The search for happiness has become our number one job, the activity we can never escape. Happiness is no longer a feeling, an emotion, but a must. Happiness was transformed into a myth, a sort of modern Valhalla, to which one only has access if one lives one’s life right, the land of all promises.
There are maps to happiness, checklists, instructions, steps to follow, annual charts with the happiest countries, self-help books, happy pills, therapy, online love, McDonald’s even has a Happy Meal, and Deichman is always there to take care of your happy feet, and yet, a part of the world is starving, for another, the infernal and terrifying noise of the falling bombs just became the soundtrack, a few are still under tyrannic dictatorial regimes, some are slaves on their own lands, and what remains of the world, the “happy ones”, the ones who eat happy meals, drive happy cars, live in happy houses, watch happy films, read happy books, work happy hours, take happy pills are depressed. Depression is the disease of our century, and it is so because depression is convenient for the current power owners.
Sugar, spice and everything nice! A bit of romantic, monogamic, heterosexual (if and when possible white) love, stability, safety, dreams, hobbies, family, freedom, a few years of hard work, and that’s the recipe of a perfectly baked and tasty slice of happiness.
But we forget that, as a quote from The Beach (2000, Danny Boyle), bases on a book by Alex Garland, says, Heaven is not a place, but a moment, and so happiness is not a state of being but a second, in a whirl of other constantly changing feelings, emotions and experiences which weave one’s existence. We were not born to be happy, we were born to live. Happiness became a required life condition when it started making money.
We search for happiness in commercial merchandise, we attach happiness to objects as if a lifeless thing could come with a feeling as if a feeling could be universal and invariable. We search for love online, in sex shops, on dark shady alleys, as if sex would be the exact synonym for love, and the other way round, because friendship is not good enough (or commercial enough), and physical intimacy is the highest form of intimacy. We search for freedom in Lana Del Rey’s songs, as if being absolutely free would be riding in an expensive car and living the American dream. As if all of our dreams could be bought with money, as if a paper bill would be the ticket for our ride back to our souls, and fear, exhaustion, alienation would only be the tests set up, for use to prove that we deserve to be happy. But there’s a petty trick to it, they never end, which only means we are always failing.
It is time to be happy, not because we earned it, but because happiness is a simple and deep emotion, as is fear, as is sadness, as is hope and it is in the human nature to feel it, to lose it, to desire it, to feel it again and lose it again. It is the time to stop buying and start feeling, it is time to stop pretending, and start loving. It is time to stop mistaking obsession with need. It is time for us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to understand fear as an emotion and fight it, to accept beauty, without looking for the stereotypes and patterns. It is time to allow ourselves to make mistakes, to fail, to fall, to cry and to scream, to be tired and to rest. But there are mistakes which are not allowed to continue, which should not have ever been allowed to exist: the wars, the famine, the exploitation, the inequalities and inequities, the racism, the homophobia. The Western world is so eager to get to happiness that on its way annihilated everyone else’s chances of being happy.
We need to accept that happiness is not universal and invariable, that as many individuals there are, as many different kinds of happiness. That what makes you happy, might not make me happy as well, That one might love and be loved without being happy, that another might be happy without having a family, that happiness comes in different forms and shapes, and that freedom, more than happiness is a right and should be a necessity. And we need to understand that our feelings are our own and that we are or we should be in charge of our emotions, not society, not some happy pills, or some happy meals.