“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The origin of happiness and how to attain it has been debated and pontificated since the dawn of civilization. Some of the greatest of minds throughout history have weighed in on the elusive nature of happiness in the human experience, yet there isn’t a universal answer on how happiness can be definitively caught. The mystery surrounding this emotion is the underpinning of the many major philosophies and religions that promise either the attainment of happiness in this life or in the one after. While within the secular world, billions of dollars are spent on advertisement promising the emotion through the buying of things and/or experiences. The pursuit of happiness is the hero’s journey that never seems to end; leaving many to feel perpetually dissatisfied when the feeling fades after a moment of capture.
The incessant, maddening chase for happiness drives many towards destructive paths of toxic relationships, substance abuse, excessive materialism, and extremist beliefs; while also leaving the outwardly successful to feel unfulfilled despite the many accomplishments they achieved in life. No matter how fast they may run, sadness, disappoint and dissatisfaction bites at the heels of those in the blind pursuit of happiness. As expectations continue to go unmet and the void within unfilled, the romanticism of the chase metastasizes into a calloused and cynical view of life. Life no longer is something to be lived, but something to be survived. It is for this reason that the idea of happiness has harmed the lives of more people than the sadness we are ceaselessly fleeing from.
The fundamental and harmful idea surrounding happiness is that it is not merely a fleeting feeling to be enjoyed in the moment, but a state of mind in which one should strive to exist in perpetuity. From the moment we were children, we are taught that to be happy is the purpose of existence and the ultimate attainment in life. Society has placed happiness on a pedestal at the expense of personal development in appreciating and learning from the full spectrum of fluctuating human emotions. The lessons in sadness, anger, or fear are no longer processed and understood in the present moment because we are constantly tethered to attaining future moments of happiness. It is this promise of heaven on earth that stunts spiritual growth and leaves people to be manipulated by both capitalist and religious institutions alike.
The feeling of fulfillment that is heavily sought after is not found in being happy. Fulfillment is found when one stops running toward and fleeing from and instead chooses to stop, stand, and settle into peace. Peace is attained by embracing the fullness of human emotion in the present moment with observation and compassion. It is through the acceptance of our emotions that we anchor ourselves through every wave life rolls our way. The idea of happiness as the epitome of life does not compare to a mind at rest and a heart in gratitude. No longer are we moved to action by deceptive external forces; we move and have our being in following the perfect guidance of the heart. The pursuit of happiness is the yellow-brick road, while peace is the realization that home was right under our feet all along.
Happiness is a beautiful emotion, one that should be cherished and cultivated, but not at the expense of learning and appreciating the value of all the emotions in the human experience. No longer do we have to perpetually chase a feeling or feel bitter when the sand slips between our fingers; instead we are able to find beauty and solace in its presence and in its inevitable absence. Life is so much bigger than happiness alone. Life is the culmination of all that you are, experiencing all that you have, with the understanding that every wave played a role polishing and perfecting your soul.
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