Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There is no road to happiness

People take different roads seeking happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they're lost. ~H. Jackson Browne

I saw this quote on my twitter feed this morning.  It made me think.  Our forefathers new enough to know the pursuit of happiness was an important endeavor for every person.  They believed it was so important they said it was an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence.  Maybe it's my ISTJ (you know me, I'm all about what you do, not what you feel) personality, but Mr. Browne's quote is a tough one for me to swallow.

I might have an easier time swallowing it if the definition of happiness was a bit clearer.  I know what happiness is not.  Happiness is not pleasure.  Pleasure comes and goes.  It can slip through your fingers and fade from memory.  I know of women seeking to recreate the pleasure of the initial flutterings of love and attraction.  They don't understand where this feeling goes after 2 or 3 years of marriage and a child or two.  They look for it outside their marriage.  Only to discover they cannot hold on to the feelings.  Those feelings are not happiness.

I've heard it said that happiness itself is not a destination, but a journey.  This has to be true.  How else can we explain the finding of happiness in a job well done and finding happiness in leisure time?  Our forefathers were so wise in calling the inalienable right a pursuit of happiness and not happiness, itself.

The problem I have with Browne's quote is that people often are on the wrong road to (what they believe is) happiness and they are lost.  I've seen so many people spending themselves into unfathomable debt in their pursuit of happiness.  I don't think they found the happiness they were hoping to find.  Instead, they find themselves trapped in debt.  Not a happy situation.  I've seen people sink into addiction thinking happiness was drinking or drugging themselves away from their problems, only to find themselves trapped in their addiction.  I've seen people attempt to find happiness by moving and leaving all they have and all they know, to find happiness - out there, only to find themselves lost and lonely.  There is no happiness in these situations.

The bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:12, I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live and in Ecclesiastes 7:14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.  (I think it should say, be happy in the other, as well)

There is no road to happiness.  You cannot travel to happiness.  You have happiness in you all the time.  Happiness is not a mood, ...it's a Decision.

I'm linking with Em at Imperfect Prose on Thursdays.

332.  Knowing I can decide to be happy
333.  MBTI information and knowing I'm ok, just the way I am
334.  MBTI information and knowing there are just some people I will never understand
335.  Being fascinated by those MBTI types I don't understand
336.  The feeling of anticipation as you near the end of a wonderful story
337.  The feeling of satisfaction as I am confirmed in my prediction of how the story ends
338.  Co-workers with generous hearts

9 comments:

  1. I agree with what you said about how happiness is transitory...I think of those who experience joy despite circumstances, and I think of a quote (but I can't remember the author) about how God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness...not that He isn't concerned about it, but He has priorities on what is ultimately for our good...it makes me think of parenting...my child would be happier if I let her do whatever she wanted but it would not ultimately be in her best interest... whew, sorry for the long comment :)

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  2. Elizabeth StewartJune 6, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    I think you are exactly right, happiness IS a choice, and I choose to be happy, right here, right now. :)

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  3. i think in many ways we are on a happiness quest as a culture right now...if it makes us happy we do it...unfortunately the definition we use comes back to exactly what you said...

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  4. This is a thought-provoking post. If happiness is a decision it is not, for me, an easy one. There are times I would like to be happy but can't seem to get there. 

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  5. yes. i like this. happiness is not a mood, but a decision. kind of like contentment.

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  6. We do all have happiness in us all the time - so true.  

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  7. Elizabeth StewartJune 7, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    Re. your question about Portlandia.  I would say it's a caracature of Portland.  It looks like Portland exagerated. :)

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  8. This gets a reply from me for two reasons:

    1. Fellow ISTJ!
    2. Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible.

    Another verse pertaining to happiness that stands out is Ecc. 2:10, "My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil." I think Solomon is referring to the temporary happiness that pleasures bring. He did something, and the happiness from that was his reward. But it wasn't ultimately fulfilling. I agree, happiness is a decision.

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  9. Wow, a fellow ISTJ.  Thanks so much for commenting.  I love thinking of happiness as something I do rather than something I feel.

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