The prospect of a long day at the beach makes me panic. There is no harder work I can think of than taking myself off to somewhere pleasant, where I am forced to stay for hours and ‘have fun’.
– Phillip Lopate
The irony of this statement strikes everyone, but its significance may not. Going to the beach has traditionally been an occasion to have fun. Yet it causes Lopate to panic.
Many people in western societies have lost track of their objective of happiness on their way to “have fun.” A person today is judged by his income, his position, his status and his wealth. Having fun may be part of that judgment, but it’s not part of being happy.
By comparing where he believes he is on each of these scales to where he believes he thinks he should be or where he believes others think he should be, a person’s life has become focussed on work. Our lives are evaluated by our work. Who we are is determiend by what we do for a living. Our worth is calculated by how ostentaciously we spend our money.
This is not true of everyone. But it’s certainly true of those who consider how they will look more than their needs when the buy a vehicle or a home, when they decide where to school their children, what clubs to belong to and how to hold parties.
Paying attention closely to how we are judged by others is not the way to happiness. Happiness is a personal objective that must be undertaken without significant reference to the opinions of others. Our duties and responsibilities are important, but the opinions of others as to what we should do will not cause us to be happy.
The person going nearly twice the speed limit on a highway through a city is not concerned about where his next meal is coming from. But he may be secretly concerned about his lack of power in many areas of his life. Excessive speed is one way to take control–to hold power–in a life that is largely controlled by others, by creditors, by employers, by family membersm by a desire to do better than he is doing now. By what others think of him.
In a radio interview by a broadcaster from Napa Valley, California, last year I was asked how to decline drugs offered at parties the host goes to, as drugs were apparently the norm for every party he attended. A radio host from Los Angeles this year had trouble following our conversation because he was drugged up at 6:20 a.m. local time. For many people, recreational drugs have become the escape mechanism of choice when they have no other means to have fun.
Ask people you know what they do to find happiness in their lives and many will tell you how they “have fun” by doing something illegal or risky. A few will have genuine answers, showing they know what happiness is for them. A minority will admit that they have no idea how to be happy.
Yet “the pursuit of happiness” declared as an objective in the US Declaration of Independence continues to be an objective, even if a large portion of the population has little idea how to achieve it.
In today’s fast paced world, people need to be taught, while still children, what happiness is for those who are truly happy and how to achieve this state or course of life. Unless we are taught about happiness, we may not find it because others bombard us all day long with pitches designed to make us believe that we can buy it. Happiness can only be made, not bought.
As peculiar as it sounds, Happiness could be part of a health course offered in high schools. Given the rates of emotional and social problems among high school students today, the course should be taught in the earliest years.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put happiness back as a realistic life objective.
Learn more at http://billallin.com