Life today is full of choices, but few of them ever seem to lead to happiness. In this confusing maze, where each road taken is little more than arbitrary, it becomes too easy to follow the crowd and take no road at all.
According to the materialism of the 20th and early 21st centuries there is little room for anything but profit and ownership. We are encouraged to think of happy people as successful people, and with particular reference to Celebrity culture, desire nothing more than to be like them.
And yet for the most part, their lives are disasters. Over-inflated egos always hungry for possessions: more sex, money, cars and houses never seem to satiate them. Yet still unaware of the gnawing emptiness that greets everyone who has everything they could ever reasonably want, we are encouraged to follow every trend, every fashion in a contradictory and ever-thwarted quest for individual identity. In short, cut off from our roots we are in danger of becoming adrift and empty, a vessel longing to be filled by whatever rubbish is being sold by the media and society at large.Is it any wonder that as a Nation we are sicker than ever in body and mind?
A starting point to address these symptoms is to reassess our ideas and our definition of happiness. Does what we do to be happy feed our passion for life, inspire our spirit and help us to grow as individuals? Or is it mere momentary satisfaction that leaves us no better off?
I am certainly not championing a life of abstinence. What I am suggesting is that a night with old friends is very different to getting pissed ever weekend, and a blossoming relationship can offer more than a one-night stand. Egos that need constant inflation just to survive, self-esteem so low it needs emergency feeding; this is the cause of our addiction to what we might call ‘surface’ happiness.
Does a man shouting ‘wanker’ at a passer by in the hope of starting a fight strike you as happy? Is the woman who has maxed out her credit cards any different apart from the new clothes she is proudly wearing? Is the womaniser who wakes up for the second night in a row with a girl whose name he can’t remember better off?
I am not saying do not do any of these things, they can be a lot of fun! What I am saying is do not expect any lasting happiness to grow from them.
The brilliant film ‘Groundhog Day’ says this better than I ever could. Once Phil has accepted that there is no escape from the day he is in, he passes the time eating, drinking, stealing and sleeping with any woman he can. But in his thwarted attempts to woo the girl he really wants, he suddenly sees the kind of man he wants to be. The next day he begins to learn to play the piano. This is the start of the self-growth that culminates in him realising the wonderful person he is capable of being, not in some distant future, but today.