August 14, 2015

Mankind's Endless And Elusive Pursuit Of Happiness

So I took this photo yesterday of a lady on the Metro reading The Happiness Project.

The book is a multi-year bestseller about the pursuit of happiness and how the author, Grethen Rubin, took a year and made a project of getting happy.

She did this through a "methodical" project with "measurable goals" and working to "build on them cumulatively."

Now happiness is being described not as a goal or project, but as a "movement."

Why is happiness such an elusive pursuit to so many throughout the times?

In fact, in looking for how to achieve happiness throughout the ages, we can't even agree on what it is or how to do it.

Carl Cederstrom in the New York Times provides an overview where the how-to for achieving happiness has changed more times than some people change their underwear.

Here's to the rainbow of finding happiness:

- The Greeks/Aristotle - Be a good person, live ethically, cultivate one's virtues. 

- Hedonists/Epicureans - Pursuit whatever brings you pleasure

- Stoics - Happiness is achievable even when experiencing hardship, suffering, and pain

- Christianity - Happiness is not achieved on Earth, but rather in the afterlife/in divine union.

- Renaissance/Enlightenment/Thomas Jefferson - Happiness is an unalienable right, and related to property rights.

- Today - Achieve authenticity and be narcissistic, express true inner selves, get in touch with inner feeling, worship our bodies, and productivity through work

I believe that the relentless pursuit of happiness is due to man's inability to truly reconcile being/feeling happy with what he experiences on an almost daily basis on a spectrum of unhappiness:

- Disappointment

- Failure

- Unacceptance

- Rejection

- Bullying

- Abuse

- Injustice

- Suffering

- Poverty

- War

- Disability

- Disease

The result of man's expectation of happiness yet its continued elusiveness to him manifests in people running around like a chicken with their heads cut off (something my mom told me about that she saw as a little girl):

- Changing, leaving, coming back, or clinging to religion.

- Disenfranchisement with government, politics, political parties, and politicians.

- Entering into and dissolving marriages and relationships.

- Migration to different parts of the country or even moving abroad and traveling here, there, and everywhere.

- Cycling your money and investments in real estate, material goods, and a host of investments (stocks, bonds, hedge funds, etc.).

- Trying out a series of different educational pursuits, careers, and hobbies--surely one will be my passion, provide some meaning, or make me happy!

- Trying to squeeze more and more "things" into and out of a 24-hour day. 

- Looking for a quick fix through partying, pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and rock & roll. 

What's the trend in happiness now?

A relentless pursuit of innovation and transformation through technology, robotics, everything autonomous, self-healing, self-reproducing, searching for new (and perhaps better) worlds, and even time travel. 

Oh, and let's not forget pursuing a longer life (or the holy grail of immortality), so we have more time to try and be happy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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