Someone asked me the other day if I was happy.
My first reaction was to say “of course I am happy”; as it seems that there is a good deal of pressure in America to be happy.
If you are not happy, then by golly you better get happy. If you must, go see a counselor, adviser, or therapist (depending on your HMO), take a happy pill, how about some retail therapy, or do something, but don’t sit around being unhappy; unless doing that makes you happy. I am more inclined toward the later.
Really, when you think about it, America was founded upon the principle of happy. The Declaration of Independence clearly ranks happiness up there with not dying and not being locked up in jail; which I fully support.
Apparently, Thomas Jefferson thought we had the right to pursue happiness (when he wasn’t busy pursing Sally Hemings) as he wrote “they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Of course it is important that we recognize that we are not entitled to happiness, only the pursuit thereof. So an American has a certain amount of pressure to be happy or at least pursing it. We went to war and gained our independence just so we could pursue happiness.
This is tough if you are inherently moody, grumpy, mean, ornery, or chemically imbalanced, which sometimes I am probably all of these at the same time. Certainly, some of my friends and relatives are.
My too kind and loving wife never is; she is either happy or very happy…or taking a nap. Turbo never was grumpy either, although sometimes he lacked the energy to demonstrate his enthusiasm.
Adding to this problem is that everyone has a different definition of happy. So if I think I am happy, am I really happy? The last self-help book I read, and I read them all, told me that I wasn’t really happy, that I only thought I was happy and for a mere $15.99 they would send me a CD that would guarantee that I would be happy. The CD was a bunch of monks chanting which really didn’t make me happy.
This is America, where in 1964 Harvey Ross Ball invented the “Smiley Face”. First, with a name like that, how could he be happy? And besides that, he invented it for an insurance company and was only paid $45 for it, which is all he ever received for it as he did not copyright it.
I’ll bet that didn’t make him happy. And how can anyone use “insurance” and “happy” in the same sentence? The Smiley Face almost puts a pressure on us to be happy. There it is staring at us, taunting us, demanding that we be happy.
Think of all the famous smiles. According to a art historian, the coy Mona Lisa smile represents a, “visual representation of the idea of happiness. Leonardo made this notion of happiness the central motif of the portrait.”
What about Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland? The last thing that disappears is the cat’s smile. Isn’t that odd? When Alice asks why he is grinning, the Duchess replies, “It’s a Cheshire cat and that’s why.’’ I feel the same pressure, I am American and that’s what we do, we smile.
How many times have you heard the sage advice, “Grin and bear it.” It doesn’t matter that social security is going to be broke, that the housing market has collapsed, that Wall Street has stolen all our money and then paid big bonuses to the crooks; we are supposed to be pursuing happiness.
So everyone straight away better be for getting happy. Although, some countries apparently don’t value individual happiness as much as us American’s do. But, if you have migrated to America, legally or not, you better be pursing some happiness.
They have done studies and people that use metrics, (they are probably not happy because they are studying metrics) have come up with enough statistics to show what happy people do and where they live. One of the happiest places in the world is the Netherlands. I point out that prostitution and marijuana are both legal there; but do not offer an opinion if there is a cause and effect relationship.
So here I am trying to be happy. I am probably one of those that aren’t really happy unless I am unhappy. This is probably leftover guilt from my upbringing, where teachers always tried to “wipe that smile off my face”.
My entire upbringing was that way; if it feels good, stop it. If it tastes good, don’t eat it. If you’re having too much fun; just remember all the suffering in the world. So I am conflicted …and should probably contact an adviser, counselor, or therapist (depending on my HMO).
I don’t know whether to feel happy or guilty or just feel happy because I feel guilty.