Meaning vs. Happiness

Mr. Linderman: There comes a time when a man has to ask himself whether he wants a life of happiness or a life of meaning.

Nathan Petrelli: I’d like to have both.

Mr. Linderman: Can’t be done. Two very different paths. To be truly happy a man must live absolutely in the present. No thought of what has gone before and no thought of what lies ahead . . . but a for a life of meaning, a man is condemned to wallow in the past and obsess about the future.

Heroes, Season 1 Episode 18 (1.18): “Parasite”

Nathan Petrelli vs. Linderman - Heroes, Season 1

Can you have it all? I’ve heard it said that hell is the person you are meeting the person you had the potential to become. That is, of course, presuming you could have become a better person than you are. Makes one wonder whether the only way to be truly happy and have a life of significance is by looking at it from the end of life. After all, if there’s not much to obsess about in the future, then reflection upon the past is something we’ll desire to do, if we’ve led a life worthy of reviewing. This is, of course, accepting the premise that in order to look at the past and future we must both wallow and obsess, respectively. But can we truly be happy without reflection? And can we truly reflect upon a life without happiness and call it meaningful?

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