Monday, July 11, 2005

The pursuit of happiness

"Me and You and Everybody We Know" makes me think. This is what I'm thinking about.

The Declaration of Independence mentions three things: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On the surface, we want to pursue happiness. No one wants to pursue sadness unless she's a depressive. But is it really happiness than we're seeking?

There are three kinds of happiness: superficial, simplistic, and eternal. The first two are short-term ones, and the last is by definition long-term.

First, one can only achieve simplistic happiness by superficial happiness. Superficially, the following items make me happy: money, (lots of) women, a nice car, a nice house. On an even more simplistic level, going to Six Flags and riding on its roller coasters make me very happy. However, in order to achieve the "simplistic" happiness, you first need "superficial" happiness, i.e. money. You need to buy tickets to go into Six Flags unless you sneak in for free (One of my friends [I won't name any names] does achieve simplistic happiness, i.e. going to see Orioles games, without having to first achieve superficial happiness first). But that's a rare exception.

I believe most people are seeking simplistic happiness by way of superficial happiness. Some people I know are purely seeking superficial happiness. They just want a nice house, a nice car, and lots of women.

The eternal happiness is the kind of happiness that is not shallow in nature. I'm not sure if that's the same brand of happiness that Thomas Jefferson was thinking when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. I hope that's what he had in mind. The following items make me eternally happy: Making someone I care have a heartfelt smile on her face, seeing a satisfactory look on his face after helping a blind person cross the road, people tapping on your shoulder and say you read well as a liturgist at church, receiving surprise presents (that you want) during non-festive events, etc. In short, the eternal happiness is really the feeling that people genuinely care about you and appreciate you for who you are because you're a special person.

Unfortunately, the world is too competitive for people to show each other the eternal happiness. You don't need the prerequisites of simplistic and/or superficial happiness to attain eternal happiness. Eternal happiness comes from yourself, your heart, and how faithfully you follow your heart. To me, the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of what your heart desires. But since 80% of the population chooses not to pursue that, maybe "happiness" is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Maybe people really don't want happiness at all. Perhaps "happiness" as a concept is overrated.

There are many ways to make a difference in this world, but most people choose to step on each other to gain "superficial happiness," be it advancement in their social ladder, or a temporary good laugh. Worse yet, some people choose not to follow their heart and do things that they dislike. That's why they're not happy. That's why they step on each other to make themselves "happier." But this air is different than that air.

I don't think "happiness" is overrated. I still love going to Six Flags and ride its roller coasters. I still love giggling like a kid when someone ask me a stupid IQ questions. We're all children at heart. As Richard Curtis aptly illustrates in his movie "Love Actually," you can still find love everywhere especially when you go to airports.

So do me a favor people. Treat everywhere you go as if you're in the airport. Even at the McDonald's that provides you with the worst service ever. Because if you make someone feel special, you've become their angel. I need to learn that too; that's why I wrote this piece.

Quote of the day: It's OK to be an asshole; you'd better apologize for being one.

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