Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just Try to Be Happy, Man…

I’ve had numerous conversations with people whose general outlook on life, ethics, meaning, and philosophy can be summed up with this statement: “Just try and be happy, man. If something makes you happy, it’s good. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Don’t get hung up on ‘this is right’ or ‘this is wrong.’ Try not to take away from other people’s happiness in the process, either; that’s not cool.”

On the one hand, this simple (hippie) philosophy makes a lot of practical sense, even on a logical level. There are many ethical guidelines out there, and lot of them disagree. Epistemologically speaking, how can I ever know which guideline is real? And, for someone who hasn’t experienced the living Creator, there doesn’t seem to be a purpose for picking one specific guideline and living one’s life according to it. We all seek happiness, so just try to be happy – it’s as simple as that.

What is interesting about most people who subscribe to this philosophy is their lack of vision. They never truly ask the all-important question, “What will truly make me happy?” If Happiness is their mantra, you’d think they’d be more concerned with analyzing and exploring the nuances between different sorts of happiness, distinguishing between long-term and short-term happiness, etc.

It’s like a man who says, “I want my body to feel good.” If he doesn’t truly analyze the process by which his body will “feel good,” he’s a fool. If his body temporarily feels good when he eats a Big Mac, that doesn’t mean that it will feel good after a month of having 3 per day. In the same way, when most people seek Happiness, they seek very temporal modes of Happiness (or, what they mistake as Happiness: Pleasure, etc.).

In conversation with one such fellow not that long ago, I looked into his eyes and said, “Well, is how you live your life truly bringing making happy then?” The answer was stilted, but eventually a “no” was uttered. He asked me if I was, and I had to say “most of the time.” But, almost to a tee, every one of my non-happy moments and areas in my life are connected to either Sin or an inability to give over to God.


  1. “Utilitarianism is a channel, so to speak, along which the lives of individuals and collectives have tended to flow through the ages. In modern times, however, what we have to deal with is a conscious utilitarianism, formulated from philosophical premises, and with scientific precision” Love and Responsibility. JPII says that happiness is a byproduct of actions, but if that's our goal then everything else, including people, becomes subordinate to that goal. And ironically, when we subordinate others, consciously or unconsciously, we don't become happiness b/c we cut ourselves off, and eliminate the possibility of Communion, the true source of happiness. Happiness is not its own source

  2. I actually just told my mom that the true source of happiness... is a warm gun.
    To each his own i suppose. As long as we can all be friends and be happy...

  3. Basil’s response (and JPII’s words) remind me of an important point in Lewis’ Four Loves: Clive says that the three natural loves – friendship, affection, and Eros – can’t even sustain themselves by themselves. They can’t truly be what they are without something else. They need Charity. Eros doesn’t end up doing a good job being Eros if it only has Eros to sustain itself. Likewise, happiness eludes the seeker if he looks solely for happiness. As Basil states, “Happiness is not its own source.”