Rox – Forever Always Wishing
Continuing the song/lyrics theme, I’m going to blog about the pursuit of contentment. That thing we are forever always wishing for. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! Ahem. Yes.
[I was going to say the pursuit of happiness, but then I thought you’d all think I was reviewing the film. And then you’d all hate me for spelling it ‘happiness’ not ‘happyness’, and then be even more disappointed when you realised I’m actually blogging about something far less specific and Will-Smith-infused than the film (i.e the actual pursuit of whatever happiness is) and then you’d resent me forever or something. Erm, anyway. It’s possible I over-thought that.]
So… contentment. Happiness. Seems to be that thing you work all week for – spending days trying to get the boring/scary bits of life done – that just seems to end up being the bits of the weekend that aren’t spent mowing the lawn or doing the Big Shop. Then Monday swings around and we start the big search again, because what we found first time around didn’t feel quite as cool as we thought the whole happiness thing would. “Surely there must be something else out there that would make me truly happy?” etc.
Then we get goals that we feel will be the key to finding that elusive feeling of total contentment. That job. That pair of shoes. That figure. That man. David Tennant. OMG DAVID TENN-sorry, where was I? Ahem. Anyway, you get the point I’m illustrating.
The fact is – if you get that job, or go on that holiday you’ve been planning all year, or buy whatever puppy/car/David Tennant calendar you’ve had your eye on for ages… sorry to break it to you, but you don’t find that total contentment. There will always be something else you decide you want – something else you suddenly realise you simply can’t be happy without.
That’s because the happiness is in the striving. I’ve been reading an amazing book recently – Michael Foley’s The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes It Hard To Be Happy – and it’s packed full of the views of philosophers throughout the ages on what it is to be happy, and how modern society seems to have made us into a bunch of self-important twats with a ridiculous sense of an entitlement which doesn’t exist. ‘Oh, I deserve to be happy – I shouldn’t have to try. My Mummy told me and everything, and if you say otherwise I will sue you and win all your money. And your face. Because I’m worth it.’ Obviously, the first thing I thought of was that I’d be much happier if I had permission to round up all the people that actually behave like that and kill them til they’re dead – but on a serious note, Foley points us to a much more profound solution to the search for happiness: happiness IS the searching. Foley writes:
Echoing many earlier thinkers, psychologist Daniel Nettle posits the theory that the struggle is the meaning: ‘The purpose of the happiness programme in the human mind is not to increase human happiness; it is to keep us striving’. The human creature is designed for striving. Buddha, Spinoza and Schopenhauer, among many others, agreed. Schopenhauer put it with typical clarity: ‘We take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something.’
Foley, p. 63
There will always be something else you want – so enjoy working towards it. That’s what I’m trying to bear in mind with my writing (see, you knew I’d get a mention of the book in there somewhere) – I need to enjoy writing it rather than fixating on what the outcome will be, or the end product is going to be a total disappointment. I also need to stop ranting about the fact my moving date has been put back, and how I’d quite like to be moved into this bloody cottage some time soon – you know, like before I start the frickin’ menopause – because moving in will not suddenly make me happy. I should just enjoy each day as it comes.
So the striving is where all the fun is, and if you don’t realise that then you will spend your life ignoring the fun part because you’re waiting for the even funner part. Epic fail.
Or, as Agatha Christie would say “The thrill is in the chase, never in the capture.” I learned that off Doctor Who. See? David Tennant does have his uses in the pursuit of happiness after all…