Happiness, as a state of mind, is a pacifier. For all practical purposes in an imperfect Universe, the words ‘happiness’ and ‘complacency’ are exactly synonymous.
Idiot, via Old French via the Latin idiota, which came from Greek in the form of idiōtēs which meant ‘private person, layman, ignorant person’, coming from the term idios, meaning ‘own’ or ‘private’. It was easier for the early Greek philosophers to talk about how retreating from societal issues is a vice. Today, in the United States of America, you hear would-be intellectuals scoff and say that they are above politics, without a clue as to what that implies.
Oh. I’m sorry. All of your rights are protected (and some times violated, which is a cause for even greater concern) by a complex system of laws held up by hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, but you can’t be bothered by thinking about it? Remind me where your pride comes from, social animal.
So we have a hypothetical, figurative punching bag person. It doesn’t need a name, but let’s say it identifies as male in order to at least have an easy to follow pronoun. He believes that politics is a pointless subject, and avoids political issues (in its general sense, any subject in which we may concern our selves with how society ought to be). May be he makes a point of ‘avoiding society’, or may be he’d just prefer to ignore the fact that social systems affect every one. There is no way to truly disregard politics and society and yet be genuinely concerned for the well being of the people. Society could get better, society could get worse, but what of it? This guy is in it for his self. Sure, sure, he probably cares about his friends and immediate family, but we’re talking about one or two dozen individuals in negligence of billions.
But hold on. What am I implying? One person can certainly positively influence the lives of two dozen, but billions? Who has that kind of power? Well, some people actually do, but our guy probably isn’t one of those people- hell, he’d probably have to care about politics or some such grimy thing to accumulate world-changing power! How terrible. Caring about society and running for president are not the same thing. Not every path to bettering society results in ending world hunger.
How many of our guy’s friends and family members are actively in support of a cause? Probably none, if he has any thing to say about it. So he’s at best supporting the happiness of a couple dozen people, if that. Maintaining that many relationships is one thing, but actively supporting the happiness of others? Easier said than done. Chances are, he’s just going through the motions, preventing a few people from going below base line most of the time, and they’re turning out to be okay because of a multitude of factors, most of them being ones that he has no control over. This guy’s an idiot any way. Remember?
Ultimately, shunning society, ignorant of the world’s real, serious problems, unfeeling toward them, avoidant of their implications, this guy’s main drive is his personal happiness. And yeah. It’s pretty dang easy to be unfeeling toward the suffering of the world, when he is feeling perfectly content in his own little, safe world. He’s comforted. He’s entertained. He’s celebrating his satisfaction with alcohol at home and parties on the week end- never mind that the alcohol purchase was made possible by government regulations on business and companies that have their own internal politics. Never mind that house parties and night clubs and music venues and festivals exist due to the efforts of communities, communities all assisted and restricted by law- but, hey. Let us not be too presumptuous. What if our man lives with only a spouse and a dog and a cat in a house run on a gasoline generator, completely off the grid!? Well, their contract of purchase of land was still made official by state law; the government is still protecting their property, their rights, and they’re still going in to town for things- but good. Good! Separate your self as much as possible from society, sir, because your attitude makes you practically useless to us.
But he’s happy. Right? We’re assuming that he’s happy, and didn’t I just imply that it’s easier to be happy, when you ignore all of the world’s suffering? I most certainly did! And isn’t happiness, really, the goal? Well, may be. But is it for the individual to be happy, or the whole? If every person was only responsible for the well being of their self, most people would be doomed- and most people are already doomed, if we as societies don’t realize the potential of compassion.
Happiness. Love. ‘I just want to be happy.’ ‘All you need is love.’ When people say that, they don’t mean the true, giving kind of love- unless they mean ‘all you need is for every one to give every moment of their time and every bit of their effort to your needs and desires’. That might make a person truly happy, but either way it all comes down to personal happiness. Happiness is a state of being. A ‘happy life’. We chase pleasant things in the hopes of stringing them along to create a lasting, permanent contentment. A time when we can sit back and just smile at out fortunes, those that shall sustain to the end of our days. Stop struggling, stop fighting, and just be. Ah! Wouldn’t that be great?
Do we really want to be content? Of course we do. Even those of us most driven by purpose appreciate contentedness. Of course we do, but do we want to feel it right now, while the world is vicious and suffering, or later, after we’ve triumphed over our selves? There are always problems, be they devastations or be they hiccups, but happiness allows us to forget them, to minimize them, to become apathetic to them. Sure. It’s important to be able to laugh over a stubbed toe, but when our guy hears about a mall massacre and responds, ‘Well, at least I’m happy,’ he is expressing a vice, and that vice is apathy. Apathy. A social animal feeling no thing but appreciation of his self in response to learning of the tragedies of others!
When we talk about ‘happy moments’ what we really are talking about is glee, joys, satisfaction in response to specific things, all momentary responses. These things are helpful, as rewards. They can give hope, they can energize the mind, they can even make the body feel revitalized, more capable, but capable of what? Of going out to dance, to celebrate celebration? The strength to get out of bed to watch more Netflix? Well, may be yes, actually. May be yes, but also-
To work. Work has a bad reputation in this country, and I could go on at great length about that, but for now: true happiness should only be the reward of a happy and wise Universe, and in order to get there, we have to do work. Get a job with NASA or SpaceX so that we can reach the rest of the Universe. Get a job with what ever parts of the government are choking NASA. Go in to career politics and try to fight the corruption. Participate as a civilian on the town hall level. Become a cop and expose the corruption in that system, risking your life like no one else will. Get in to law. Become a teacher, and don’t be afraid to teach your students some thing real. Create art that makes people relate to the struggles of the world, and/or inspires others to do good. Study ethics and politics and go out of your way to shed your knowledge on to others. Show others what passion about compassion looks like. Stand up against racism at your place of business. Step out of your comfort zone for strangers.
There are people who seek happiness and there are people who seek purpose. I hate to break it to those chasing that nebulous thing happiness (that we all talk about but very few know much about), but the world has very little need of you right now, save to assemble our products, to maintain our products, and to transport our products- and those jobs probably don’t make you happy any way. No. We need political change. We need social change. We need a redistribution of wealth. We need better education. For those things we need specifically-tailored hope. We need targeted inspiration. We need… even more good education, and we can’t get enough of any of that stuff, but we certainly have more than enough financially and emotionally well off people with their heads down, gazes averted, concerned only with where and when they’ll get their next pleasure and delight.
So don’t pursue happiness. Pursue betterment; pursue improvement, and who knows? May be you’ll even feel kinda-sorta good about it along the way.