Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Want Happiness, don't think about it

OK - that makes sense. Wasn't there a 19th century poet who said that happiness was like a butterfly, the more you chase it the more it eludes you, but if you sit quietly it will come and rest on your shoulder? I am not sure of the exact quote, but that is the jist of it. I ask this because there is a book out there that is on the New York Times 100 most notable books of 2006 list that talks about the pursuit of happiness.

The book was researched and written by a Florida State University history professor. The title of this book is "Happiness: A History" and traces what Western philosophers, like Socrates, Aristotle, Marx and Freud thought about happiness. In the article on CNN.com he admits that the book is more about the pursuit than the actual attainment of happiness because it seems the more you think about attaining happiness the more elusive it is. I have not yet read the book, but it sounds interesting to me as does the topic.

There is another book out there, "The Pursuit of Happyness" which was made into a movie staring Will Smith and his son. I have a feeling that these two books paired together would make for very interesting reading. In this book, a man recounts his pursuit of the American dream - wealth - while living in all sorts of horrific conditions with his son. Was he chasing happiness or did it find him when he reached his goals? I haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, but the topic is very interesting to me.

I find these books (and movie) interesting because I kept chasing happiness for years. If I just get to work in "The Industry," I'll be happy. If I just find the right guy, I'll be happy. If I just get out of debt, I'll be happy. While each of these things occurred - none of them made me happy. Maybe less stressed, but not happy. I realized sometime in the last year that the elusive feeling of "happiness' is not as important as contentment with occassional feelings of elated joy. Happiness is fleeting, as soon as you have it you don't know what to do with it so you worry it away. Contentment, joy - these stay with you far longer than happiness does - at least in the current definitions.

So, if asked if I am happy - of course I say yes. I am content, I am full of joy and I am very lucky. That's a version of happiness, right?

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