I've had several recent conversations with friends lately regarding the nature of happiness. I may have previously blogged about this, feel free to move on with your surfing if this is the case. In my experience, one of the most popular answers to the question "what do you want out of life?" has always been some form of the word "happiness". I'd say it's consistency level is right up there with "world peace" at the Miss America pageant. This answer, I think, is borne out of a severe misunderstanding of the nature of happiness. Happiness, as a feeling, is fleeting by nature. I feel happy when I have my first cup of coffee in the morning. I feel happy when I get to go to the movies with Derek. I feel happy when my family comes to visit. Sometimes I even wake up in the morning feeling happy, in general (this is rare, as the mornings and I don't tend to get along). I think many people define happiness the way I define contentment or satisfaction. Further to this, they expect it to be constant. They request that happiness be a permanent fixture. I really don't think this is possible. How can we demand that something which is an emotion and therefore fleeting by nature, to be constant? And what would we do if it was constant? If happiness was permanently experienced, would it not become the status quo? What would we want to feel on a good day, if we were happy even through the worst day?
I really and truly believe that we were not designed to be happy. We are designed to strive for our goals, experience success, failure, pain, love, hope and a whole other gamut of crap, none of which lasts forever. Joy, however, which by nature can be experienced at the same time as pain, failure and anger, is a different matter. Maybe if we can bridge the definition gap between joy and happiness, we won't feel so off kilter when we're on an extended hiatus from our fleeting friend. When happiness eludes us, there is still something to fall back on.