The Pursuit of Happiness

I am currently taking a Philosophy course at Grand Canyon University, a Christian school. The class has widened my train of thought extensively, and forced me to think about life in ways I previously had not. A majority of the class focuses on the philosophy of metaphysics and the nature of the universe, which as a Christian, there are no questions to be asked, but rather answers to be discussed. Which is fine, I am not one to judge. But when the subject of God’s existence was brought up, and we watched a debate between a famous Christian philosopher, and a world renowned Atheist, the follow-up class discussion placed myself front and center.

Frankly I am not quite sure what I believe, honestly it doesn’t really matter to me, it doesn’t effect a single aspect of my being, however my professor made a statement that picked at my strings. He said something of the sort, “As Christians, we are given a purpose, and our purpose is to glorify God through our existence. Atheists however, they have no purpose, they have no specified reason to live.”

I was quick to fire back, but when he asked me directly to state what my purpose was, I stalled. Because technically I have no actual purpose, because I have no governor, I have no being overruling my existence.

So I was left without an answer, and choked on the spot.

Leaving class I was appalled , because he was not wrong. As an Atheist, you have no purpose, or in other words, you are not given a purpose. I know my purpose on this Earth is not to become an IT guy and secure networks for the rest of my life, I am also pretty sure I have no divine purpose. I’ve stretched ideas of teaching young adults that which I try to understand. I’ve explored thoughts on ditching this country and moving to a place in which none of this would even matter. I dreamed of being a football player as a young boy, and realistically believed I would march through medical school and earn the title of Dr. Weiner.

We have all imagined, believed, thought, and expressed — ideas of what we envision for ourselves. Reminisce or search for what you envisioned for yourself throughout your life. You’ll notice that something will stand out about each vision, and each of these specific things is just that — its a thing. It’s physical, its a title, its a place, it’s your soulmate. It’s something. 

Now, what is happiness? It’s subjective isn’t it? Because its malleable, its pixie dust, its abstract. Happiness, like God, exists as an idea in the mind. As a Christian, you aren’t born with the idea of God in your mind, God requires learning, and this belief is fed by faith. Because without faith, God does not exist, because God is not perceived to be physical. Why is happiness treated differently?

As a human, you aren’t born with the idea of happiness in your mind, happiness requires learning, and this belief is fed by faith. Because without faith, happiness does not exist, but we treat happiness as if it is physical.  Some of you will think about this and deny it, because you think you understand what it means to “chose to be happy” or the fact that happiness is a mindset, but that will not stop you from forcing yourself to cram things into your life in an attempt to create that which does not truly exist.

I write this as If I know some sort of answer, but I do not, because I don’t think there is a singular answer. Happiness exists on the same spectrum that the topic of God does because the nature of it’s being is unknowable due to it’s abstract and subjective nature.

However, it is easy to see how people mistake what they attribute the feeling of happiness towards. We miss the underlying aspect of what is truly causing us to respond the way we do when we experience this feeling; we are too specific in its cause, leaving us with a specific, often not dependable desire.

For example, think about a fun night you had recently. A night that was seemingly perfect. You went out with your friends, you laughed, you drank, you danced, you smiled and you owned the night. The entire night you were– well– happy. So, obviously and naturally you want to go out again, with the same people, to the same place, and drink the same drink, because you know for a fact this is the formula to achieve that great feeling.

You can see how each of those things are physical, they are here or there. They are obtainable through desire, and easily accessible at that. So the nights continue, and the happiness does as well. But over time its not so fun, its not so easily accessible, the people may not be around, the club may lose its lust, and your desire fades. Your desire for the night that is, but your desire for that feeling persists, and you don’t know where to buy it, or who to call, or where to go. Suddenly you don’t believe it existed at all. And this goes back to my initial statement; without faith, happiness does not exist, but we treat happiness as if it is physical.

Happiness is neither here nor there because it exists only as an idea and it is falsely represented through the objects,the people, or the things in which you interpret happiness to reside within. It’s not about finding it, or building it, but instead its about believing it’s there, and believing that happiness is not above you.

Because of it’s abstract definition, the only way in which happiness can be truly altered is in cohesion with other abstract parts of life. Friendship – a word for an emotional relationship between two people. Love itself cannot be held in the palm of your hand.

Trust. Peace. Clarity. Failure. Sorrow. Joy. Beauty. Justice.
These are abstract nouns, and really think about how each word has impacted you in some way throughout your life; and its effect on your happiness. This correlation, if understood, will open the door to a new outlook on life.

Our generation has been marked as one that thrives on instant satisfaction. Many of our years have been spent with gracious attributes and qualities of life at our finger-tips. When bored we mindlessly, and instantaneously cram bullshit to distract us. When we think about someone, we just text them, face time them, snap chat them, and now they are seemingly there.  We make promises over the phone. We find peace in Netflix. We tend to our sorrow by looking down upon the lives of others. The joy of attention has engulfed the joy of serenity. Friendships are fake, love is mistaken, and beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder, but in the fingertips of your followers.

These qualities of life, these qualities that directly correlate with one’s happiness, they used to take time to achieve, to understand.  But the patience no longer exists. Instant gratification has ended the hike, and now we just expect to find ourselves at the top of the mountain.

The feeling, the end- goal that we all desire, it takes time to truly achieve, and currently I am feeling this truth. One day, life seems flawless, and the next day, life can seem dull. Your decisions look questionable, the people in your life don’t look the same, the day is simply different than the one before. And some may say this is a part of life, but I wont believe it, I refuse to believe that there is anything else out there for us in the end besides serenity.

So how does this belief — this pursuit — correlate with my life?

For the longest time, honestly throughout the majority of my life, I pitied myself. I felt as if people should feel sorry for me, and I felt sorry for myself — I used having red hair as an excuse to define myself as an outsider. I blamed my small arms on my genetics. I drowned in the sorrow of sickness, and felt as if I probably deserved to suffer anyways. I constantly felt as if life owed me something. I was not living my own life; I was victimized by my thoughts, my beliefs, and my desires.

I was a victim to life. Think about what this may mean — to be a victim. Victims are never viewed with strength, but instead handed strength out of pity. They do not know they are strong, they are told they are strong. Victims are not players of the game, they are played by the game. Victims do not make moves, they wait. They sit around with their lives on pause, because pressing play is terrifying,and they’ve convinced themselves that whatever is likely to precede them, is more than likely to bring them down.

I was a victim. There are still parts of my being that are victimized by my thoughts and my actions. But through this desire to change — through discovering my passion for life in its entirety — I learned that the way in which we approach our lives is doomed to fail from the start

We wake up and we ask ourselves, “What am I going to do today?”

Am I going to learn in class today? Am I going to go to the gym? Am I going to be product? Am I going to chill? Relax? Maybe hang out with some friends?

These are all good things right? None of these things are destructive nor will they deter us from our paths in which we think we want to walk towards. But when you act in response to the thoughts that reside at the surface of your mentality, the result of these  actions fail to pierce the thick layer of this surface, and the result — the reward — never truly synthesizes within you.

The question that we need to ask ourselves internally, and the question that we need to spend time figuring out, is Why.

Why am I going to do what I’m going to do today?”

When you ask yourself why you are doing the things you do, a whole new meaning — an entirely fresh purpose — is injected into your life. In discovering why your life and the little daily actions that are contained within it — occur, your vision and the you that you once so vaguely imagined, suddenly becomes polished.

Your life embodies ownership. In an instance, your actions that once required a mental push and an immense amount of energy, seamlessly float into your life.

Using one of Simon Sinek’s examples, take the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream!”, not — “I have a plan!” This dream that he envisioned for himself and the people of America, was a result of Martin Luther King not simply saying, “We need equal rights for all!”, but instead,

“Now is the time (why?) to  make
real the promises of democracy. Now is the time (why?)to rise
from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the
sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to (why?)lift our
nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid
rock of brotherhood. ”

Never once did he lose sight of why his dream would one day become a reality, and neither did the thousands of black and white Americans that stood before him on that day.

Martin Luther King is a premier example of what it means to be an owner. To own not only your life — but your purpose and your intentions that cannot be retrieved from the surface of one’s being, but must be expressed over time, from the inner depths of the human soul in it’s most fiery and passionate form.

So I ask you to not simply move along in this life as if your actions day by day are simply part of a checklist for which the completion results in an outcome that of which you are unaware. I ask you — as a result of the passion and love I’ve discovered in these words — to place yourself outside the boundaries in which you’ve subconsciously formed. To find yourself outside your comfort zone — the place that keeps you at bay, the place that prevents you from bashing the walls of your exterior — and discover not only what in this life will lead you to a place where fear does not exist, but why you look at yourself from time to time — and wonder if this Pursuit of Happiness will ever come to an end. 

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