“DO WHATEVER MAKES YOU HAPPY”: A SOCIETY OBSESSED WITH HAPPINESS
This line seems to be said increasingly often nowadays. Is it the right thing to say? Will the constant pursuit of happiness lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life?
Many of the ideas described here will be inspired by the themes in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World. The book takes place in a utopia where everyone is always happy and society is perpetually productive. This is mainly achieved through the public use of drugs, recreational sex, and satisfying social positions.
You might already see a correlation between that and our current world. Drug use is expanding, and casual sex is becoming more common and socially accepted. We’re still a far way from total equality, but with the 21st century, anti-racism and anti-sexism are more prominent.
We’re already faced with a moral dilemma. Is happiness caused by drugs still a valid type
of happiness? Can happiness be chemically elicited?
Our society is so afraid of being unhappy. The moment we get depressed thoughts, we turn to antidepressants. We take medicine for anxiety. Some adults turn to alcohol whenever their minds become dark. This is caused by a simple problem: we haven’t learned how to handle being sad. We don’t have it deeply ingrained enough in our heads that sadness and anxiety are okay to feel, and we haven’t been taught how to learn to handle our personal angst and triumph it with a primal survival instinct.
In fact, the name of this blog, “rumination”, is a word usually used as a name for stress and depression caused by excessive thinking. This blog causes me to think a lot, but never does it stress me out. Does it not sound a little strange to you that people who suffer from rumination are advised to think less, and try to distract themselves? Instead of confronting their thoughts and learning how to control them by becoming mentally strong?
Why haven’t we been taught this?
The previous generation, the one that raised the adults and youth of today, brought into the world a change in perspective. Instead of declaring that life was to be lived to serve some kind of productive purpose, they determined that a huge priority in life was to be happy. A rise in entertainment, a rise in unhealthy but delicious food, a rise in drugs and alcohol. They began to bring out discrimination, fight for social equality, and self-confidence. They raised us with the condition of doing whatever made us happy. We weren’t necessarily all spoiled. But we were allowed to be lazier and an emphasis was placed on giving us an opportunity to voice what we wanted.
Celebrities have made catchphrases out of “do what makes you happy” — because that’s what they did. But is that really the message we want to be teaching future generations? “Your life won’t be valuable unless you’re enjoying it”? That isn’t true; we value accountants and custodians, but no baby would even understand the role of an accountant and nor are they born saying “I want to wipe windows for the rest of my life”. There is a TED talk about this, and it accuses this advice as being incredibly elitist. Most people have a passion for something in the arts or athletic fields, but they understand that if a large percentage of the population grew up to be entertainers, there would be fewer people to run businesses and help in the army.
Besides, one thing won’t always make you happy. Writers hate their jobs whenever they get writer’s block. A famous idol might want to pass out after a tiring schedule. Your passion could be saving people, but working as a surgeon or firefighter is stressful for the majority of the time. Doing something might be fun, but doing the same activity for the rest of your life is bound to seem boring. You might not even have one thing that makes you happy — or you might have too many. How do you choose between passions? Perhaps what you’re passionate about might not be what you’re most talented at doing. Would it be wasteful for a gifted wrestler to pursue a full-time career in economics instead? Surely continuing as a wrestler and competing internationally would bring pride to their country, and hence be more valuable than joining another large team of economists. It’s more efficient and productive to just choose a career in which you’re skilled in, rather than hoping to train your skills from scratch in exchange for the possibility of a fun-filled career.
Next, happiness doesn’t only arise from doing good things. Enacting revenge or any sadistic tendencies will have consequences in the long run. Allowing that relationship to distract you from studying for exams, or eating an entire cake because you have a sweet tooth are both examples of things your brain usually tries to signal you to avoid.
A common cliche is “listen to your heart”. Your metaphorical heart represents your subconscious urges, usually opposing your brain. But how is this ever a good idea? Like, ever. My heart is stupid. It tells me to dumb things, like binge watch an anime just because it pulls on my heartstrings, or wear makeup so that my crush will compliment me, or that maybe I should stop working out because it’s tiring to beat so fast. Instead of following your heart, how about training your brain to take your desires into consideration? Sometimes, what you think will make you happy actually won’t, and you’d realize this only once you put more thought into it.
Were you able to follow why the constant pursuit of happiness is disadvantageous? Sometimes we have to do things that don’t make us happy. The more dedicated to happiness we are, the less willing we are to do these things. Sometimes, what makes us happy comes with consequences that we can’t deal with. We’d have to let go of our happiness and listen to logic.
Keep an ear out for this phrase. “Do what makes you happy.” Will you listen to it?
I can definitely write much more on this topic, and I apologize for such an unstructured post. The media seems like a parrot, endlessly squawking at you to follow your heart, live to be happy, and love yourself just the way you are.
First, following your raw emotions is a bad idea more often than it is good. There’s a reason they’re raw: they haven’t had the dangerousness and negativity drained out of them like processed emotions. Next, everyone should decide their own purpose for life. Some might say it’s to contribute to mankind and leave a lasting impression. Some might say it’s for fun, and some might dedicate it to some higher power. If you do what makes you happy but it fails, then what have you really accomplished? Finally, don’t love yourself the way you are. Love yourself through how you can improve; physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Don’t just acknowledge your flaws; fix them. You shouldn’t be fully satisfied with yourself just yet!
Thank you for reading!