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The Pursuit of Happiness, For Real? Seriously?

Happiness is a concept. Our Founding Fathers wrote that we have the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, NOT life, liberty, and happiness. We chase down happiness. We search for it. We want it, long for it, obsess over it, but happiness either remains out of reach, or, when it comes, its stay is brief. Perhaps it would be better to identified happiness happy-suger by some other word.

Am I saying that happiness does not exist? No. Not exactly. Happiness is a word describing a pleasant state, but it is, in the end, just a word. I believe that when we use the word happiness we rarely describe a present state, but instead, happiness is something in the future, something coming eventually, we hope. My experience with happiness is that it is the result of immersing myself so completely in a positive moment that everything else is temporarily driven from my mind.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Again, happiness is a word, and perhaps, when you are immersed in a moment, and forget everything else, a better word might have been selected.

If you child almost dies and is inexplicably saved, snatched from the jaws of death at the last moment, mama is happy, but that feeling is also relief. The sudden lifting of fear is being labeled as happiness. I remember a first grader joke: “Why’d the little moron keep hitting himself in the head with a hammer? Because it felt so good when he stopped.”

The relief of pain could be described as happiness, but it seems like something else to me.

[I know little moron is a bad thing to say, but in the 1950s when I was in grade school, and the Three Stooges were the height of humor, moron seemed like an OK word, and, in truth, I didn’t know what the word meant.]

If you propose marriage and your love interest says, “YES,” that is also relief, that you were not rejected, but it also is something other than happiness. When the woman says YES the man may be imagining the fulfillment of a lot of his yearnings: regular sex, the elimination of dating stress, a helper in obtaining and establishing a home, children, and on and on it goes. At the moment the proposal is accepted all these nuptial joys are not yours, but your mind is thinking you are on the road to getting all of that marital bliss.

I am about to be married, and am of course in all the misery of a man in pursuit of happiness. ~Lord Byron

For years, in my mind, I thought that happiness could be obtained and possessed, and it would last indefinitely. The stories from my childhood promised that in the end it was indeed possible to live “happily ever after.”

Perhaps there are fleeting moments of happiness, but they are only the result of immersing yourself so completely in a moment that you choose to block out the natural progression of your thoughts. But for one to truly exist in a simple state of happiness – to just BE happy – indefinitely? That, I believe, is impossible.

To me buyer’s remorse means that you bought something, and once you had it, you realized that it is not making you as happy as you thought it was going to, and so, instead of being happy, you bought the new car, or house, or dress, or shoes, you suddenly realize you have saddled yourself with a payment that is going add pressure to your life, or that the dress makes your butt look big, or that the shoes pinch. At the moment, buyer’s remorse sets in, you may realize that you were happier when you just wanted the car, or when you were saving for the house, or shopping for the perfect dress.

My friend and former spiritual advisor, Father Jim Taylor, would remind me to count my blessings. He would urge me to go to the cancer ward and minister to the patients there, and then I would realize how blessed my life is, and then I would be happy with what I have.

I found that I do, briefly feel more content after comparing my blessed self to the less fortunate, but it isn’t happiness. No matter what I have, I want more. If I get a job, I long for a bonus, a raise, or a different job that pays more. If I have a good apartment, I start thinking about a condominium, or maybe a single family home. Once I get the home, I want a new roof, or a hot tub, and on and on I go pursuing happiness, that happiness remains, always, just beyond my reach.

Why can’t I just be happy? Nothing is ever enough. In my life there is no such thing as sufficiency. Every accomplishment is followed by a new goal.

Nothing prevents happiness like the memory of happiness. ~Andre Gide

In my life happiness is not a sentence; it is, at best, the punctuation. In my life sentence, happiness is not even all the punctuation, but just one part of the punctuation. Happiness is the semicolon of my life; being there, but not often. I am working to turn happiness into the commas of my life. [That’s pursing happiness, isn’t it?]

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit. ~Denis Waitley

What would the world be like if people were actually brimming with happiness? What if happiness was always spilling over everywhere? What if everyone was bursting with joyful happiness? Would we really want to live in a world where people were bursting right and left? I think of true happiness as being a delirious sensation of whacky joy, but can society really function if most people are zany and giggling all the time?

The Buddha warns that craving and desire bring suffering. Is the pursuit of happiness one of those cravings that will ultimately end in suffering or disappointment? Could wanting to be happy actually be the cause of unhappiness?

But do we want to live in a world where everyone is all bland, not wanting anything, just being and nothingness. As the old joke goes: “I was born with nothing and I still have most of it.”

True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander. ~Charles Caleb Colton

At this time in my life, I believe that happiness is the pursuit of happiness. I am closer to happy when I am working on something that I think is going to bring me relief, or pleasure.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. ~Dalai Lama

I’m sure you have heard of buyers remorse. To me buyer’s remorse means that you bought something, and once you had it, you realized that it is not making you as happy as you thought it was going to, and so, instead of being happy, you bought the new car, or house, or dress, or shoes, you suddenly realize you have saddled yourself with a payment that is going add pressure to your life, or that the dress makes your butt look big, or that the shoes pinch. At the moment, buyer’s remorse sets in, you may realize that you were happier when you just wanted the car, or when you were saving for the house, or shopping for the perfect dress.

My friend and former spiritual advisor, Father Jim Taylor, would remind me to count my blessings. He would urge me to go to the cancer ward and minister to the patients there, and then I would realize how blessed my life is, and then I would be happy with what I have.

I found that I do, briefly feel more content after comparing my blessed self to the less fortunate, but it isn’t happiness. No matter what I have, I want more. If I get a job, I long for a bonus, a raise, or a different job that pays more. If I have a good apartment, I start thinking about a condominium, or maybe a single family home. Once I get the home, I want a new roof, or a hot tub, and on and on I go pursuing happiness, that happiness remains, always, just beyond my reach.

Why can’t I just be happy? Nothing is ever enough. In my life there is no such thing as sufficiency. Every accomplishment is followed by a new goal.

Nothing prevents happiness like the memory of happiness. ~Andre Gide

In my life happiness is not a sentence; it is, at best, the punctuation. In my life sentence, happiness is not even all the punctuation, but just one part of the punctuation. Happiness is the semicolon of my life; being there, but not often. I am working to turn happiness into the commas of my life. [That’s pursing happiness, isn’t it?]

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit. ~Denis Waitley

What would the world be like if people were actually brimming with happiness? What if happiness was always spilling over everywhere? What if everyone was bursting with joyful happiness? Would we really want to live in a world where people were bursting right and left? I think of true happiness as being a delirious sensation of whacky joy, but can society really function if most people are zany and giggling all the time?

The Buddha warns that craving and desire bring suffering. Is the pursuit of happiness one of those cravings that will ultimately end in suffering or disappointment? Could wanting to be happy actually be the cause of unhappiness?

But do we want to live in a world where everyone is all bland, not wanting anything, just being and nothingness. As the old joke goes: “I was born with nothing and I still have most of it.”

True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander. ~Charles Caleb Colton

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