“The Pursuit of Happiness…”
“Right up there with “life and liberty”, the “pursuit of happiness” is amongst the core of American values. But if you take a moment and really think: do you honestly know anybody who is really happy? How to you even quantify happiness? Obviously there can never be a true consensus, but at the same time something has to be severely lacking when you look at the numbers of Americans who need prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti anxiety medications to get through their day. Don’t get me wrong these medications allow many people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get through their day to make it, but still this is indicative of a problem. Now these chemicals represent the responsibly prescribed pharmaceuticals for legitimate medical need, this doesn’t touch the countless thousands who have made prescription drug abuse one of our biggest social problems right now. How deep is the sadness when one self medicates with Oxycontin for their mental pain?
I am not criticizing drug addicts, legal or otherwise, they have their own problems, but I am addressing a chronic lack of happiness. True our country is in an unfortunate quandary, between financial disasters being the norm for the average American family, a controversial and expensive war in the Middle East, amongst the everyday “slings and arrows” of human existence that chug along as they always will as we wander from birth to death to the uncertain end. America is ceasing it’s time as an industrial juggernaut and seems to be sliding into a state closer to a Mexico 2.0, but with a citizenry with a worse work ethic. Still, those are not the question, the questions are:
“What would it take to make us happy?”
“Were we happy before?”
“Were we ever happy?”
Obviously that question is unique to each person. Happiness can be either making your first million, or being able to afford a bottle of cheap wine, or your kid can finally pass math, or finding out the cancer is benign etc. Something I think Americans often forget is that happiness is by definition fleeting, and in our self-important, instant-gratification based society we don’t seem to be very good at not being happy; at the same time we also excel at misery, or specifically the grand display of misery. The King of Tibet, coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness”, a very caring term that sadly seems to be dying in effect due to the encroachment of Western (mostly American since unrealistic expectations is currently our chief export) values and definitions.
Happiness is also something that seems to be always just around the corner, never in the present. When the kids get into college, when I retire, when we can take that vacation, in my case, when I can work and feed my family through creative ventures again, when I get that album recorded, when paying the rent won’t be such a worry. We think of happy as a future never a present. A quote I very often use from Meher Baba “Everyday is a gift, that is why we call it the ‘present’”, yet I am the first to admit when the kids are being horrible and I am dodging calls from bill collectors that is not the first phrase to come to mind. It is good to try to “live in the now” but in all honestly the now often really hurts; we edit out the aches and pains petty cumulative annoyances when we look back at things.
So is there a solution? The short version is:yes there are lots of solutions, as myriad and as varied as our problems, and frankly a good number of them won’t work. But we keep trying to find that elusive “happy” be it physical, monetary or chemical and with any luck the struggle will inspire enough hope to get us there.