Monday, 3 June 2013

Strawberries and Black Pepper - the Pursuit of Happiness

Seems it's my week for Getting Philosophical.  A few days I was pondering as to whether, as a feminist and a romance reader, I was hopelessly conflicted.  Happily, I decided not.

Today's philosophical question is whether it's possible to pursue happiness.  Is happiness an end in and of itself? 

This stems from a conversation I had recently with a nonagenarian friend and her husband. Having ninety years under your belt has a way of giving you a long view.  Her insights are astonishing and often, beautiful.

Is there any point in pursuing happiness, we pondered? 

The conclusion we came to was a resounding no.  Happiness, we decided, is a side product of using all the gifts you have. Of following your internal satellite navigation and working hard, leaving a trail of satisfaction behind you.  It comes from recognition that you have learned. Self acceptance of your mistakes. Gratitude and graciousness for the opportunities you have been given to try - and sometimes fail.

Since I became a working mother and time became fleeter footed than a nymph in a forest fulls of satyrs, I've been slightly overly conscious of my own mortality and the desperate urge to use every minute of my time to the fullest.  I want to eat life in great big juicy chunks, with both hands, to gorge myself on its fullness and flavour.

Funnily enough, that doesn't (for me) mean jumping on a plane and seeing the world. It doesn't mean hedonism or deeds of daring do. 

It means flexing my mental muscles, loving people and trying hard to be true to myself and my values without fear or self consciousness.  Just that last thing in and of itself has led me down so many exciting paths. Exciting for me, that is.

I haven't sought Happiness. I don't need to because, when I'm in the midst of these personal adventures, it has a way of turning up.

Still, it doesn't come on its own.  It hangs out with Anxiety and sometimes even with Sadness.  Of the two, I'm not sure which I like least.  Sadness is kind of surly but quiet. Anxiety is a pain in the arse, jabbering away and running around like a headless chicken.  However, once they've come to call - and buggered off - I chill out with Contentment and Gratitude and rest my feet on Appreciation's shaggy back, whilst Happiness makes me a cup of tea and hums a merry tune.

Before I get lost in an overly extended  tale of anthropomorphism, I'll get to my point.

Don't pursue happiness, just be yourself and live life to the fullest (whatever that means for you).  

Don't obsess about happiness because it's transient. 

Just like Sadness.  Just like Anxiety. They're all part of a rich tapestry of perfectly acceptable emotions.  Without experiencing Sadness, you won't even see Happiness because Gratitude won't be shining a torchlight upon it.

Drown strawberries in sugar and you'll quickly feel sick.  Sprinkle black pepper on a strawberry and its flavour bursts through, enhanced twice over.  Life is that strawberry.  Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. A little of a bad thing can make a good thing just fabulous.

Enjoy your fruit. 

Then check out @rachelparachute on Twitter - she's going to be exploring adventures, parachutes and living the dream over at the Parachute Club.  What's your adventure?


Diane J. Reed said...

Such a lovely post and filled with wisdom. I love the way you personify emotions, because sometimes they actually feel that way—like spontaneous guests who are starting to take too much room on my couch! Can't wait to try that trick with strawberry & pepper : )

Lisa Shambrook said...

Great philosophy...we need the opposites in life to appreciate the good.
I'd like to give anxiety her marching orders...and depression the slip, but both these negatives have opened up the positives enhancing my appreciation of happiness, joy and fulfillment!

Sophie Moss said...

I absolutely believe happiness can and should be pursued. Not to a level that it becomes another task, but as a daily practice and awareness of our thoughts and actions. Nobody can be happy all the time, and we need the sad days to balance out the times when we feel really happy, so we know it's something special. And one person's idea of happiness can be totally different from another person's idea of happiness. I think it's really more of a sum of all the small things in a day that make up happiness, rather than some elusive feeling that we need to "catch." Thank you as always for a thoughtful and intelligent post. I especially love this line: " a side product of using all the gifts you have. Of following your internal satellite navigation and working hard, leaving a trail of satisfaction behind you."