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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happiness? At Any Cost, Nowadays

I often wonder about this kick with happiness.

Everyone is striving to be happy.

Are there limits?

I ask because there are people out here who will be happy at all costs. While I believe a bit of rain here and there makes the sun appear brighter when it does shine, I place limits on what I will do to be happy. Often, the selfish pursuit of happiness on the part of some people makes me wonder.

I know someone that used to brag that no matter what, she would be happy. Several of the scenarios she presented often had her obtaining her happiness at the expense of another person.

Modern love nowadays often appears focused on that type of joy.

I will be happy at all costs. I will never be sad. If being happy means that I have to break my word, so be it. If I can obtain happiness by spending time I should not with another man’s wife, or bringing harm to another person’s life, well, that person should have handled their business better. If they were tight in whatever they were doing, there would be no room for me to insert myself into their process to obtain my happiness.

Perhaps it is me, but something seems so wrong about that type of thinking.

I know people who have ruined their relationships. We are all human, and things happen. What causes the real pain is when you find out someone you love has engaged in infidelity, and their response is, “Well, you shouldn’t have been looking,” or “What you didn’t know wouldn’t hurt you.”


When I overhear people speak of others’ problems and a response they receive is, “Well, had Such and Such’s game been tight, none of this would have happened.”

It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies. One of the most complete bastards in literary history justifies murder by duel. He kills a man with whose wife he had a torrid affair. When his wife expresses concern, the good count replies,” His wife and I were happy in our passion. You were happy in your ignorance. Now comes the viscount's valiant defense of his honor, and you are pained. She is ruined, and he is dead.”

Nobody is perfect, but perhaps I am naive in thinking that people really try to do the right thing. It takes the sting out of it when things go wrong.

I once knew a guy that stepped outside of his marriage. He and his wife were separated, but he had recently contacted his spouse in an attempt to work things out. While they were apart, he began a little game with his married boss that led to their winding up in a hotel room one night. He said that he expressed regret before things got under way.

“Then why did you go any further?” I asked.

He shrugged. “We were there. I mean, things had kind of started, I guess we figured we’d go through with it and regret it later.”

His wife found out. She is now his ex wife. He is still angry, but not with himself.

“That didn’t have anything to do with her!”

Yeah, it did. You reached out to her. You laid it all on the line about wanting to reconcile, but you didn’t follow through in good faith. It was a secret? Buddy boy, when more than one person knows, there is no such animal.

We all do things we wish we had not done. I just wonder at what point in adulthood do we realize that having our cake and eating it too, while possible, is just, well, wrong?

I also wonder what point we realize commitment is about going through the good and the bad with the people we choose. I hear horror stories. The new, supposedly mature happiness has a checklist. See, under the old plan you worked with someone and tried to ride things out for the commitment. Not so with the new plan. The old model was family. The new model? It’s like working a job. You get so many times to endure some personal stress or disappointment, before you’re jettisoned. Some relationships sound life urban versions of “Survivor”.

I love when people bring religion into it. "Jesus wants me to be happy!"

Jesus was not always happy, upbeat or positive. He had his moments. One of his boys betrayed him, another pretended he didn't know him and a group of folk who were singing his praises one week forced the government to execute him the next. Little makes you as unhappy as hearing people who benefitted from your teachings choose teh release of a murderer over you. Check it out. I didn't write it. I daresay Jesus wants you to be compassionate and work through life's sadness to understand what happiness really is.

Some people are pursuing what they think is happiness with the same fervor street pharmaceutical reps pursue their profits. I am a little more understanding when I see cutthroat, selfish behavior in business, where survival of the fittest is at the root of profitability, and all parties know what to expect. In our personal lives, though, such behavior is, in my opinion, reprehensible. At the base of any relationship are trust and compassion, and such behavior clearly contraindicates both. If my idea of happiness with my lady is one where I will pursue outside happiness, or at least be open to any possibilities of outside happiness should she be depressed, find herself going through changes, or just suffering from a migraine when my hormones are off the chain, I really never had the patience and understanding a monogamous relationship required in the first place. What I have is a situation that was convenient at one time that I prolong because of continued conveniences. “Happiness” has become a euphemism for selfishness, self centeredness and a general lack of maturity. Building a commitment on that foundation is like building a house on sand.

I am a big believer in happiness, just as I am a believer in peoples’ rights. There are places where a line must be drawn, however. My freedom of speech stops this side of yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater.

My happiness should stop this side of me mistreating or being inconsiderate of others. That’s not happiness. That's misery in an Armani suit with handmade shoes.

No matter how you dress misery up, it's still misery.

We Know Better.

Don’t we?

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