What is happiness?
That is the question that was put to me in the early hours of Saturday morning last week.
I came across a tweet by The Good Men Project, and they were asking for opinions. They posed the question: “what is it that makes you happy?”
Lying in bed, and armed with a pen and paper, I noted down some thoughts.
I think the overwhelmingly common, and highly dangerous, myth about happiness is that it is a destination. It is a place you reach once you have travelled long enough and turned on to the right paths. This is true of both male and female happiness. There is this widespread misconception that unlike other emotions – gratitude, selflessness, and pride – happiness can be reached rather than felt.
This is where a disconnect is present. Happiness is not a city that we can choose to relocate to, it is not a park that we can stroll around, and it is not an object that is attainable if we just stretched that little bit further. It is in fact a feeling that we are all capable of experiencing. It is an internal emotion, rather than an external location.
There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and each one of us is an individual. Each one is unique. It is this individuality that makes the question of “male happiness” so absurd. There is nothing that can please 3.5 billion separate individuals. To claim otherwise is quite simply to tell a lie.
I am not going to chastise those who are happy because of their abundance of cars, or because of their incredible wealth, because I imagine that there are people out there who do genuinely get great pleasure from such things. I can’t state that such items and lifestyles could not make someone happy. The problem, though, lies in the fact that these items and these lifestyles are promoted as the only source of achieving such happiness. As is the case with anything, such an approach may work for some, but it will inevitably not work for all.
Instead of being honest and saying that happiness can be felt thanks to a number of things, we are told that it is the result of a select few. A select few which we have to expend money in order to gain.
Happiness is not felt by watching the sun set each night on the shores of Brighton, with your loved one sat beside you. Happiness is not felt through the joy and adulation you receive when you turn up unexpectedly at an old friend’s wedding. Happiness is not felt by persevering through the late nights and multiple re-draftings of your first published novel.
No. Happiness, in 2014, is the latest smartphone with enough apps to keep you occupied for days. It is spending £40 in a club on a Friday night, shouting to converse with friends as the music roars from the speakers. It is heading to the shops the day after Christmas – as if we didn’t get enough – in order to purchase “fashionable” items at discount prices.
In truth I think that happiness is the sense of feeling adequate. It is the feeling of knowing that you are complete ad that you are not lacking in anything. The sun does not shine because your life is lacking in light. It knows that you have the perfect amount of it in your life, and it continues to shine anyway. The birds do not sing because they feel your life is lacking in music, their duets are not to plug the gaps in our own existence.
Yet what we perceive and encounter as the objects or decisions that bring us happiness, are built upon the notion that as individuals, as males, and as humans, we are in fact inadequate.
Rather than happiness being the starting point and the norm, it is promoted as something we should aspire towards. Rather than acknowledging that we are complete as we are, we are told that we have pieces missing. A six-pack-shaped hole, a BMW-styled void, and a bank balance that is denying us the full formation of our limbs.
I believe that happiness is no longer simply an emotion, it has become a commodity to be traded, sold and advertised just like any other product on the market.
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