Josna Rege

354. The Pursuit of Happiness

In blogs and blogging, Family, reflections, Words & phrases, Work on March 27, 2016 at 5:24 pm


A few years ago my brother-in-law Dan, computer wiz extraordinaire, designed a little game for each of our computer desktops. He called it The Meaning of Life. In those days, about all I knew about computers was that in order to open an application you had to click on it. I duly took hold of my mouse and aimed it at the little Meaning of Life icon: but it slipped away from me. I tried again: again, perversely, it darted out of reach. Yet again: no dice. Once more: still no joy. Eventually I realized was that this was, in fact, Dan’s point. No matter how hard one tried to get a fix on the meaning of life, it would remain elusive. It was bound to be a lifelong pursuit. That is, if one saw life in such terms, as a pursuit.

This anecdote has come to mind as I have been contemplating my no-doubt foolhardy decision to sign up for the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge with my chosen theme of things that bring me joy. I had thought it would be quick and easy to write a daily paragraph on something that lifts my spirits, brings a smile to my face, or makes me laugh out loud. But today I’m feeling doubtful about the task, and wondering whether this whole Pursuit of Happiness business—enshrined as an inalienable right in the United States’ Declaration of Independence—is misconceived. What is the pursuit of happiness but the lifelong attempt to play Dan’s little game, self-defeating by design? Isn’t happiness something that comes quietly, unsought, like grace, when least expected? Isn’t it the by-product of consistent hard work, of loving commitments kept, furthered, moved closer to realization?

My parents’ generation didn’t seem to believe in the pursuit of happiness; at best, they distrusted it. They felt that doing something simply because it made one happy was mere selfishness. Instead, even while showering the fruits of their labors on us, their children, they attempted to instill in us the principles of hard work, thrift, and delayed gratification. What we saw, even at the cost of their personal happiness, was their continual, habitual self-sacrifice, even when we felt it to be unnecessary. While we supposed it was kinda noble, it was also infuriating. We wanted to be happy, and we also wanted them to be happy. Young and restless, we wanted it all, and wanted it now.

I’m now older than my parents were when they routinely infuriated me with their self-denial. I still want personal happiness, but I’m enough of my parents’ daughter to distrust it for its own sake. I hope that if I can manage to keep up with this year’s one-a-day challenge, my month of daily posts will explore the visitations of happiness in all its facets and forms, from overflowing joy to quiet contentment, from hot-footed pursuit to simply letting the mystery be.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. As my uncle Henry would have said “Deep!” Looking forward to your happy moments and where they come from.

  2. Your parents’ philosophy, which has rubbed off a little onto you, is similar to my parents’, something I too find hard to shake off. That, and the guilt-tripping that is a product of a Catholic upbringing, has remained as a residual emotion even as my rational self tells me to get over it. A tough call!

    • I’m glad that someone understands! We must be from the same stock; or the same generation. But I guess each successive generation feels this way, pulled from behind and from before.

      • Perhaps that’s the yoke we have to bear for being of the baby boomers generations? Wouldn’t wish it on anybody but I wonder if later generations will have (or are having) the same angsts.

  3. When an awesome writer like you calls it a ‘foolhardy decision’, I ask myself this, ‘What were you thinking?’ Yes, I’m referring to my decision to jump into the A to Z of 2016.
    ‘Think before you act’, my parents often said. I seem to be doing the exact opposite.
    Looking forward to your nuggets of happiness in April:) to keep me sane and focused.

    • Dear Arti, I’m so glad you’ve decided to participate in the A-Z Challenge. Have fun with it! I’m looking forward to keeping up with your posts.

  4. “Happiness is a direction, not a place” Also, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Refrigerator-magnet wisdom, perhaps, but true. Reading your blog posts makes me happy — glad you are back!

    • Thank you, dear McNance. I did feel that this piece was a little refrigerator-y, so I’m glad you agreed–but in a good way. xxx

  5. I was blown away last year that you kept it up even when traveling! Looking forward to seeing what you say this year — as always!

    • Thank you, Sarah–I guess it is a challenge. But ach, looking back, perhaps that was a mistake, to try to keep writing while traveling! Goodness knows if I’ll manage to do much this year. (And guess what–that was two years ago! Last year I did the typography and letterpress printing theme.)

  6. How could I have forgotten the typography theme? I loved it!

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