Hugh MacLeod at GapingVoid.com had a great post today asking folks for their ‘manifestos'. Thanksgiving inspired me to write mine on happiness. Here's what I wrote and what Hugh posted (with a couple grammatical edits and Hugh's wonderful illustration!):
Our culture is inundated with messages that lead us down a path of self-destruction. Happiness is equated with things we do not have… cars, money, 6-pack abs, awards, lifestyles, or even just a soda. Knowledge is equated with wealth, albeit accumulated or inherited. This is the disease of our culture, assuring us that we are never smart enough, never wealthy enough, never have enough.
The media entertains us with stories of wealth, sex, crime, and power – all things things that may hurt us or others when taken in excess. Our government even participates in the misdirection, tantalizing us with lotteries. Every marketing message and every commercial is the same, “You will be happy when”.
We are not happy with our spouses, so we get divorced. We're not happy with our homes, so we relocate our families and buy bigger until we can't afford them. We shop until our credit is used up and we go bankrupt. We are not happy with our jobs, so we join in hurtful politics to try to accelerate our promotions. We're not happy with our employees so we hire new ones. We're not happy with our profits, so we let faithful employees go.
We are a culture of individuals who are told that hording is the best path to happiness. The grass is always greener – the next girlfriend, the next home, the next city, the next job, the next drink, the next election, the next, next, next… We are never taught to be happy with what we have now. We must have it, and have it now. That's when we'll be happy.
Since it's only possible for the selected few to have it all, the bar is always higher than we can reach. We can never achieve happiness as defined by our culture. How do we cope? We medicate. Illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription medications, tobacco are all necessary and popular since they take the edge off of our unfulfilled lives.
In truth, we are on top of the world. We are the leaders with everything element of success that a culture is measured against. We have the mightiest armies, the most fantastic natural resources, the greatest economy, and the most amazing people.
Yet, we are not happy.
Don't rely on anyone or anything outside your own self to drive your happiness. It is up to no one but you. When you own your happiness no one can steal it, no one can buy it, and you don't have to look elsewhere to find it. But you can give some away anytime you would like!
God bless you and yours this fantastic Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is 1 day out of a year. Perhaps we should have “Self-giving” and reverse our calendar. Let us spend the rest of the year being happy with what we have and one day spoiling ourselves with what we don't have. Let us be happy with our family, our children, our home, our job, our country and our lives.
You will be happy… when you find happiness in yourselves.