Happiness! Oh boy, oh boy — do I get to tell you all about happiness today? Wowzers… but who am I to start pretending I know anything about happiness?
Nope, I don’t know what happiness is. In fact, I have a hunch no one does — anyone and everyone seems to define it differently, pursue it differently, but whoever actually gets there?
Sure, some people manage to get rich — but do they get happy in the process? At first, a little, maybe — but does that stick?
The most common definition of happiness out there seems to equate it to feeling good. But does feeling good lead to happiness? Well, does smoking crack lead to happiness?
You may feel I’m exaggerating right now, and I am — except I’m not. When we pursue pleasure or means of gaining pleasure, we’re doing the same as looking for a crack hit, albeit with a more “reasonable” attitude. By “reasonable”, I mean that the negative side-effects aren’t as immediately obvious or destructive.
For example, there are these people I know who went on to pursue a career to make lots of money, invested all that money in a cool house with a kick-ass pool in the backyard. They bought a boat, too — a nice one. They drank wine, ate steak — they weren’t exactly rich but upper-middle-class. They had a sweet life. But then eventually, it stopped working. Whatever they spent their lives doing became boring — a pool, a boat, and even wine will keep you entertained for only so long until you need to move on to something else.
Everything gets boring sooner or later. When it does, we need new and more intense excitement to keep us to that same level of happiness. But there’s a catch with all this: money. Better wine, a bigger house, and ever more exotic travels cost more money.
When my two friends’ careers leveled off, when the salaries stopped going up, then that pursuit of happiness reached a serious snag. They couldn’t get their necessary hits of pleasure anymore, and so they started being depressed. They started smoking more, drinking more, watching more TV and going out less. And eventually, that killed them.
Not that there’s anything wrong with dying. I mean we all die anyway, but it’d be nice not to end our days miserable and completely lost in our souls, still vehemently looking for solace in pleasure. It’d be nice to die peaceful, wouldn’t it?
I can’t tell you what happiness is, but I can tell you what it’s not: a pursuit. Happiness isn’t there, it’s not anywhere — it can’t be gained, if we try to catch it’ll just slip away. That’s why they call it a pursuit. It’s an eternal carrot on a stick.
This pursuit, that constant desire for something more, is what’s keeping us nicely chained and well-behaved members of consumerist societies. In the past, it was a religion that kept us chained and well-behaved — religion being the promise of something better in the hereafter. Consumerism outsmarted religion by offering the hope of something better in the therebefore, within this lifetime.
But it’s still hope, and the system is entirely dependent on hope remaining hope.
No, this won’t do at all. Happiness isn’t something to be hoped for — that turns the whole experience of life into one major crack addiction.
Happiness, if it has to be anything, has to be in the here and now. Look around you, savor the beauty, enjoy the air. It’s not about how lucky or comfortable you are — it’s about how crazy, interesting, and beautiful this world is beyond our own personal needs or desires.
Happily here, happily now,
—Day THe Spiritual Astronaut