Humanity has an aversion to happiness, and I can’t figure it out. Conservatives tell you that holiness is more important than happiness (as sin can make one happy, and that leads to eternal damnation), and other people, generally unhappy, will tell you countless reasons as to why “There are more important things in life than being happy.” Taking care of your family, your job, etc. Any time you talk about happiness, what makes you happy, and how you plan on achieving it, a million people will give you a million reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Now, I’m not saying they shouldn’t. I’m not saying many of them do not bring up valid points. But the argument that happiness shouldn’t be the ultimate goal is, quite frankly, just wrong. I will go to my grave believing that we exist to be happy. I’m not saying we always will be happy. But we exist to attempt to maximize our happiness. We do things in an attempt to be “happy”. All action we take is an attempt to satiate some desire, whether it be to not be hungry, to not be bored, etc. And we desire to be full, to be entertained, etc., not only to live, but to be happy, as one who is depressed cares not for these things, but only to die, as one believes that will finally be an end to the sadness they feel (which, it should be clear, is the antithesis of happiness; so they are attempting to be happier than they are currently).
Everything we do on a regular basis is an attempt to bring us joy, even if only relative to a current state of being (for example, but by no means the only one, a “coping mechanism”).
We don’t exist to serve God if it makes us miserable (I explain my position on the relationship between religion and happiness later in this piece); we don’t exist to have a family if the thought of having kids makes us want to kill ourselves (if we don’t want to have a family, but do anyway, perhaps we’ll change our mind and care for the kids. But what if we don’t? What if we resent our children, and only create miserable kids and shitty adults? Is that the reason for our existence? Of course not); we don’t exist to be rich if we can never figure out how to obtain it. The only thing that makes sense is happiness. There is no other satisfactory reason why we act. We act to satiate desires. And we desire because…well, we just DO. We exist, we desire, and we act. This is what we do, every single day, for our entire lives. We act to satiate desires, and we desire to be happy above all else. I do not think this is deniable. What does one want besides being happy? And what answers could you provide that aren’t ultimately an attempt to make the one trying to achieve them happy? What could one possibly do that isn’t an attempt to satisfy some unmet desire, which would make one more content than they were before, i.e., happy?
Hell, even family is not a more important value than being happy. I’m not saying that families will always get along, or that they’ll always tell you what you want to hear. But if your family doesn’t make you happy more often than not, then FUCKING DITCH THEM (thankfully, I’m not in that position). If your family abuses you, then you don’t need your family. You may wish that they were “normal”, because you want to have them in your life to have a “happy family”, but just because you are related to someone doesn’t mean you need to keep them in your life if they make you miserable. If they abuse you, ditch them if you can. Your mental health is more important than some moralistic (perhaps religious) duty to family. It will then become your choice to figure out what you think will make you the most happy, and then go for it.
Every person has individual things that make them happy. And the point of life is to do those things as much as possible. “I’m unhappy at my job, Cody. Should I quit?” Obviously, you think that the job that you have will provide you better with what you want and need than would be the case without the job, as evidenced by the fact you are still working there. I’m not saying life is a perfect paradise, whereby we’re always perfectly happy. But all human action is an attempt to satiate desires, as stated so eloquently by Mises in “Human Action”, and although a satiated desire may not ultimately make one happy, one takes action in an attempt to be more happy than one currently is. For what does one do when one is happy? If you are happy with how much money you have, and are happy with the items that you have, are you going to earn, or spend? If you eat all of your food, you are not going to try to get more until you are hungry. And if being hungry bothers you, you will eat. If it doesn’t, then you won’t. The point is that contentment gives you no reason to act. And you will not act unless you believe that you will benefit from the action in some way; i.e., that the action will make you “happier” than you were before, with “happiness” being no longer hungry, bored, etc.
Let’s talk about some “vices” for a second. There’s a counterargument that life is more important than being happy: that living longer is more important than being happy (which is quite odd, when you think about it). What do I mean by this? Just take a look at the “healthy crowd”. People who are very conscientious of their health are quick to tell others to give up junk food, smoking, drinking, etc. Of course, it is perfectly plausible (and, in fact, likely) that these “health nuts” are happy with their lifestyle; and, indeed, are happier than they would be without it. I don’t doubt that for a second. However, although it is generally accepted that most people would rather live longer than shorter, it is clear that “health” and “a long life” is not the main concern with many individuals (as judged by the actions they take). Many people eat unhealthy, or smoke, or drink to excess, and although there are many of those who do those things and are distraught by them, and either eventually quit or try to quit with help from others, there are many who don’t. Many people don’t care about the consequences. Maybe they don’t fully recognize them. Or maybe it actually is worth it to them (an absolute possibility). The point is that not all go the “health route”, and it isn’t because these humans are broken. It is because each individual has his or her own “value scale” (credit to Murray Rothbard in “Man, Economy, and State” for the term), whereby certain things make them happier than others, and they act upon these intrinsic, personal values. And if they’re happy, the best you can do is tell them what it’s doing to them, and that you wish for them to live longer rather than shorter, and then, their action is out of your hands. They will either take your advice or not, and that is that. A “long life” is not an ultimate value to be held in higher regard than the individual happiness of people living their own lives: to suggest otherwise, even if it does make people live longer, is, ironically, inhumane.
Yeah yeah yeah, you can eat unhealthy, face the health consequences when you’re older, and say “Shit. I wish I would’ve taken care of myself.” But is that the path that all should take? As I said, to many, it seems as if taking care of your health should be the “ultimate” life goal. Even if smoking, or drinking, or eating fast food makes people happy, what they should care about is being healthy. But what kind of fucking life is it to live long if you’re unhappy? Who wants to live a long, unhappy life? Of course, “Maybe if you tried running”, “Maybe if you tried this or that”, you say. But what if it doesn’t provide these individuals with the same feeling it provides you? What if they hate running, hate taking care of themselves, where you actually do care about taking care of yourself? Are these individuals “broken”? I certainly don’t think so. They have different values, and because they aren’t violating anyone else’s human rights, they have the right to live how they desire. You can put out as many PSAs you want about smoking and fast food, but if the people continue to smoke and eat at McDonald’s, then you can either continue with the PSAs or give up; whichever one you decide will satiate your personal desire the most. And, of course, the question is begged: “What if you smoked a cigarette? What if you tried a cheeseburger? If you didn’t try the first one, maybe you’ll like the second one.”
Of course, loved ones can be concerned, and try to convince you to stop. But the point is that a long life is not a more important value than happiness. This should be evident. How many of you have had an elderly family member who was dying, and ready to depart? Of course, you want them to stay because you love them, and you don’t want to lose them. But can you blame them for wanting to leave? Why do they want to die? Why are they ready to go? Obviously, they believe they will be happier dead than alive. Think I’m wrong? What other reason would one have for “letting go”? You go when you go, and, inevitably, it’s beyond your control. But who wants to die if they believe that whatever is after is worse than what they are experiencing currently? NO ONE. (Unless they somehow believe that what is worse will make them happier than they are currently, which is unlikely, although still possible, as I know how religious conservatives act on this Earth, where they try to “torture themselves for happiness” (or, rather, torture themselves and try to convince themselves that they are happy, perhaps due to a fear of going to Hell), etc.).
Being rich is not a more important value than being happy. Money for its own sake does nothing if it doesn’t make you happy. Wealth only matters if you believe that it helps you. If it doesn’t, then you will do something that you believe makes you happier with it. Perhaps it makes you happier to save it rather than to spend; to spend rather than to save; or give to others rather than to spend for oneself. But the point is that money does nothing for one if one is not able to obtain some sense of happiness from it. (They say that money can’t buy happiness, but I think that depends. Certainly, there are those that become wealthy, and either become more miserable or stay in the same state of misery they were before (assuming they were miserable beforehand). But, obviously, not everyone who becomes wealthy becomes unhappy because of it. To many, the money does make them happy, for various reasons, some of which may be the ones I mentioned above).
So why do I say that happiness is a virtue? For one, it is a reality that all humans attempt to achieve happiness. We all want to be happy. It’s probably harder for some to be happy than others. But that’s still the goal. That’s what we really want. We may not be able to control the death of a loved one, or a natural disaster, or a cancer diagnosis; Hell, we can’t always make ourselves happy constantly. But yet, that’s still what we strive for. We still try to make ourselves happy, through individualistic, diverse means. And if going to Heaven after you die is such a great paradise, and going to Hell after you die is a great torment, then I have to suppose that God actually cares about our happiness as humans (if He actually wants us to come to Christ, go to Heaven, and avoid Hell), and doesn’t want us to suffer (I mean, He created us in a fucking paradise, for Christ’s sake (no pun intended- that’s a lie)). I know that answer doesn’t satisfy atheists, but I’ll try to address that in a future piece.
The idea that God wants us to suffer, especially as a means to get into Heaven, is ludicrous. God did say that suffering was inevitable as a result of the Fall of Man. But He clearly didn’t want us to suffer, because He told us to not do what would cause that suffering in the first place. So clearly He cared. Of course, why He put the Tree there in the first place is a mystery, and it could be argued that He doomed at least some of us to failure; why even put the Tree there in the first place if He knew we were going to eat from it? That means that even before He created the world, He knew He was going to punish some percentage of the people that He would ultimately create. Why would He do that? “To make His justice known” seems to be the answer, and it could be argued that humans were just “caught up in the middle of it”. But, of course, we are sinners, so there is clearly guilt on our part. But why were we ever even given a chance to suffer? Why was that even created? In other words, what is the origin of sin? Why not a perfect paradise with no Tree? Indeed, why even exist on Earth at all, and not be created directly into Heaven? Of course, that begs the question: why even be created at all? And, of course, why did sin ever exist? Why were we able to do it? These are the questions I’m going to have to ask Him after I die, if I can. Perhaps they’ll be immediately revealed to me after I die. Only after I die will I know for sure.
There are those of you that will tell me not to ask those questions. There are those of you that will say that I’m wasting my time, asking questions that, more than likely, I’ll never know the answer to. Some of you may say that I’m treading on thin ice around God, and that if I keep it up, the Earth is going to open up, and I’m going to be swallowed by it, forever burning. And, although I do accept that not everyone will ask questions of God like I do, and will have different opinions about the “meaning of life”, I have to ask those so-called Christians, who question my desire to ask the Almighty intimate questions: if God loves me, and sent His Son to die for my sins, and He cares for me, why would He not care about my deepest concerns? Why wouldn’t He care about my doubts and my questions? Why wouldn’t He care about my problems with Christianity? If God didn’t care about me, I’m sure He’d say what YOU say: “Stop asking those foolish questions, boy. Don’t doubt me.” And yet, I haven’t been thrust down into the eternal burning chasm yet. Perhaps He’ll throw me in there tomorrow (I doubt it (wait…isn’t doubt a “triggering” word?)). But I bet He won’t. Perhaps He could help me accept those things that I can’t understand. Perhaps I’ll have a heart attack tomorrow. Anything is possible; only the Almighty knows for certain. But, the best that I can figure, there is no greater goal to work for on this Earth than happiness.
To continue: We were put on this earth as individuals, and the natural individuality of all human beings just so happened to also be diverse. Therefore, there is no universal blueprint. There is no universal blueprint to obtain “happiness”. There are only individuals with desires, a framework known as “reality” (more specifically called “science“; or, at least, “truth“), and individual means used in attempts to obtain individual ends. Then, “success” or “failure” is measured by each individual actor.
Someone might say “But Cody, what if raping people makes you happy? What if killing people makes you happy?” For one, I would argue that one isn’t really happy if they rape or kill. I know that sounds odd to many. But I think that people who do those things are so far removed from humanity that “happiness” is not an emotion that they can actually feel: much like love. You may say that they “love” to rape and kill. And it would be hard for me to argue against that. But I think it consumes them more so than providing them any sense of joy. They may not be tortured, but they’re just lost. They can’t feel, so they just destroy. I know that’s not a good answer to many, and I understand the argument that they do enjoy their vicious natures. But I think, ultimately, they are tormented by them. They are experiencing Hell on Earth, and they’re sharing that Hell upon others (I suppose that means that I believe that a feeling of “Hell” is diverse and individualistic as well. I can’t provide as much evidence for that, however. But I know that the phrase “personal Hell” has been a common part of humanity’s lexicon (for exactly how long, I couldn’t say), and I wouldn’t be surprised if that applies intimately to each individual on Earth and also in Hell).
And what about love? Clearly, our family members, romantic partners, and friends don’t always make us perfectly happy. Children infuriate their parents, vice versa, and the same for romantic partners, and even friends. Clearly, the people in these relationships are not happy while this is going on. But yet, they still love their family and friends. Why? Because that love brings them some sense of joy. Love does not, and cannot, exist without joy. Joy is the connecting factor in the giving and receiving of love: if one did not enjoy the giving or receiving of love, then one would do neither. Despite all of the heartbreaks, and despite relationships that fail, love cannot exist without joy. Love is pointless without joy. If love was simply a connection to another individual who always hurt you, and never provided you with any joy whatsoever, then the purpose of loving anyone at all would be lost.
I’ll deal with the religious aspect of “happiness” and “duty” later (I’ve written a little about it here), but, as Martin Luther wrote in 1530: “Whenever the devil harasses you thus, seek the company of men, or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, aye, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
To conclude, life without happiness is not worth living. Indeed, you’d hear something similar from those who killed themselves right before they died. Happiness is often seen as the antithesis of sadness, and it’s easy to see why: those who are happy want to live, and those who are sad want to die (of course, it exists on a spectrum). There are other emotions, such as anger, and anger can be a motivating cause for constructive action, or destructive action, so the happy-sad dichotomy is not perfect. But, I believe that the facts that happiness is the most pleasant emotion that we can experience, the information I have presented about Christianity, where I believe that God actually does care for our happiness, and the couple of examples I gave of possible arguments against my position are at least enough to get you to consider what I have said for yourself, and perhaps even enlighten you. At least I have stated my honest opinion about this subject, which was my purpose.
(You REALLY don’t want to know how excruciating this was to organize. I know this is a sign of things to come with my writing, and I want to fucking vomit as a result).