How To Be Happily Sad

Despite the ambiguity and malleability of the forms that happiness can take, there seems to be a conclusive and confident consensus around the importance, merit, and essentiality of it. Since the dawn of time, religions have claimed the presence of an innate sinfulness in human beings; thus, religions preached, we must abide by religious codifications in order to achieve eternal and genuine happiness in the afterlife-- happiness was not paramount and persistently emphasized.

Nevertheless-- after emergence of the renaissance and the exclusion of religion with its tenets from public and political life-- the concept and the achievement of happiness have become reiterated in the works of many of the enlightenment’s leaders, philosophers, and poets. “Oh happiness! our being’s end and aim,” passionately declared the 18th-century poet Alexander Pope. “It was the best thing one could do to be always cheerful and not suffer any sullenness,” echoed John Byrom. Further, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, “is often cited as the chief cornerstone of the American dream. In short, the strong emphasis on the universality and the usefulness of happiness is not only new, but perpetually and desperately pursued by most people nowadays.

Arthur Schopenhauer

This restless--and seemingly desperate-- pursuit of happiness has searing repercussions and paradoxical consequences. Logically speaking, happiness is plainly devoid of sadness. If one is happy, one can’t be sad. For succinctness, a happy person does not invariably suffer. Consequently, there are many endeavors-- which are most definitely worth pursuing-- that won’t be achieved or even pursued if one’s mere and highest prioritized goal is to be happy. Galileo, the father of modern physics, blinded himself after a life full of tireless commitment and devotion to discovering the mysteries and intricacies of the universe. Moreover, constant high risk of dying from chemical explosions did not dissuade Sir Humphrey Davy from pursuing his passion.

History generously offers us many paragons of creative innovators and thinkers who were willing to suffer and endure immense pain for initiating and sustaining an endeavor. One could be well acquainted with the fact that a relationship is stocked with misunderstanding, disappointment, and anger, yet-- with a faith in a higher value-- he or she would not leave or refuse to participate in a relationship due to its inevitable display of suffering and pain. “Those who do great things suffer greatly. Those who do small things suffer trivially,” Nietzsche put it succinctly. His mustache was not the only point of bewilderment; Nietzsche's seemingly unwarranted pronouncements still preoccupy philosophers. “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities. I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not--that one endures,” uttered the staunch believer in hardship and its importance in molding our lives.

Further, sacrificing creativity and honorable contribution for humanity is not the only downside of the pursuit of happiness, the pleasure of paradox, is also a seriously appreciable consequence to consider. Seeking happiness directly, some psychologists and philosophers warned, will diminish the pleasure we attain in the long-run, and even in the short-run. We should, according to the pleasure of paradox, devote our attention and energy more towards things we find inherently meaningful and creative, and thereafter, as a by-product, happiness may be the prize. “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so,” observed the fervent advocate for happiness, John Stuart Mill.

       Thus, “why be happy when you can be interesting,” as Slavoj Zizek asked wryly.

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