If someone absolutely guaranteed you a truly good life, would you take it?
But a truly good life is one in which you absolutely delight in doing good things all the time—and actually can do them all the time. It’s one where you’re always in a state of profound peace and true tranquility, even if things get really bad. Whatever happens, you’re always becoming more and more noble and loving every minute of it. You’re addicted to these good things and not to stuff which takes you down or wastes your time. Imagine if even your greatest pleasures in life were the very things that are good for you as well as for the people and things around you. What if having a good time with friends and loved ones, as well as your work and hobbies, could all be an intrinsic part of that exciting good you would so enjoy doing?
You may say you’ve already got that since you have a healthy and fun social life, enjoy your job, have some spirituality in your life and even volunteer in your free time. This description of being “happy” is common in wealthy western countries where, nonetheless, growing depression rates are higher than at any time or place in history and suicide deaths surpass cancer and heart disease combined for people aged 18-45.
The very way you define a “good life”may be why the emptiness, fear and sorrow continue lurking behind the scenes.
Consider the possibility that your life is too compartmentalized with no lasting, unifying feature. If you say that feature is you’re living for yourself and your own desires, then recall that no pleasure lasts and no person can escape from getting old and dying. If the inevitable decline and destruction of you is looming, then having fun and being productive can create a fantasy which ignores the reality that it’s all pointless in the end. How can one get any real satisfaction or sense of meaning from life when every moment you’re getting closer to the tragic finale?
All creation—animals, plants, rocks, etc.—are always doing exactly what they were meant to do. Even if they could, they would not ask what is the good life or “How can I really be happy?” But we, on the other hand, have questions about who we are, what we’re supposed to be doing and are not really happy in life because we can’t find solutions to such issues. Unlike animals, we are able to ignore instinct and have lost touch with our natural function.
(Our purpose cannot be to just multiply for that would only be a means by which humanity could fulfill its function—not an end in itself.)
Everyone can admit that the greatest pleasures in life are the ones that last longest even if they are not as intensely felt. They continue to provide good feelings for prolonged periods or even permanently (for example, having good children). But is it possible to enjoy genuine, lasting pleasures as well as the shorter, physically oriented ones (in a fulfilling yet balanced way) without causing harm to ourselves, to others, or draining society and the environment? And can we do so in a way that actually makes our lives continuously better and more meaningful?
Well, for a life to be filled with such goodness, happiness and pleasure it would have to be related to the eternal. Life, death and eternity would all be an interrelated, unified experience.
Only then would there be no more emptiness because every moment would have eternal meaning. Only then would there be no deep sorrow because nothing would ever be truly lost. And only then would there be no fear of death for it would be no different than life—just a passing phase within our eternal experience.
Deep inside this is what we all long to make real in our existence. Otherwise we can never make sense of things in life because meaning in life has to come from something other than life (and the universe in which it takes place), something outside of life; something beyond, transcending.
Even if difficulties confronted us in such a good life, the struggle itself would always have a positive purpose and thus goodness in the long term—like struggling for a degree to get better pay. Once life had a purpose, we’d know exactly what to do all the time, either enjoying every minute of life or, in tough times, being able to get through in a state of tranquility, knowing full well that it would only lead to better things and greater happiness inevitably.
This good life will provide peace and tranquility even in the difficult moments. You will not only be granted divine assistance and peace in your heart to get through it better than others, but finally be given truly comforting insight into how such trials are actually to your benefit in this phase of life and throughout your journey along the continuous and straight path.
And such a life does come naturally to us. You just have to get back in touch with it.
“This is the innate nature which God instilled in mankind…though most people do not realize it.” (Quran 30:30)
So let yourself become who you really are! Such a life doesn’t require one to essentially give up any category of the joys of this life (except crime, of course). One enjoys attaining the highest level of nobility a person can achieve and being an example for others to emulate so they too can share in what is truly good and happy.
Deep inside this is what every person really wants; it is who we were created to be. It was never meant to be for just religious introverts and people in monasteries:
“But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them….” (Quran 57:27)
This path of goodness is what we were all made to traverse originally by God.
Everyone wants to be virtuous, spiritual, wise, honorable, courageous, tranquil with the universe and the higher order, a source of inspiration for others and a means for their assistance in a lasting way. We were all meant to be such heroes and that’s why we continuously yearn for it.
We want the beauty God gave us physically and materially to be a reflection of who we truly are inside. We want meaningful success and, for many, blessings with guidance from the Supreme Being.
All these are granted to the one who dedicates their life to fulfilling their purpose for their Maker, focusing on the totality of their path in this life and beyond. Then God takes care of the rest:
…God puts his richness in his heart, makes his affairs together for him and gives to him the world [even] while it is not desirable to him….”–Prophet Muhammad (Tirmidhi, saheeh)
Imagine! You are given the world even though you are beyond needing it! It cannot oppress you anymore. It is no longer your master; you have mastered it.
So seek happiness and the good life through the straight and continuous path of God. On it you are promised peace and enlightenment:
“…God guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path.” (Quran 5:16)
You will gain the good you seek, its lasting joys and bounties which all the wealth in the world could never surpass:
“Say, ‘In the bounty of God and in His mercy—in that let them rejoice; it is better than what(the wealth) they amass.’” (Yoonus 57-58)