The idea for this post has been nagging at me for a while. I almost dread writing it. I am not much qualified on either of them, or maybe a little too much on the latter, thinking it is the former. Maybe, it would be a good place to start when I say what got me thinking about them both, especially in relation and differentiation to one another. I live a pretty mundane life, well, mundane to me, where I’m kinda, sorta trying to make a career in teaching and I kinda, sorta dread actually making it. It neither makes me “happy” nor gives me any “pleasure”. So, I’ve been trying for what seems like (and in fact, is) forever to find out what does make me “happy” or at least gives me “pleasure”. Of course, pleasure is the inferior state. You can at best have, to quote the wonderful Kate Bush, “moments of pleasure” while happiness is to be earned for it is, ah here comes The Beatles quote now, “a warm gun”. There are very, very few people who are truly happy. Many are falsely happy, that is they try to convince themselves everyday of their happiness, a happiness they seek to recognize by having ticked all the check posts of the grid set out by human society. Then there are those who’d rather have pleasure, something they can reach with their fingertips, something they can indulge in, something they can lose themselves in while they await a chance, a stab into the dark at happiness. Happyness is the pursuit while pleasure is merely a principle to live by.
But can things that give us pleasure have the potential to make us happy? The musical artists I mentioned above are the two who have transcended the arena of mere pleasure to happiness in my adult life. When I listen to Kate Bush’s version of her own “This Woman’s Work” from the album The Director’s Cut, I feel something more than just musical appreciation or an, well it is not a song that can make one feel easy, easiness of spirit. I feel closer to demystifying existence, to somehow wanting to be a better human being. I am not always made happy, happy as I understand it to be, especially with The Beatles, love for whom I have particularly abused. I have often put on their records when “I’m down”, expecting them to work every time and solve everything. To the point that now I solely play them when nothing seems to work. I disallowed them from being of pleasure. No, they must be my ambrosia for happiness.
Were the French intellectuals right in saying that happiness is useless to go after and it is the nature of our lot to make do with being pleased? In a way, I think it is. I would have completely believed them if I could not count at least three, at least three people I know that are truly happy. They define happiness more than happiness could define them. All their situations in life are different but, there is such genuine, natural spirit, a blessedness in life, gratitude to none particular, a joy that they radiate wherever they are, a usefulness they have about them that seems like if it could be distilled into a serum, it would solve all problems in the world. I could never belong to their club(would I want to if they had me as a member?) but my job is to look at them from a distance and say, yes, it does exist.
Some people do go out on a mission of happiness. They sometimes even feel they have succeeded and feel the need to share it. Heck, they might even make an empire of their new found enlightenment by marketing volumes on it. It might work for some people but It can’t work for me. I have seen happiness, I have seen how they’ve come to be happy and I know whether I can be as well or not. And I also know I won’t be going on missions anytime soon.
Happiness is often synonymously called contentment, well-being, a general sense of loving and being loved. But I also think it is one more thing that, though caused by interaction with others, is essentially a personal thing. It is finding a place to be. Whether it is a physical space or a condition in life, it is where you finally let yourself show. Where you get that feeling of “I am”.
I have subsisted on pleasure for long. I find pleasure in many things and I am never one to condemn it. But, lately, because of writing this blog, I have been feeling something that is not pleasure. I feel a transition. This need to write is like a warm gun, something I must give in to. It is new, it is fragile, it is hardly placental. But it is showing. It is saying that yes, it exists. Writing, perhaps, can make me happy.