Unraveling happiness under four separate headings, the good Reverend reminds us that being happy can mean very different things. To kickoff, he talks about happiness as pleasure in some thing. For example, you might love your new outfit and flounce around the house in it for a few hours. But after that, that wonderful garment starts to become “old hat”. Why? Because your feel-good juices that got you excited about that latest hot item start running out of puff. Physiologically, this happy feeling has a built in use by time. Which is probably just as well. Otherwise, you’d still be capering about the house, harassing your family and wearing out the mirrors at four in the morning.
Then there’s the “I’m better than them” type of happiness. Whether because we have more money, status, or more barbecue tools than the next-door neighbor, the premise of the equation is “because I have this, I am better than you so therefore I deserve to be happier too”. This kind of gamesmanship spins like a merry-go-round with a broken brake, leaving everyone competing to be better and dizzily striving – all to claim the crown of supreme happiness.
Trouble is, ordering the super-dooper supreme pizza doesn’t guarantee more happiness than the basic margherita. Besides feeling less than happy about the heavy handedness with anchovies there is that flat feeling you get that asks, “Is that all there is?”
The triumph of being better is essentially empty because nobody else cares anyway. Besides which, there’s always somebody with better, making life a never-ending competition to climb the pile.
Apart from the fact that climbers fall, this kind of “one-upmanship” inherently relies on putting others down for us to be up. Is it worth it? Statistically: nope.
Rev. Spitzer then refers to happiness as “blessedness”, where seeing the good in others and doing good creates its own reward. This kind of happiness allows us to delight in other people’s achievements and put effort into making life better to share wherever we are. But, the Reverend says, it’s a rickety brand of happiness because it relies on us to be capable of delivering it fresh on time every day, lest its benefits fade away.
That’s why the Rev. Spitzer reckons there’s another even better version of happiness than that, namely based on truth, goodness, and beauty. Being a man of the cloth, he then naturally points his views toward the Creator (and I certainly don’t have a problem with that).
But to me, the line between happiness as blessedness and valuing truth, goodness, and beauty is a dotted one. All of us ought to tear along it to make life as we know it as satisfying and meaningful as possible.
Happiness that’s selfish, shallow, or based on impetuous ego is never going to end well. We know that. Which is why all those years of “maturing” (like a nice wine and a somewhat sniff-worthy cheese) actually pay off when you grasp that what you give out is the exact measure of the length and breadth of your satisfaction.
Happiness in helping, using our talents, living with character, and living with meaning, give life that highly-prized pizzazz factor. It’s not the size of our much maligned body parts, the scope of our bank notes, how much better we are than our “don’t walk on my lawn” neighbor, or even how many people we impress. These are the blind alleys so many folk run up in a frenzied fashion, only to get caught in inevitable disappointment.
But really, it’s simple: if you act with kindness you deserve to be happy. If you dedicate yourself to your beliefs then you will also find contentment. Go ahead and scan the Internet. But you never find anything better than that.
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