A Song Aristotle and Aquinas Could Approve

"Happiness"

There’s a light I see but it’s far in the distance.

While the pop-rock beat might not exactly be music to their ears (though it is to ours), we’re sure that the lyrics of NEEDTOBREATHE’s latest release “Happiness” would strike a chord with the theologian Thomas Aquinas and his philosopher-predecessor Aristotle.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle realized that every person seeks one final goal or end in life. This end, he said, is happiness. We all want to be happy. And while we may have many other goals in our life, happiness encompasses all of them.

Now, we have two problems here:

First, some people disagree with Aristotle: It seems that we have a lot of different things in our lives that are goals in their own right, like our health, or our job, or having a family. This is true. But when these goals come into conflict, our ultimate goal surfaces. For example, what happens when my job cuts into my family time? I’m going to have to choose one over the other, and that decision is going to be based on what I think will ultimately make me the happiest.

And this brings us to the second problem: What is happiness? Aristotle recognized this problem: there are many opinions about what happiness is, thus some people spend their life seeking money or fame or pleasure.

The philosopher gave another proposal: The good life, the one that will make me the happiest, is the virtuous life. Thomas Aquinas followed suit taking up much of Aristotle’s philosophy while adding in what Christ revealed to us: our ultimate happiness consists in union with God.

These ideas—competing goals in life and man’s pursuit of happiness—are what NEEDTOBREATHE’s “Happiness” sets out to address. “In this band, we’ve been forced to make countless decisions about our schedules or plans that definitely mean a sacrifice,” lead singer Bear Rinehart reveals in an interview. “And that can be tough. But I think this song and my life have shown me that the people who really do love you want you to pursue your passions and the things that God wants you to do.”

The song encourages us to stop and ask ourselves, What is it all for? What am I doing and is it really going to make me happy? Is it really going to lead me to God? These are important questions. As another ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

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Libby Reichert