Imagine that scientists created a machine that could make you happy with just the click of a dial. You could adjust it so that sometimes you just chuckle, or sometimes you burst out laughing. Would you use it? Would you use it on others? Happiness is many things, epically complex. There has been an attempt to quantify it, but in the midst of that attempt a psychologist took his own life because he didn’t reach his happy quota. Unfortunately, happiness isn’t as simple as putting a number on your brain waves and calling it feelings. Happiness isn’t simple, because nothing good is.
Happiness is rarely found in the world. Believe it or not, the Earth isn’t made of gumdrops and lollipops. Poverty, starvation, and murder are just a few things in the world that takes millions of people’s happiness away. Furthermore, over-indulgence, obesity, and suicide are also signs of gloomy feelings ahead. There has to be something – anything – that can guarantee even an ounce of genuine happiness. Look on the average Facebook wall, and you’ll find a truckload of happy quotes with artsy pictures. But while Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not something ready-made”, William E. Gladstone says, “Be happy with what you have.” For some reason, we are expected to accept both of these quotes while ignoring their contrasting natures, all because the people were important enough to be cited on the Internet. Happiness can’t be that easily manipulated, because nothing reliable can.
In order to understand happiness, one must understand that you can’t. Happiness, like any emotion, is somewhat similar to the mysterious stain on the dirty t-shirt. It makes a big impact on ways people view you. Not to mention you have no idea where it came from or what led to it happening. But you can’t wash happiness away from the world, and you definitely can’t just spill it onto a person and expect them to suddenly start grinning up a storm. After all, many plot lines of movies show a person being given a material object, such as money, and not ending up happy. Happiness can’t be that easy, because nothing significant is.
A study at the University of Berkeley concurred that roughly 30% of happiness comes from daily activities, 10% from interactions with humans, 50% from your genes, and the remaining 10% comes from circumstances of your life. Ignoring the fact that those numbers are pretty much arbitrary – and never further explained without the purchase of a $300 seminar – that would mean you have control of less than 40% of you happiness, which is less than half. But happiness shouldn’t be something stuck the way it is; nothing worth living for is.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous words that that every person has the “inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. But those words were originally “life, liberty, and property”. Once again, material possession parallels happiness. The previous study at Berkeley stated that some ways to “increase your happy factor” are meditating, writing down what you’re grateful for, and buying other people something. Two out of three of those things involve physical possessions, or is that just the way it seemed? Suli Breaks once said, “Being poor is the root of all evil” because being poor divides people, and when you are on one side of the river, the grass on the other side always looks greener, no matter what side you are on. But happiness can’t be that avoidable, because nothing worth trying for can.
Imagine you grew up your entire life on a planet just like Earth but with no bananas. You lived your life the exact same way, fully functioning, and let’s say relatively happy. But then one day you came to our Earth and discovered these amazing potassium-filled wonders. Would you obsess over the banana and devote your whole life to finding bananas? Would feel like you couldn’t be happy without those bananas you originally never knew existed? What if instead of bananas, it was mosquitoes? You lived your life without any mosquitoes, and then one day, you went into a forest, and got bitten over and over again. Would you feel like you lost your happiness because of these insects? Both of these scenarios have one big thing in common. You. It was you, a human being that created or destroyed your own happiness. It may have seemed like the object was the cause, but in reality, that banana or mosquito could have been anything. Happiness can’t be non-existent, because nothing human is.
So happiness un-definable and seems unobtainable, downer right? But if happiness is un-definable, why not embrace the ideology of Urban Dictionary and give it our definition. After all, a lot of points show that possessions can lead to something happy, and why can’t a word be a definition? Perhaps the only true quote about happiness one could find is by Dacher Keltner, who said, “There are countless ideas about what happiness is…” and you don’t see that one on too many Facebook walls. Happiness can’t be defined, because nothing as unique as you can be.