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21 March 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness and the Pursuit of Pleasure

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So, I want to talk about Happiness.

What is happiness and where are we going to find it?

I think we have this ambiguous relationship with happiness, because we spend so much of our life seeking it through pleasure. And it’s almost as if, at some level, we seem to think that the pursuit of pleasure is the pursuit of happiness. Certainly if we look at humanity as a whole, it looks as if our instinct is driving us far more strongly to the pursuit of pleasure than it is the pursuit of happiness. Whilst we have found extraordinary ways to gratify our desire for pleasure, we haven’t made particularly good in-roads into finding where real and lasting happiness is. I think this is absolutely at the heart of the problem we are all facing, as humanity, right now.

In many ways we might even have been seeking pleasure at the expense of our happiness. It’s funny really, because what is pleasure? Usually it’s been in gratification that we’ve sought pleasure. As we’ve become more and more used to finding the pleasurable, we’ve become more used to expecting it and we seek our gratification more immediately, becoming less and less satisfied if we don’t get it.

I remember when I was a young boy and I got my first grown-up bicycle, it kept me happy, satisfied, for such a long time. I learned to change the tyre when it was broken, take it apart and fix the gears, re grip the handle bars. I cherished it, took care of it and appreciated it. I rode that bike for years until it was broken and just too small for me. By the time I was a teenager or perhaps 20 years old, when I got my first mobile phone. There was some kind of excitement about the novelty of it, but it didn’t satisfy me for very long. By then I had simply grown too used to getting new things when I wanted, and so I ditched it for a new one as soon as my friends started to upgrade theirs.

This pursuit of pleasure, this pursuit of gratification has a, ‘chasing its own tail’ characteristic to it. If we look closely we will see that it’s the seeking of pleasure that we are intoxicated with, not necessarily the pleasure itself. It’s reached a point where things that used to bring us pleasure when we did get them, they actually seem quite empty. And so we find ourselves constantly looking for something new, novel or more exciting. We are constantly seeking more gratification.

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