According to a 2017 Louis Harris survey, two-thirds of American adults are unhappy. This is an astounding figure when you stop and think about it. If the goal of life is to achieve and maintain a certain level of happiness (as Thomas Jefferson would seem to imply in his famous Declaration), then the vast majority of us is missing the mark. How can this be? Modern civilization is veritably a cornucopia of comforts and pleasures, most of which our forebears could not have even imagined much less participated in. The Harris survey does not tell us, or even speculate. Allow me then, in my quest to have an opinion on every conceivable subject, to offer three possibilities. ☺
First, though, a little context concerning nomenclature: As discussed elsewhere in these pages, as well as in Beyond Chicken Soup, pleasure and happiness are not the same thing. They can easily be construed as such, with the former serving as sort of a false god (or fool’s gold) to the latter; however, while pleasure derives from focusing on ourselves, satisfying our every appetite and desire, and is fleeting, happiness derives from focusing on others, their essential health and well-being, and is enduring. We sometimes confuse the former with the latter by using the same language for both, similarly to the way we use the term ‘man’ to mean both ‘a man’ and ‘mankind.’ As a result, sometimes we are ‘happy’ in polishing off a Double Whopper, while other times we are ‘happy’ in giving up our shoes to a homeless person.
One reason the vast majority of us is unhappy, I offer, is because we are dissatisfied in our work, which tends to contribute little if anything of substance to the common good. It’s a paycheck. It keeps us from starving to death, it allows us to satisfy our pesky desires, but it derives little if any real meaning. It drains our soul instead of replenishing it. Question1: Why is retirement so fervently and universally coveted? Question2: Why is the first thing Megabucks winners do is to quit their job? Hmmm.
A second reason the vast majority of us is unhappy, I suggest, is because we are dissatisfied in our relationships, which, increasingly in our time, tend to be shallow, fleeting, one-sided, negative, or utterly absent. We humans are consummately social creatures. We require, we cannot live without, the close company of like-others.
A third reason the vast majority of us is unhappy, I offer, is because we are dissatisfied in who we are as a person. We are too plain to be happy, or too dim, or too awkward, or too inept, or too clueless, or – worst of all – too uncool. Question3: Why is the suicide rate in America at an all-time high?