I have written about this before, here on this blog… I have never been a very big fan of “happiness”. Not only that, it troubles me when people use happiness as their spiritual divining rod. I have been around long enough to know that the pursuit of happiness is one of the most dangerous, destructive forces in our society. Do you want a guaranteed horrible life? Do you want to make everything horrible for everyone around you? Then just make happiness your primary objective and that’s exactly what you will get – a horrible, miserable life.
Well, the reason I’m writing about this today is because I found a better way to explain why I don’t like the pursuit of happiness. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because I see a lot of marriage advice that begins with statements like “ten steps to a happy marriage” etc. That is not the place I would go for marriage advice, I can promise you that.
But wait a second, didn’t our country’s declaration of independence list the “pursuit of happiness” as one of the unalienable rights? Doesn’t that make me about as un-American as you can get?
Let’s just see how bad it is…
Future Shock and the Entertainment Age
Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was required reading in my sociology class in college. We read the book about a decade after it was written so my teacher offered what he believed had transpired since the book was published. Future shock talks about civilization moving out of the industrial age and into the information age. But my teacher claimed that many sociologists believe that we have passed through the information age and are currently living in the entertainment age.
It would be difficult to refute his statement. Just take a look at the world we live in. Today, teachers are considered bad educators if they cannot entertain the students. Most people get their political information from entertainment sources. Information is deemed good or bad based on its ability to entertain the people who need it. This NEED for entertainment has saturated our society. I’ve only listed a few examples, but when you really sit to think about it, the word “saturated” perfectly describes how bad it has become.
Pursuit of Happiness in the Age of Enlightenment
If indeed we are currently in the entertainment age, then the American Declaration of Independence was penned at least three ages back. When the American colonies declared independence from England, the industrial age was still a long way off.
Consider the difference between what was considered happiness then and what makes people happy today.
What did someone need, in 1776, to be happy?
People like to say that nothing changes…especially people and society. They believe that people are same one generation to the next, and accuse anyone who says differently of employing a slippery slope argument. But all you have to do to see that times have changed is spend a little time reading books at gutenburg.org. You cannot spend time on Gutenburg and not come away from it with a profound sense that those were very different times…and very different people.
Entertainment and Hedonism
So, according to my sociology professor, we are no longer in the information age, but in the entertainment age. You know, I often tell people that we live in a hedonistic, morally relative society (the two go together – just in case you haven’t made that connection yet).
Look at the genuine definition of hedonism: “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life” (according to Merriam-Webster).
Other sources add to that basic definition the same statement but voiced in the converse: “pain and unhappiness are the sole or chief bad in life“.
How could we help but to be hedonistic in the entertainment age? I mean, really think about that for a minute. The two go together the way a glove fits a hand.
Our society is so saturated by hedonistic beliefs that even the church barely recognizes it’s own form of hedonism. We have twisted the bible to mean things that it never said, simply because we see good and bad through hedonistic fiters.
Today the so called “golden rule” has a hedonistic slant. Don’t bring pain into people’s lives that you wouldn’t want in your life. And, if you want happiness, then don’t stomp on other people’s happiness.
That’s not at all what the Bible says! But you wouldn’t know that if you see all right and wrong, good and bad, through eyes that regard only pain and pleasure.
Our Fat, Overly Sensitive Children
This is why we have parents who think good parenting is when you let your children only eat what they like to eat. This is why parents who spank their children run the risk of loosing them to the CPA. Our children are growing up to think that vegetables are disgusting enough to make them vomit. Of course veggies will make you puke if all you have ever eaten is pizza, burgers and mac and cheese.
But it’s worse than just that. Even the successful kids today are taught to “enjoy” the good food. Why??? Why not just eat it because it’s good for you? Why do they have to find pleasure in food?
We now have a wide range of mental disorders associated with food. Is that a surprise? Instead of teaching our children to eat what’s good for them, whether they like it or not, we feel we have to do everything in our power, as parents, to get them to “enjoy” the food that will make them healthy.
No wonder so many of them grow up with eating disorders! We are teaching it into them as parents! We are the ones telling them to eat emotionally, every time we emphasize that they should like what they eat.
Look at discipline in this context as well. In a hedonistic society, where pain is the ultimate bad and happiness is the ultimate good, there can be no discipline. In fact, any parent who disciplines his or her children is considered evil in a hedonistic society.
So we are raising a generation of children who have never known pain and have only ever had to do what pleases them. They have become overly sensitive and mentally weak.
This is where our political correctness is coming from and why it’s only going to get worse. Offending people has become a crime because we judge right and wrong according to what brings pleasure or pain. And that, I believe, is the result of living in the entertainment age.
“I’m Not a Big Fan of Happiness”
So, as you see, I am not a big fan of happiness and I believe that the “pursuit of happiness” is actually a very evil thing. Yes, it is written into our country’s declaration of independence, but those were very, very different times.
I cringe when I see marriage advice that starts with “if you want a happy marriage….” I know, it seems innocent enough. Who wouldn’t want a “happy marriage“? But I can’t help but to remember all of the people I know who ruined so many lives for their own pursuit of happiness.
And it’s not just marriage. It’s our entire society. Happiness is our caveat. We all know the rules. For the most part, we all know right from wrong. But we have a great, big hedonistic pass that excuses us from doing what’s right. It’s called the pursuit of happiness. We believe it’s our American, unalienable right to be happy, and it doesn’t matter to us how many people we ruin in the process of realizing that right in our lives. Our happiness is our excuse for hurting others and that’s good enough for us. If it’s not good enough for them, well, “get over it!”
So no, I’m not a fan.
President and First Lady
I remember, long ago, when I was offered a $5 membership at a popular gym. Apparently they offered that deal as a way to get you in the gym so they could sic their sales reps on you. The dude that they paired me with kept going on and on about my happiness. If I wasn’t as fat (I think I was at my top weight at the time – almost 300 lbs), wouldn’t I be more attractive and wouldn’t that make me happier.
The guy just couldn’t get it into his head that I was there for a very specific reason and that none of it was emotional. I knew which exercises I needed to do and none of it had to do with my looks.
But I’m sure the reason why he was so frustrated with me was because his tricks probably work on most other people. He wasn’t used to not making a sale. Back then I just didn’t understand it yet. I didn’t understand why anyone would try to “sell” something that way. But that’s because I thought most people were just like me in that sense.
I have since learned that I am a complete weirdo in that regard. I am not hedonistic – never have been – never will be. So I am at odds with the society I live in.
All my life I can remember thinking that emotions should never control our behavior. Yes, emotions happen. Even the most stoic person feels emotions. Being stoic does not mean you are a psychopath. No, all it means is that you do not let your emotions control you.
And there is a practical reason for being stoic. We are vulnerable when we are emotional. The worst thing about being hedonistic is that we become easily manipulated. The hedonistic person is as easily controlled as well trained hunting dogs. Have you ever heard about hunting dogs that go after deer scent? To train the dog to never go after deer scent, you put that scent in a barrel, put the dog in the barrel and roll it down the hill a few times. After that, the dog will never chase a deer again.
Hedonistic people are the same way. The government, evil corporations, manipulative friends, salesmen, you are just putty in their hands for as long as “happiness” is your ultimate goal.
No, I do not believe that it’s a good way to live. It hurts me to see it, actually. Which is why I write about it all the time. I like helping people, and if I can get even a few of you to look at what the pursuit of happiness is doing to your lives, then the time I invest into writing about it will be worth it.
What Do You Think?
So, do you think I’m a complete nutter? Or have you seen the light?
I am interested in what you think, so please consider leaving a comment below.