Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Paradox of Happiness

There’s a funny thing about happiness: it never really comes when you try to obtain it.  At least that’s been my own personal experience.  I can honestly say that my happiest moments in my life have just come to me without force or a whole lot of effort.
I’ve heard it said that happiness is where you are, not in the near future.  While I have often succumbed to the lie that if I just do this or buy that I’ll be happy, I have recently been finding myself much more ready to accept the circumstances I find myself in and to work with what I have.
I am happy when I am with my wife and enjoying her company.  I am happy when I have something to work on while I am at my job.  I am happy when I am blogging.  I am happy when I am summoning skeletons to defeat the hordes of Diablo, Lord of Terror.
It has been a bit of struggle, though, because there is always something in my life that needs work.  And it usually is a few things, some really big, and many really small and annoying.
For example, I currently am paying off a substantial student loan that’s going to need a lot of attention in order to pay it off early.  That’s a big thing.  And I often find myself obsessed over the idea of being rid of it in order to be happy.  I know that is an lie, but at the time it seems logical.  After all, debt could easily be said to be a form of slavery.
That would be a big thing.  A small thing would be like the Mountain Dew I had this past Sunday in celebration of giving up soda for Lent.  Since it was Easter Sunday, I went out and got one after Church but I didn’t find happiness in drinking it.  I enjoy it, but I didn’t have some kind of refreshing commercial moment with it.
So happiness doesn’t come with stuff or with accomplishments, but with your own contentment with the situation you are in.  This is probably the most important aspect of happiness that most people misunderstand.  Finding happiness in your own life means you have to find contentment with your life.  Sure you can still have ambition and desire, but without a contented life, ambition and desire can easily be corrupted.  I suspect this is what happened to those who were scammed by Madoff.  They all got so caught up in searching for happiness in money, that they didn’t see it in their own life.  A con artist is only successful with greedy people.
So that’s the paradox.  In order to obtain the things you desire and look for to make you happy, you have to be content with your life as it stands.  No one’s life is perfect, otherwise capitalism probably wouldn’t work.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t be content with your own life.
Those who are completely unhappy with their own lives and who seek to make it happy through their own desire and ambition often become statist politicians.  Beware of these people and their lies.  Find contentment with where you are and you will truly live life.