Monday, February 07, 2005

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I want to talk about happiness...that elusive life ideal we all seem to be chasing but can never quite get. I don't think there is such a thing is happiness, and, even if there is, it isn't what we think it is.

I think a more apt word, at least in my life, is contentment. To be satisfied with where I am and what I'm doing. I think the word satisfied has taken on negative connotations lately, where satisfaction is somehow one (or several) rung lower on the bliss ladder than happiness. That you're not happy, but you're not unhappy either.

The idea that in order to be happy one must consume as much as possible disgusts me especially. How our ideas of being satisfied in life are predicated on owning as many expensive things as possible. I remember reading somewhere that although consumption has increased almost boundlessly in the US since the 50s, the number of people saing they're "happy" has declined drastically. And anyway, even if you think something or someone will make you happy, once you have that, there are always hundreds of other things that could make you even more happy...shoes, purses, exotic trips, and million dollar homes.

One tremendous faux-insight a lot of people seem to have is the fact that you only need yourself to be happy, but what you really mean when you say that is I will be happy living alone in my beautiful house and driving my beautiful car, and I don't need someone else in my beautiful house and car to make me happy. The people who say things like this could usually never be happy living in a small hut somewhere.

Of course having said all this I'm still lusting after so many things, but I know that I don't need any of them. I just want them because I'm greedy, and mankind has substituted the word happiness for greed in recent times. My only hope for myself is that I am able to rise above wanting things and people and places in my life, because being happy is about being content in every phase of our life...happiness, sadness, death, despair, heartbreak, agony, ecstasy, and everything else in between.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jenneferre said...

that is so not what i meant. i love having a car, but i love my ghetto 88 new yorker, and don't need anything better until it refuses to move. i'm also entirely satisfied sharing a bathroom with three boys, with a fridge that hasn't been cleaned in 2 years and a mouse in my bedroom. and i love being with my boyfriend - a guy with maybe three outfits tops, no furniture, no possessions and no money. when i say you need to be able to be happy on your own, i mean you have to like your job, like your friends, like your day to day life, like your city, your pets, your longterm work love and vacation plans. THEN you can love. I'm not disputing that the western world has become way too consumer-happy or that people never seem to be satisfied, but I think your sweeping generalizations are false, and since they come so soon after my comments, i take personal offense.

=)

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jenn...I know it looks really bad. I wanted to post a comment on your blog and it got too longwinded and I started going off on a billion tangents so I just blogged instead. I seriously didn't mean it as a personal attack. Your post was the inspiration but everything I said wasn't about or against you. Sorry! I'll be happy to take the post down if you like.

<3 and xx jr

8:25 AM  

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