Happiness

I don’t want to be happy.

Or more accurately I want to stop striving to be happy. I have nothing against being happy and I’m sure I’ll be happy many times in my life. But there’s this persistent lie we’re told and often believe in, especially in the good ol’ USA. That the key to life is happiness. Hell it’s in our Bill of Rights that all men are endowed with three inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We are going to conveniently forgot that this statement was the biggest crock of shit ever considering we were systematically eradicating the indigenous population, still had an entire race of people enslaved, and didn’t consider white women autonomous people among other issues; my point is it’s right there “pursuit of happiness”.

And that’s just it. The pursuit of happiness is the right, not happiness. You can’t guarantee happiness because you can’t always be happy. I’m not even talking about the tragedies that touch lives or even the more mundane frustrations and irritations that make up daily life. Happiness is fleeting by nature so there is no end game where you are just happy all the time. But you wouldn’t know that looking at USAmerican culture.

A quick google search will turn up a library’s worth of books on the subject: how to achieve happiness, how to be generally happier, by 10 whole percent even… Which makes you wonder how the hell who wrote the book came up with that measurement. The key to happiness is decluttering, it’s organization, it’s daily meditation, exercise, the list goes on.

There is nothing wrong with decluttering, organization, meditation, exercise, or any of these suggestions. I just doubt they actually grant happiness. Yeah, even the book by the Dalai Lama… actually especially the book by the Dalai Lama. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book so it’s very possible the book actually agrees with me about happiness.) I think these things are good, tend to make it possible for people to experience happiness more often and I should probably look to following some of these books’ advice. But my point stands, the books aren’t the key to happiness. At best they equip you to be more content.

So if the point isn’t to be happy, why pursue it? Well, I think happiness as its own end is a bad choice, but because happiness is an abstract concept we have to pursue things we think will make us happy and that’s the important part. Working towards something, having to strive for it makes us feel present and alive. An accomplishment: finishing that 5K, beating that really difficult video game that you’ve been playing for weeks, finishing a painting or a crochet project, gives a rush of pride, satisfaction, and possibly even happiness. But these feelings don’t last or at least change with time. The accomplishment will remain, but as accomplishments age their value tends to diminish. So we are forced to again strive, usually for something better or more challenging than the last accomplishment. We benched 80 lbs? Next stop is 100! I think the human incapacity to stay happy is the best thing about us, because it means we’ll feel the need to keep trying and to try harder.

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