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Happiness



Socrates would go window shopping to remind himself of all the things he was happy without. Many of us go shopping to notice all the things we believe will make us happy. But shopping is not the real culprit in our endless quest for happiness. Happiness is. When happiness is placed on a pedestal of desires as the end-all of being human, an impossible maze of misplaced ambitions and fruitless wandering ensues. Life is more than the pursuit of happiness. Rich, meaningful life is more than comfort and good feelings. We need a little dark in order to know the light. Peace without struggle is unintelligible. Joy without sorrow makes no sense. Many of the virtues we covet have secret lovers, without which, we cannot distinguish the loathings from the longings of the heart. Rumi encouraged, therefore, each new morning, when there is a new arrival at the door, whether a joy, a depression, a meanness, a dark thought, to welcome and entertain them all. These guests may be clearing us out for some new delight. All things that presents themselves, not only those we find pleasurable, are as much a part of existence as you and me. They have earned their place. They are there, for whatever reason, or no reason at all, not incidental or banishable. To single out happiness as the endgame is to ignore the painful and beautiful complexity of actual experience. The hegemony of humanity’s obsession with happiness has produced little more than a chasing after the wind. Perhaps, happiness is bullshit, as Jonathan Tropper wrote, the great myth of the late twentieth century, its value greatly exaggerated. Was Picasso happy? Hemingway? Hendrix? The seedbed of great art is not often the happy life. Anger. Despair. Melancholia. Ignorance and suffering. Lust and loss. These aesthetics make us who we are. Though few would ever choose discomfort, it is by becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable that life blooms inside us, in a dazzling array of shapes and colors, a sign of something more than happy.


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