Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Why do all the things I want to blog about come from the Today Show?

On the Today Show this morning they had a little segment on the Pursuit Happiness and Mid-life crises. What they were saying was not all that important to me, until in the final moments of the segment a rabbi from the panel they were interviewing piped up and said, "Happiness is a by-product of having a sense of purpose in one's life." I was struck. I never thought of it that way before. The rabbi also went out of her way, talking over other panelists, to point out that happiness is a pursuit, a continuous pursuit, and not necessarily something that you can attain permanently, but something that you are constantly pursue. This is all very interesting to me.

I have to admit that right now I am "sitting upon a high horse" in this matter, because I do believe that I am happy. If you told me that from this point on I would continue living life just as it is now until death (baby, husband, job, friends), it would not decrease my happiness. Sure, there are some aspects of my life that are not ideal, but I really have no problems with how things are.

That being said, I think that a lot of happiness has to do with how you think about life and your thrown-ness. Granted, there are physiological factors, but I know a person who has been in extreme pain for a majority of her life and she is happy. The key to her happiness is that she has purpose in her life and in her pain and this has been her source a paramount joy. She is a true inspiration to all. Even in the midst of great suffering can be found great joy. ("The Light of Love, My Angel Shall Go Before Thee," by Patricia Devlin.)

More about how you think about it: I wrote an essay in college about John Locke's arguments against slavery. His position was that no man can own another man, because there is no way that any man could possess the "self" of another man (one might think one owns a man, but it is only captivivty of his body, you cannot own "the man"). In that sense, you possess and control everything interior to yourself. Everything that makes you, you is in your possession and your control. It is your choice to be happy or unhappy about what you have. But the key is that you own that--your happiness. Going back to having a sense of purpose and that creating happiness, it correlates to that which makes you happy is immaterial.

You may be thinking, no, I think that if I had an IPOD to listen to my happy music, that would make me happy. A material thing, IPOD, would make me happy. But, I would then ask what about that material thing makes you happy? Is it that the IPOD has distracted your mind from the fact that your life has no purpose. Or is it that the music makes you feel better about your status of your life (e.g. the song is about your boyfriend leaving you and you get revenge. You feel happy about the song because, a.) your boyfriend left you and you feel like the singer feels, therefore, you have someone who you can identify with and this makes you feel like you are not alone in your pain. b.) you take this as encouragement to take revenge and you make the ex-boyfriend hurt like you hurt and this makes you feel better because the ex-boyfriend now identifies with your pain. c.) the beat and melody of the song calms or invigorates you and you receive physiological endorphins.) But, then you take off your head phones and realize that you spent all this time listening to music and you have no sense of purpose in your life and have not made any steps toward purpose while listening to music. You put your head phones back on to drown out your sadness and life goes on, but you never really feel that secure sense of happiness.

On a final note, sometimes people don't feel happy because they are always waiting around for that next thing that they think that will make them happy, never recognizing that happiness that they have already attained.

This all of course does not take into account depression caused by a chemical inbalance. But, nobody knows whats inside of you, or how you feel. That is in your control too. You can have hope to get well, so that you can pursue your life's purpose, whatever it might be. The pursuit of your life's purpose, even in the midst of depression can bring you happiness. I know people who do this.

Okay, you can call me full it, because I am sitting upon my high horse. But, realize too that I was not always sitting here. I had to climb up here all by myself.

1 comment:

Flannery said...

I just got the book. Thank you!

The rabbi's comments remind me of "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl, although there he's more speaking of bearing suffering than becoming happy. But it's more related than you might think, because suffering and happiness are good friends.