Lost in the Pursuit of Happiness

For whatever reason, I have always pictured happiness as being on a beach. An idyllic scene with little or no people around. Where I can enjoy the pristine natural enclave in all it’s glorious beauty. Not unlike the photo above, with a bit of sun, fog and beautiful warm weather that exudes from the image. Just picture yourself on that beach. How could you possibly not be happy in that moment.

“It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?” (Chris Gardner) in Pursuit of Happyness [sic] by Sony Pictures, 2006

However, I think that there is something fundamentally wrong with this picture. I had the opportunity to be in that setting not just a year ago in late summer of 2014 at a picturesque beach in the middle of the Caribbean sea on a lone island. With nothing but flamingos and other locals surrounding me and the ironic umbrella drink. Later substituted for a deliciously ice-cold local beer called Balashi in a bucket next to me on the sand where I sat lounging, no doubt a scene that would have mirrored the iconic Corona commercials. I questioned myself whether this moment was paradise. Even with a sip of the crisp refreshing suds from the Balashi and a small drip of it making its way down my sun-kissed chin in the pristine Caribbean sun, I could not define it that way. I had the inkling of an idea, an inception towards the temporal longevity of this moment and that definition of paradise was tainted.

Paradise is not a moment. Paradise cannot be a place. Inherent in those worldly and material moments are issues and problems. A storm rolling into the beach or a shark in the water. Happiness and paradise do not necessarily have to coincide. Happiness is located within the actual pursuit towards happiness. It is not finite. An object of desire that can be easily grasped, otherwise it would no longer be a pragmatic idea, rather a rhetorical statement unable to last.

What had gotten me to that island so far away from civilization was a series of extenuating circumstances resulting in a all-expense paid vacation, separate from work. The situation in itself proved worthy of my happiness. I was there through completion of some other acts that may not have necessarily been happy moments but they had led me here. And in that moment I realized happiness was all around me, temporally seeping through every moment that I had gone through to be in that idyllic location. Only in that moment was I able to truly relax and enjoy. This to me, is happiness.

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