I can be better than another person. We hate playing golf, but we join the country club because it makes us feel better than other folks. And so on and so forth…
The third level of desire and happiness I call “altruistic”–in which we grow up a little, move from adolescence and begin to realize that we can be even more happy once we are in a lasting relationship in which we can give to others and enter into a deep level of happiness and contentedness. This should usually take place within marriage and family life in a natural way, but it also happens as we find a vocation and move into a sphere of work which is giving in some way and serving in some way. It can also happen as we get involved in organizations, volunteering and being involved with others for the betterment of someone other than ourself.
The fourth level of desire and happiness is “transcendent”. This is when we really openly find God and give ourselves to him in simple worship, thanks and a relationship of trusting love. This is something that is attained through devotion, discipline and self sacrifice. We achieve this level to the proportion which we are willing to sacrifice the first two levels. We put aside some of the simple animal needs and we put aside the need to be better than others to gain our self esteem. At this point we begin to enter a truly transcendent and eternal experience of happiness.
As a pastor what frustrates me most is that our whole religion is a means to an end. It is designed to give us the tools to reach first the third level and then that ultimate level of happiness.
But too often what we do is exactly the opposite!
We use our religion to feed our lust for level number two.
You see how it works, “We’re involved in the soup kitchen once a month!” we brag and thus use our service to be better than others.
“We’re traditionalist Catholics….” which means we’re better than all those other Novus Ordo types.
“We’re progressive Catholics…marching forward to bring the church in to a bright and wonderful future.” Sure. What you’re really doing is saying how much better you are than all those stick in the mud, dangerous and nasty conservatives.
It’s endless. We go to church to show off. We do our service to show off. We give our money to show off. We send our kids to Catholic school (or not) to show off.
And it gets worse because this one up manship can also work in reverse: “We’re not pious like those folks over there who show off by going to Mass every week. We’re just ordinary folk!”
I’ll stop ranting.
The question is “What is Your Happiness Level?”
Are you sincerely seeking to move beyond the adolescent needs to be better than everyone else?
Are you sincerely seeking to serve others with simplicity, joy and love?
Are you sincerely seeking the path to ultimate transcendent happiness?
If not, why not?
HAPPINESS WITH GOD AND SELF
October 30, 2015
By Fr. Timothy Perry
This last review, the latest, is written by an Anglican Priest who gives it two thumbs up and is looking forward to the follow on editions. Check it out here.