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Hanno Langenhoven
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The Happiness Myth

11 June 2012, 11:01

Coca-Cola would like us to believe it is as easy as opening it, the faithful (seemingly from a diversity of different religions) would like us to believe it can be attained by confessing it, a faithful would like us to believe it is a case of not confessing it, the producers and retailers would like us to believe it increases with consumption and the naturalists and greenies would like us to stop consuming in order to truly gain it, the moralists champions the life-long commitment to a person of the opposite sex as the doorway to a lifetime of it and the more liberal finds it in the diversity of multiple connections. Whatever the answer, it seems that there are many different answers to the question and that these answers are directly linked to the underlying philosophy of the person that answers the question. The question of course being: What will bring us lasting happiness?

Implied in the question is that such a thing as lasting happiness does indeed exist and all we need to do is to find the start of the correct path towards it, journey it with commitment and persistence and at some or other time, we will arrive at the source of lasting happiness. Maybe the challenge lies in the assumption and not in the diversity, and sometimes even apposing, answers.

It might just be that in the uncritical acceptance of the existence of lasting happiness, and the assertion that every person, and therefore myself as well, has a given right to happiness, we are excluding ourselves from the very thing we seek. The view that happiness is something that can be achieved and the moment it can be achieved happiness is turned into the result of a doing function. It puts the Self in control and constantly asks an evaluative question about every moment; is this, what is experienced, truly happiness or is there something greater?

Maybe the first step towards understanding lasting happiness is the acknowledgement that our reality is often filled, or even that the default setting of our reality, is a place of unhappiness; that happiness, especially lasting happiness, has an Other-worldly quality to it. C.S Lewis famously writes that joy “is the serious business of heaven” (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer). Thus it might just be true that in search of lasting happiness we are not in control, because we are searching for something that does not essentially exists to be grasped.

This acceptance that happiness is not something of our doing but rather a state of being, might open whole different perspective on lasting happiness. An acceptance of life as it is, an openness that much of who we are, are marked by honest struggle, by hardship and challenges, by hunger and thirst and by the realization that everyone around us is faced with the same reality, might be the change of perspective we need to see the Other-worldly. Maybe it is when we surrender our desperate quest to find a mythical happiness, that we find a much more down to earth, even fragile, but ultimately a lasting, happiness.

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