My belief is that happiness is a means, not an end. Living for happiness, games, or to avoid conflict is shallow and cowardly. We have an increasingly materialistic society, and that too applies to happiness, because people seek it instead of something greater like service to others, which is a truer path. It’s like focusing on making money rather than providing a valuable service to others (the only persistent way to make a lot of money). Articles like this that say things like “life satisfaction occurs most often when people are engaged in absorbing activities that cause them to forget themselves, lose track of time and stop worrying” perpetuate the myth. Happiness comes from courageous action for the benefit of others, not solitary hobbies like journaling, photography, or music. If those hobbies can be purposed to educate and inspire others, then all the better. If they cannot, then the only value they have is for your personal growth. You can use them to gain the strength to serve others through other means, but the hobbies are just a shell on their own, just as happiness is a shell. A stable job, a house, a car, money, friends, a family, and a ticket to heaven (church lip-service) is misery if it’s all you’ve got and you dedicate your life to maintaining it.
Ultimately, happiness cannot come from your hobbies, spouse, children, family, God, or even service to others. It has to come from within, from strength that you may have built through those means but that has become self-sustaining. Serving others will make you happier, as will engaging hobbies, loving relationships, etc., but only as icing on the cake, the meat of which is your own independence, intelligence, courage, mental resources, consciousness, and authenticity. Sure, you can live without these things. But would you be happy with a cake that is 100% icing? No: it would taste disgusting and make you sick. Materialists live this sickening life every day.
One movie that made me think a lot about the roots of happiness is Star Trek: Generations. In it, Captains Kirk and Picard are trying to stop a man who is going to kill millions of people to get into “the Nexus,” a Utopian realm where you get live forever and have everything you want. The catch is that you have to consciously live knowing that it is all an illusion. Picard gets sucked into it by accident, where he has his dream: a loving family to celebrate Christmas with (he has no family back in the real world). But after ten minutes of screen time he rejects it and leaves, because he wants to live in the real world, no matter what the cost.
When you live for your hobbies, your religion, or your family, you aren’t being real. Being real is the only way to live, which is being intelligent rather than ignorant, and knowing lies and evil so that you can embrace the truth and the good. That’s why God lets us choose good from evil: it would be meaningless if he made the choice for us. Children who live for their video games, their friends, or Hannah Montana may look happy, but they’re in fact quite unhappy. They grow up when they realize how empty and unfulfilled their existence as children was. Or at least, they hopefully grow up. Only 5% ever make the leap. The other 95% spend their lives pursuing childish, mouse-like, fake happiness, and die never finding it. If I can help just one percent of these people, then I’ve done well. If I can grow up myself, I’ve done well.
My mom inspired me to write this.