Because of the nature of our fallen world, it is a guarantee that everyone will have to face tragedy at some point in their lives; furthermore, everyone everywhere is hurting in some way. In suffering, people often seek pleasure as a means to happiness, but in the calamitous world we live in, pleasure rarely leads to lasting happiness.
The dilemma that pleasure and happiness do not equate often begs the question, “Why?” After all, shouldn’t we just enjoy our short existence while it lasts? People argue that denying ourselves pleasure can only make us miserable. I genuinely believe we should indulge in life as much as possible – if life was that simple.
Unfortunately, life rarely is.
We live in a world where things are lost. Jobs fold, stocks crash, natural disasters rage. No one can deny this, meaning that everyone who holds on to pleasure will inevitably face the anxiety of losing it. Even if there is a glorious numbness while indulging in the pleasure, the cycle of numbness to anxiety and back again can hardly be called happiness, can it?Embed from Getty Images
During a Freshman O’Neil Peer Education session, my class and I participated in an activity where we were asked a few questions by our peer educators. After each one, we moved to different corners of the room to express our opinion on the issue. Soon we were asked, “Can money make you happy?” The majority of the kids voted no, but a few did go to the “yes” corner. One of these explained, “I mean, if somebody gave me a million dollars right now, I’d be happy.”
My only thought about this student’s response was, “Well, that’s a bit depressing.” The basis for my concern rested in the fact that when one searches for happiness solely in these pleasures, one won’t be happy until they are found. Even once one gets their desired pleasure, if these riches were lost, one would also lose one’s happiness.
Life is hard. Most people could testify that it is a struggle just to get through each day. When struggling, maybe it isn’t pleasure we should seek after, but instead purpose. As expressed in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, “ … I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness.”