calling bullshit on the pursuit of happiness

October 31, 2012

So here’s what I know about happiness:

  • it’s a fleeting, momentary sense of all being right with the world.
  • it passes.
  • the quest for happiness can denigrate the amazingly poignant moments in our lives that are not necessarily happy.
  • if being happy is the stick by which you are measuring success, beware of the enormous elephant of disappointment that may be lurking under your coffee table.
  • the pursuit of happiness is like crack cocaine for those of us with well developed people pleasin’ ways.
  • pretendy-happy (ie: smiling through pain, tears, frustration, anger) makes me feel fraudulent: I just know those feelings are going come back (sometimes in the shape of two thirds of a cheesecake that will be eaten, sitting on the floor in front of the fridge, after everyone in my stupid dysfunctional family has gone to bed). For example.
  • all of which makes me a little curious about people who seem to be super-happy All The Time (particularly online folks). Where do all your other feelings go?
  • the pursuit of happiness is used by the entire sales and marketing industry to create a sense of unease at the happiness we are missing out on. This is immediately followed by an offer to fill that gap with the shiny thing they just happen to be offering.
  • showing gratitude, shedding stuff, turning to Buddha, turning lemons into a mighty fine gimlet etc. provide a little dose of the happys.
  • so does a big sweary rant with a co-conspirator.
  • the pursuit of happiness can be a road fraught with acquisition and competition.
  • the times when I have not been happy have been when I have learnt and grown the most (this appears to be exponentially proportional: when it feels Epically Crap, expect mega epiphany’s to follow).

Some questions I have been pondering: can I prolong or deepen happiness? What is happiness made of? Where does it come from? Where do I feel it in my body? Can I taste it? What colour is it?  How much more happiness might there be? 

And I am coming to the realisation that there is something much deeper and more substantive than happiness, available to us hoomins. I don’t really have the words for it, other than it is a state of being suffused with contentment, intention, mindfulness, wholeness and courage. Its not subject to the whims of life, it is the antidote to comparison and want.

I can access this state when I am still. (nb: learning how to quieten my mind is a bit like trying to play darts with noodles).

My current practice is to imagine my scattered, sometimes frenzied thoughts as bubbles, that dissolve as they rise into the air.

Leave a reply

24 Responses to “calling bullshit on the pursuit of happiness”

  1. elizabeth says:

    ah yes– it is contentment– that is what fills me– what I miss when it goes on walkabout

  2. karen says:

    I am at my most happiest (bad grammar!) is when I am content and quiet. Extreme feelings either way are short lived in my life. I thrive on being happy over a cup of tea and my knitting in my hands. And by the way, happiness tastes like dark chocolate with sea salt, just saying.

  3. J9 says:

    Beautiful post, lovely girl. I am trying to find happiness in the very simple fact that I am here, breathing. To find wonder in, and gratitude for, this life, whatever it entails. If I just had, if I just was – that’s the BS that I am desperately trying to unsubscribe from, though it is a daily, hourly, minutely (is that a word?) effort.

    • sas says:

      Yes! i love that – being content right now, in THIS moment, just as we are. bugger me, its a hard one sometimes though eh?

  4. Pauline says:

    Oh yes. The balance.
    Noticing and being mindful to both the pleasure and the pain.
    I love this.
    I’m a long term fan of the way Marshall Rosenberg talks about it in nonviolent communication. The pain of unmet needs and the pleasure of met needs. And being awake to notice or be conscious of both. Gorgeous.

  5. roxanne says:

    This post resonates very strongly with me. I love the crack cocaine analogy ~ I get that one all too well. I think alot of us confuse pleasure and happiness. Strangely, counter-intuitively, they are not the same. And finally, happiness is the journey, not the destination.

  6. Billy Joel once said ‘being content is underrated’. : )
    As for online peeps who are happy-happy-happy, I imagine this is a deliberate approach, and have chosen to keep their other stuff private. Which is cool, it’s their own space, and maybe depends on the type of blog they have.
    I have, in the past (and probably the future) on several occasions, decided to only be positive on my blog, only to then write a poem of melancholic woe 😉

  7. Cilla says:

    Contentment is where it is at.
    That is the long lasting thing.
    Happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, PMS – all emotions.
    Emotions are the weather. Contentment is the climate.
    (Did that make sense?)
    Luff this post.

    • sas says:

      contentment is the climate – yep. i hear that. perhaps its something to do with the solidity of self-worth? knowing thyself and loving who you are brings much contentment.

  8. Marion says:

    I used to think it was happiness I sought but now i know it is peace, perfect peace….am still learning how to describe it but every so often, just when i think i have truly glimpsed it, i know it is awesome in the truest sense of the word, and i know everything will be ok

  9. Natasha says:

    Very important to call the BS on happiness – and its associated industries– I so agree there! And you’re right- the closest I’ve come is that meditative state where you finally get why people meditate! 😉
    I would also add: happiness cannot be found at Westfield (although I was there just today ;-))

  10. kristen says:

    when i’ve felt happy – i’ve also been all of those other words you used to describe being human and i think that’s enough for me.

  11. Jo says:

    Flow, dude. Flow. You rock. xxx

  12. Rachel says:

    Or as my dear dad says “happiness is overrated. Be content with where you are. And save 10% of your income”.
    Wise words.

  13. you’re my favorite. i love this. and you.
    i wouldn’t say happiness is overrated. but the dark stuff, certainly underrated.
    hugs & kisses in all your wild, human, animal states, dear sas.
    roar, rach