8 September 2011
Pursuit of Happiness, Is there an end gain?
There is much talk about the pursuit of happiness in life. There have been movies, lectures, books, and seminars about what it is to be happy and how you get there. It says in the United States Constitution that we are given ‘unalienable rights among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Happiness is something we as humans are entitled to and guaranteed as a right. Something so fundamental should be easy to come by, yet everywhere you turn there are signs and tips on how to be happier. Happiness by definition is a state of being, not a destination. It is an essence that so many people work so hard to define and capture and achieve, all the while jeopardizing the true state of being happy.
For some, happiness is the sunshine on their face as they curl up in their favorite chair on the beach sipping a cold drink. For others it is a baby’s smile, or their first paycheck. As people go through their different stages of life they have different definitions of happiness and different means of being and achieving happiness. Happy is a state of mind and a transitory place, not an end goal or destination as many people feel. So many times people feel like if they could only lose those last 10 pounds, or get promoted, or watch their team win the Superbowl then they will be happy. Once happiness is achieved, then what? Do people move on to the next ‘happiness’ or are they just satisfied that happiness was achieved and go on living their lives never worrying about being happy again?
Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth. It is copyrighted and basically accepted as fact. Does that mean that everyone who steps foot on the property in Anaheim known as Disneyland or part of the Disneyland Resort has to be happy? Upset people might not be allowed and Disney employees can refuse service to those who are frowning? It is not that drastic obviously but a statement like that implies that anyone who enters those gates is going to be happy. It is an implied guarantee. As someone who visits Disneyland once a year I can testify to the fact that it is truly a wonderful place that always puts a smile on my face and makes me happy. That being said I am old enough and tall enough to ride all of the rides. I have parents who are willing to buy me the food I want and I have my own means of buying souvenirs that I think I cannot live without. As you walk around the park you can see many different levels of emotions. There are kids who are overwhelmed by the happiness of meeting their favorite Disney princess and who think that this is the ultimate life experience and their life is all downhill from there. There are also the kids who are crying because they are scared to death of Cruella Devil and think she is coming after them. There is the kid that cries because he isn’t tall enough for Indiana Jones, and the kid that cries because he’s not allowed to have a second ice cream cone.
Because these kids have moments of unhappiness while in the park does it take away from the happiness as a whole of the vacation? Does it cancel out the fact that they may have at one point been happy? Hindsight plays into happiness in a big way because hindsight is 20/20. Once someone can look back on a memory it may be seen more fondly than it was initially recorded because there is more to take away from it. Human nature has the tendency to find the best in things. Even when everything is falling apart it is customary to still seem to have it all together with a smile on your face and a can do attitude. Depression sometimes can be seen as a sign of weakness or inferiority. Everyone is striving for this goal of happiness but no one knows how to get there on their own.
What does it mean to be happy? It is not a documented thing. It is not to be tall or short or rich or poor. There is no standard definition or measuring stick. Many times people in Psychology like to study happiness and link it to other things like the color blue can cause raised levels of happy. Not every person has the same reaction to each trigger though, so happiness for me seeing a blue wall because it reminds me of the beach could be torture for someone who sees blue and remembers the time they almost drowned. Happiness is an idividual journey that can not be quantified or qualified by data. Its all relative. I am happier right now than I was yesterday. I will be happier in 8 months once I’m graduated. There is no level of measurement that can make it more scientific. You can assign a scale, like a 7/10 today, but my version of a 7 may be different from my classmate’s idea of what a happiness level of 7 means.
In the rat race of society people are always trying to be thinner and wealthier and happier than the next. But happiness cannot be compared. One person’s great marriage can be another’s ball and chain. It is an individual experience that is majority internal although there are many external signs of being happy, but they are a reflection of feeling happy on the inside. Watching the movie Pursuit of Happyness I felt happy that Will Smith got through his hardships and found happiness. Everyone’s journeys and life goals are not the same however so my achievement of happiness may be different and most likely simpler because I do not have all of the struggles that he did. Although achieving the job is likened to achieving happiness, he was happy along the way even through the bad things. He was happy when he sold his machine. He was happy when he went to the 49er game with his son. Even though the end goal of Happiness was ‘achieved’ and was probably a greater happiness relative to the sale of the machine, he really found his way to being happy along the way. Happiness is a double-edged sword. Without the bad things, the good ones do not seem as good. Everything is relative and individual. Therefore there is no definition of happiness other than that which makes you happy. Can take place anywhere, time, place or denomination of happiness. But happy is happy.