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Happiness and modern life

I wonder at times about the pursuit of happiness as an aim in life.

Happiness seems to be used in the sense of feeling at ease, joyful, satisfied. Surely to be happy in a world such as ours means to either ignore reality or to justify it in some way – some kind of mental adjustment to “make it all ok”.

It seems there’s a lot of “off-setting” that goes on – making up for the compromises of the week by buying things or indulging various “vices” in our free time. But it seems as if we are turning off our intelligence in order to feel better: consumer goods often equate to human or environmental suffering; and a way of living that drives us to activity that diminishes our consciousness and harms our health seems concerning.

Maybe overall these things even out and leave us feeling happy, or better, or simply relieved at which pocket of society we happen to exist within. But the truth seems to be that we are participating in a system that doesn’t quite work as we may hope and lead ourselves to believe.

It also seems that, in many ways, society itself undermines our sense of self-worth. In implying we are not complete or good enough without certain belongings, looks, relationships, lifestyle markers our very sense of our value is often shaken. This is a topic for another time, but it raises itself here to the extent that psychological happiness must be tied to how we view our self, and society takes a hand in that.

This isn’t to argue that we shouldn’t be happy, but more to look at reasons absolute happiness is difficult to justify. With this, as with issues around Values and the economic, it seems to be a question of balancing an honest understanding of realities with our personal concerns and capacity to enable change. There is a lot in life that is demanding our active engagement both in terms of purposeful action and in looking at the world we are making. I just feel that for happiness to be secure it needs to be founded on knowledge and acceptance, rather than on avoidance or denial: to know what we are doing.

Maybe it’s more a search for peace and a sense of self-worth and also of agency – that we matter, that our actions matter, and that things are heading in the right direction.

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