We all want to be happy, that is a fact. The writers of The US Constitution believed this is important enough to enshrine it in a public document. There is absolutely nothing wrong with searching the happiness and wanting to be happy. The search for happiness can, on the other hand, lead to a skewed way of life and unrealistic expectations.
I was reading some time ago on BBC that many marriages break due to people trying to live up (or down) to the stereotype imposed on them by the culture of happiness. Apparently movies and books teach people that, given enough effort, a couple can dwell in eternal bliss. When – as it is normal in real life – they encounter the first hurdle in their marriage, they are quickly to say “I don’t need to take this s…” and drop the towel. This is due to false image that happiness is a contiguous state. Happiness – at least in my understanding – is a mosaic: an experience created by hundreds and – hopefully – thousands of good moments, memories, sensations, and satisfactions. The grout between them is gray cement from the daily grinding mill or simply crap. We should collect the shinny and colourfull pieces of happiness and place them in our mosaic and – again, hopefully – at the end of our life we managed to create a meaningful picture with them.
And what would be wrong pursuing the eternal happiness? I found myself confronted very often with the view that nothing bad should enter our lives. People don’t watch the news of fear they might encounter death, don’t want to listen to sad stories although they might be carrying good lessons, even the children’s stories are modified so the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood will survive and, after getting in touch with his conscience, be repentant and become less wolf. Anything even remotely sad is quickly forsaken from our lives, and we forget that without Hell there would be no Heaven.
It reached the point where art productions creating negative emotions are avoided and deemed as unworthy forgetting that art should simply create emotions, not necessarily positive emotions.
Many people shudder and can’t understand how apparently some mild and happy-faced, family man, accountant by profession, comes one day home and kills everyone in his family over something as trying but still trivial as getting too much in debt or losing his job. “It doesn’t make sense!” they say. On the contrary, I argue, it makes perfect sense. Such people, who never contemplate nasty things, once they are confronted with a major crisis in their life, simply don’t know what to do and commit stupid things. And, when they turn around for help, everybody is so absorbed avoiding upsetting stories that they find nobody to give them advice. That is, if they are strong enough to ask for help and don’t put a frozen smile saying “Great, great, couldn’t be better”.
Submerged in this culture of happiness, people never reach a full understanding of the world and life and never fully grow up. It’s like the situation when, surrounding by the bright lights of the city, one can see very few stars – it’s only in the darkness of a remote countryside that the full beauty and richness of Milky Way reveals itself to us.
Indeed, knowledge does not lead to happiness… but it leads to wisdom and, eventually, to peace. Yes, I wished sometimes to be a bumbling idiot, happy and strong in my ignorance but finally I had to admit that this is not possible, not acceptable, at least for me. Once we bit the Apple of Knowledge, there is no turning back.
Conclusion: Happiness is good and searching for it is good too. Sadness, misery and despair are bad, but avoiding them by using horse (murphy’s) blinds is even worse. Not dwelling in bad feelings is one thing and it makes sense, rejecting everything that might make us remotely sad is another one.