Meaning is better than happiness!
Being happy is good. You can’t top it! I love feeling happy. Who doesn’t?
I do find myself frowning when I hear people say ‘I want to be happy’. It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s a vague notion and often comes with the unspoken ‘all the time’ tagged to the end. If only!
As I embarked on my 100 Things project last month my sole objective was do something life enhancing. I want a freer existence with less distraction. I want a life where I think before I consume and enjoy the consumption all the more as a result. I don’t doubt that at times along the way I’ll feel happy but ‘happy’ is hardly a destination.
Saying we want to be happy seems to permeate through Western culture. Maybe it’s partly to do with the sentence in the American Declaration of Independence "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
I’m all for pursuing life and liberty but pursuing happiness is way too abstract a notion for me.
I find it easier to think of happiness in terms of meaning. I like to think had I been sitting around the table when it was being drafted in 1776 I might have suggested changing the sentence to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of meaningful life”.
A meaningful life makes much more sense to me than a happy life. I think a happy life is simply a by product of a life with meaning. Even then it can never be 100% happy. That makes no sense either. If we were meant to be happy, we’d only be able to experience one emotion: happiness. We have all these other emotions because we need them to deal with the experiences that life likes to deal out. It is through all of them that we might be able to extract our own meaning.
If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Victor Frankl’s seminal book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. It has to be one of the finest books I have ever read.
I drew the image at the top of the page when a friend, who at the time was going through a horrific experience, said it to me. ‘You can’t top happy’. It always struck me how, despite the difficulties she had, she could still be happy.
So, becoming a minimalist or simply trying to be a better consumer is about creating more space for meaning and the pursuit of a more fulfilling life.