The Pursuit of Happiness

 

One of my favorite movies to come out in the last 10-15 years is ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’.  Below is a brief synopsis of the movie I found when I googled “The Pursuit of Happiness”:

“Life is a struggle for single father Chris Gardner (Will Smith). Evicted from their apartment, he and his young son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) find themselves alone with no place to go. Even though Chris eventually lands a job as an intern at a prestigious brokerage firm, the position pays no money. The pair must live in shelters and endure many hardships, but Chris refuses to give in to despair as he struggles to create a better life for himself and his son.”

Spoiler alert – One of the struggles and hardships Christopher Garner (Will Smith) endures include a very difficult scene (for me at least) where he and his son are forced to sleep in a BART metro station bathroom.  I cried as hard, if not harder, than Chris did in that scene.  The happiness that Mr. Gardner pursues is not realized until the end of the movie, and even then it is seen as just a single, perhaps even fleeting moment, and one that was more of a relief than an accomplishment.  At least that’s what I took away from it.

Mr. Gardner went on to be incredibly successful.  He started his own brokerage firm in 1987, and has a current net worth of 60 million dollars.  What I found compelling while researching Mr. Gardner and his happiness was this:

“…just before his wife’s death, she challenged him to find true happiness and fulfillment in the remainder of his life. He now travels all over the world 200 days a year as a motivational speaker. Gardner has spoken in over 50 countries…”

What struck me was this notion that, despite Chris Gardner’s story and the incredible success he has had, he was still in pursuit of happiness.  How could that be I asked myself….which ultimately lead to this…

The Garbo Media Group Presents:
A Brutally Honest and Opinionated “Guide” to Happiness

 OK, “guide” is probably used loosely here.  This is more like a structured rant/philosophy….

  1. You can be happy all of the time…I think

I’m reading a book by Mark Manson titled “The subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”.  It’s a great book.  I picked it up 2 months ago and I’m about to dive into it again for the 3rd time.  This probably says a lot about where I am personally, but there is so much in Mr. Manson’s book that speaks to me and rings true.  I highly recommend the book.  It’s an easy read, it’s entertaining and it’s helpful.

In one of the books chapters Mark speaks about values, or better yet those concepts or traits that one values.  The idea being that one’s values, or those ideals and traits that one values, have a direct correlation to the quality of that persons’ life.  Good values, Mark argues, include honesty and non-violence, just to name a couple.  There are crappy values as well, and Mark does a great job articulating those and even ranks them from crappiest to just plain crappy.

Number one on Mr. Manson’s list of crappy values is the constant pursuit of pleasure, which as a concept is not too far removed from the continuous pursuit of happiness.  This left me with a question:

Can you, and perhaps should you, desire to be happy all of the time?

I have to be honest, when I first set out to write this blog post, my answer was “no”.  It’s fairly obvious that I’m a cynic, some might even call me a pessimist.  I’m fine with that.  We can debate the merits of pessimism vs. optimism later.  But, the more I thought about it the more I’ve quieted my inner Grinch.  Perhaps it’s the season, or perhaps it is another weird revelatory byproduct of my own personal demons and turmoil, but I’d like to think that you can be happy all of the time.  Happiness is simply defined as the state of being happy.  Synonyms for ‘happiness’ include contentment, satisfaction and well-being….

Yeah, why the fuck not!  That doesn’t seem to hard….

The more I started to examine the concept of ‘happiness’ the more I realized that the established bar for ‘happiness’ is pretty damn low.  Which is fine I guess, just a little disappointing.  Here I was thinking happiness was more than being content, more than just being satisfied.  I’m content and satisfied, pretty much all of the time….I’m not sure that I’m happy though.  Actually no, I’m sure I’m not happy.  And, I can assure you I’m not happy all of the time.  The only people I know who are happy all of the time are people under the age of one, and people who have no clue how fucking old they are.

I’m serious.  I’m not sure what happiness is.  It’s somewhere between content, and the wonder of the simple mind.  I’m not sure how to define that though.  I think we all define happiness differently, which makes sense as we all experience life differently, deal with emotions differently and have different values.  For you, happiness may be a more natural state based on your expectations, and how you deal with shit.  For me, it’s going to be a struggle to be happy all of the time.  I’m going to stub a toe here and there, and life hasn’t always lived up to my expectations.  But, I truly believe that if you can find beauty in struggle, learn from adversity, and are at peace with your decisions, it’s possible to live in a perpetual state of happiness…..I think.

  1. Happiness is best AFTER struggle

This seems pretty obvious to me.  Dare I say, if you don’t agree then you’ve never struggled?  I’ll take Chris Gardner’s moment of happiness over the happiness one feels after a 6 hour, cocaine fueled orgy with 3 strippers, any day of the week.

There is beauty in struggle, struggle inspires and struggle strengthens.  But, struggle is a process, and like many processes, the benefits aren’t always apparent while the process is playing out.  The struggle makes it mean so much more, and the feeling of happiness that you feel after you’ve struggled and won, is perhaps the greatest reward.  Happiness after struggle is the euphoric validation of your hard work, your perseverance, your courage, your blood, your sweat, your tears, or whatever it was that helped bring you through that struggle.

  1. Protect Your Happiness

Your happiness is precious and you should protect it.  A couple of days ago I got two pieces of great news.  It doesn’t really matter what the news was, it was great news that made me happy.  I wanted to share the news with a friend of mine, but they weren’t available.  That bothered me.  I wanted to share this good news with this one person and because I couldn’t, I no longer derived joy from the news.  I wasn’t happy.  In fact, it fucked up the rest of my day.  It started with me being upset that my friend wasn’t available, but quickly morphed into self-disgust at my seeming co-dependence for happiness.

Your happiness is yours, protect it as such.  You should protect your happiness like you could lose it, because you can.  This means protecting your happiness from self sabotage, other people, wolves, and periodic extinction level events like asteroid impacts or a sudden pole shift.

Now granted, there’s not much you can do if you find yourself in a situation like Liam Neeson in ‘The Grey’, or if the human race is facing catastrophic global annihilation.  Your happiness is pretty much fucked if either of those things happen.  Trust me.  Happiness and people though…that’s manageable.  Here’s how:

  • Self Sabotage – Avoid it like the plague, wolves or asteroids. Again, your happiness is precious and perhaps rare.  Enjoy your happiness and don’t be afraid to be happy, or to express your happiness.  I think a lot of people shy away from embracing moments that should bring them happiness.  Learn to accept praise and complements.  Don’t be so fucking cynical and mistrustful of the good things that come into your life.  Embrace the small stuff.  But, don’t get carried away.  Happiness is infectious and addictive and hence should be tapped in moderation.  You don’t want to be one of those people who are too happy….
  • Other people – If your happiness is dependent on another person, or if you need another person to validate or approve of your happiness, then you may have a problem my friend. Now wait a minute!  What about my children, my wife/husband, my friends, etc.?  I derive joy and happiness from them.  Yes, you do and you should.  Nothing makes me happier than the accomplishments of my daughter.  Hell, just seeing her smile, or knowing that she is happy, makes me happy.  With that said, my happiness is not dependent on her.  My point is to choose carefully who you give stock in your happiness to.  Stock in your happiness should come at a premium and have a hefty price tag attached to it.  You can’t just pass your happiness around like a blunt at a 420 festival.  You’re never going to see it again, the blunt that is, and that’s on you son!  Going back to my earlier example, I don’t blame my friend for not being available.  My friend didn’t know any of this was occurring, or that I desperately “needed” to share this news with them.  And for the record, I don’t think people in general relish “stealing” the joy and happiness of others…that’s some Doofensmirtz shit!

As an aside, I’m absolutely ecstatic that I was able to tie Dr. Doofenshmirtz into this blog post.  I have some very fond memories of watching Phineas and Ferb with my daughter when she was younger!

To close, I just want to say that I hope we all continue to experience a shit ton of happiness in this life.  And, if you not getting a shit ton, you’re at least working with an ass load.  I joke, I’m a cynic, but I think if we all felt genuine and pure happiness MOST of the time this world would be a MUCH better place.

Smile, laugh, and hug someone….spread love. 

Peace

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