Is Real Happiness an Impossible Dream?
EVERY normal person wants to be happy. But how many of your waking hours are filled with real happiness? Could you honestly say that you find your life a delight?
For most people, the answers to such questions would indicate a disappointing level of happiness. In modern times especially, it does appear that for many persons periods of genuine happiness do not come as often as they once did. The faces of workers, travelers, shoppers and others more often reflect worry, sadness or apathy; not happiness.
Too, the pace of life in our generation is faster than ever before, and the pressures of daily living are greater. People find that time quickly slips by as they try to get things done. Often, when they look back after many years, they are dismayed to find that in the rush of things they have misplaced real happiness.
One observer wrote: “Happiness is the rarest, most prized and most misunderstood state of man.” Yet, it is relatively easy to define. A dictionary says that being happy is ‘characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or gladness.’
True, happiness is easy to define in a book. But having it as a regular part of life, now and in the future, often seems like an impossible dream.
Is Money or Fame the Way?
Many spend their lives pursuing money or fame. They feel that such may be the way to happiness. But is that the case?
Of course, poverty rarely makes anyone happy. Almost everybody feels that he would be happier if he were rich rather than poor. Yet the facts show that, while poverty does not bring happiness, wealth does not bring it either. Thus, the writer of a Bible proverb wisely requested: “Give me neither poverty nor riches.”—Prov. 30:8.
One of the world’s wealthiest men, a reputed billionaire, said that despite his great wealth he was not happy. Indeed, he died after a long period of abusing his health, neglecting even his physical appearance, for many years shutting himself off from all but a few servants.
Another billionaire had a series of unhappy marriages in his life. When asked what gave him the most happiness, in view of his great wealth, he thought a while and answered: “A walk along a good beach, and then a swim.” That is something the poorest person can often do free of charge!
A successful actress and writer said: “As for success, in many cases it simply isn’t worth the high price of admission.” There were too many heartaches in achieving and maintaining this so-called “success.”
This was echoed by the suicide of a television comedian who, at the age of only twenty-two, had both fame and fortune. The producer of his television show stated that the young actor had “invested everything in his search for happiness.” But he did not find it. Instead, he had grown increasingly sad. This sadness revolved around his question: “Where do I fit in? Where is my happiness?” When the producer told the actor: “Your happiness is right here; you’re a star,” the actor replied, “No, that’s not happiness for me any more.” Later, he took his own life.
The problems attached to accumulating wealth show the truth of the Bible statement: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” That search for wealth, God’s Word says, results in a person’s often being ‘stabbed with many pains.’—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
Affluence No Answer
It was once thought that by raising the standard of living of a country, the people would be much happier. Yet today the greater number of persons with mental problems is in the more affluent countries.
For example, a headline in U.S. News & World Report noted: “Pursuit of Happiness—Elusive Goal in Affluent America.” The accompanying article said, in part: “In an era of rising affluence and leisure time, Americans are finding happiness more elusive than ever before. . . . for many Americans, the best of times is beginning to seem the worst of times.”
An estimated ten million people in the United States need treatment for mental depression. And the number of children under psychiatric care has risen frighteningly in recent years.
Thus, the frenzied search for “happiness” through material wealth and fame, or through excesses in recreation, alcoholic beverages, drugs or immoral practices, has certainly not produced happiness. Instead, it has produced more and more unhappiness.
Even many of the inventions of this century, once so widely hailed, have come to be causers of unhappiness to many. For instance, automobiles have brought a measure of joy, but they have also resulted in gigantic traffic congestion, frustration and pollution. Too, all over the world automobiles kill tens of thousands of people and injure millions each year, causing untold sadness.
Television, which could have been an important avenue of education and enlightenment, has not proved to be edifying. A recent study shows that in the average American home television is viewed for six hours and eighteen minutes each day! The study found that programs featuring hatred, brutality, violence and immorality filled much of that viewing time.
There is deep concern about the bad effect of all of this on people, especially on young persons. A University of Washington child psychologist estimates that the average American child has seen 18,000 murders on television by the time he graduates from high school! That certainly will not help to build a spirit of happiness in young minds.
Well, then, can real happiness be expected in a world where millions are killed each generation by wars, murders and accidents, where crime soars, where racial and national hatreds persist and where sickness, old age and death come to all? Is happiness a realistic possibility now, or will it ever be in the future?
Strange as it may seem in today’s troubled world, the answer to these questions is, Yes. A measure of genuine happiness is possible even now, and total happiness can be a reality in the future. But how? Where? Under what conditions?