Some days it feels like that whole world is out to get you. Specifically, to get you happier. Too bad the world doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing.
Happiness is the romantic’s holy grail, the supreme emotion, the shining star that brings us warmth as we stumble through life. We don’t just want to feel happy, we want to be happy — not in the moment, but in general, to allow happiness to be the defining feature of our existence.
This isn’t new. The pursuit of happiness has been at the center of philosophical debate since the beginning of philosophy — and at the center of human behavior since the dawn of humanity.
What is at least somewhat new is that happiness is now both an essential commodity and the lodestar of our decision-making process. We know it’s important, we try to seek it, we want more of it in our lives, everyone is trying to sell it to us — but at the same time, we don’t really know what it is.
Happiness and the “gospel of me”
It may just be me and the circles I’ve gotten myself into, but I have the feeling that nowadays every other conversation is about happiness. Are you happy at your job? Are you happy with your life? Are you happy in your relationship? Are you happier now that you’re not in a relationship? Honestly, I never quite know how to answer — but that’s OK, because in most cases those questions are either fillers or an excuse for other people to bludgeon you with their tales of happiness.
Happiness has overrun our decision-making process — which I believe is among the reasons there’s so much ill will toward Millennials. The internet has opened us up to infinite new ideas, myriad ways of thinking from every recess of human civilization. We no longer have to accept the communal knowledge on how we should live our lives — we need to find it for ourselves, by perusing through the bottomless repository of human knowledge. With that much power comes great angst.
It used to be that if you were wondering about a job, you’d ask a friend, teacher or family member for advice. For the spinier questions about morality and purpose, you could turn to religion.
In our modern hyper-connected high speed information utopia, that way of life has…