200 years ago, Starbucks, Tiffany, the National Basketball League, and the other various commercialized things that are prominent in today’s society did not exist to bring one happiness; rather, the company of another person or the gift of living to see another day were cherished more than materialistic objects. Thomas Jefferson wrote about three unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence that should be relished by everyone as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, the question of “what is happiness” is inevitably going to arise from that. Though the definition of the word has not been altered throughout the years, the interpretation and perception of it has been sculpted to fit the needs of cultures as humans have developed and changed.
The happiness with which humans associate themselves nowadays is not particularly the “pursuit of happiness” that Thomas Jefferson hoped to imply in the Declaration of Independence. No, instead it’s a life in a penthouse on the upper east side of Manhattan, the liberty to escape to the Hamptons on any given weekend, and the pursuit of happiness as invitations to red carpet events flood the bedazzled mailbox on Fifth Avenue. The idea of being truly happy is perceived as buying the spring collection at Bergdorf’s or an appearance at a movie premiere. A life in large cities such as New York City, Chicago and even Miami comes with liberty but also loneliness. Friends become cocktail buddies, prized possessions become the newest It Bag of the season, and love becomes an attractive body in a photo shoot. People strive for tangible objects to occupy their minds before their desolate penthouse floods their brains.
Where did we go wrong?
The sweet, savory smell of chocolate, the cashmere scarf, and the rich taste of caviar are the delicacies that one accredits happiness to in lieu of loved ones. The viewpoint has changed from being content to desiring more for a life filled with material items. The English Dictionary defines Happiness as “the quality or condition of being happy” through means of good fortune and luck in life. In the 18th century, good fortune would be associated by acquiring no enemies and being able to earn enough money to provide one’s family with food and shelter. In today’s day and age, good fortune can be attributed to a cushy corner office or having the hottest significant other of all your friends.
This drastic change in perception can be due to associating happiness with material and media. Technology has such a prominent role in day to day lives in that some days cannot begin without the consistent buzzing of an iPhone to relay the message of an important meeting or even the recent breakup of a friend by means of Facebook Mobile. Technology is the sound of humans becoming infrequent in actually communicating with one another in person and losing the bond that holds families together. The English Dictionary also defines Happiness as “the state of pleasurable content of mind” in relation to success and satisfaction. And we’d rather focus not the triumph and achievement of truly doing something inspirational and legacy-making, but the gratification of a “goodnight” text or day of shopping, or making a match from that hottie on Tinder.
Happiness should be an emotion felt by the heart and not purchased with a wallet. Certainly, happiness comes at a price but not the price of money, rather the expense of optimism and faith. Happiness is one’s interpretation of contentment and satisfaction; it is the unspoken agreement with the heart. There is no end to true happiness, whereas the faltering fulfillment of paradise vacations, tailor-made clothing and chocolate roses has an expiration date as one’s bank account trails to its last coin. Happiness is one’s unobstructed hope for the future even when life is filled with misfortune. Happiness is an irreplaceable feeling in that the world would be incomplete without it. In view of today’s society associating such a delicate emotion to materialistic fallacies displays the era that has come to be; a society in which love is found through cards and gifts, joy comes through walking the streets surrounded by cars and smoke and sadness from the joys of others and the simple moments in life are replaced with appointments and galas.
It is easy to get lost and lose sight of reality in such large cities though it is essential to remember those that fought for the life that is lived today. Jefferson included “the pursuit of happiness” as a purpose to be vague, in the sense that each person is entitled their own interpretation of their journey. Reasonably, this should not be taken for granted. Happiness evolved from the idea of love and livelihood, and yet now we often forget that the simple moments in life when the mind wanders and one is truly content is the pursuit of happiness.