In other words, happiness is not an epic mullet. It is not something you can grow and achieve like the fanciful curls of an omnipresent South American coiffure. It cannot be tended to, taken care of or swept ever-so-gracefully into a sophisticated chignon, if you’re feeling so inclined. Happiness, unlike a mullet, is intangible.

Which is why when anybody ever refers to “the key to happiness,” I cringe at the faulty logic of this English-language cliché. To proclaim such a “key” exists is to objectify the un-objectifiable. (And yes, you can quote me on that word, Merriam-Webster.) It’s nonsense. And even more so, it seems to me that to think of happiness in such a way will inevitably lead you to another unfortunate English-language cliché – the proverbial pit of despair.

I mean, think about it, what’s worse than a wild goose chase? (Besides that phrase, I mean.) Not much.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that happiness doesn’t exist. Au contraire, Grumpy Care Bear. (Shut up; it rhymes and if I used “mon frère,” that would’ve been my fourth ironic cliché in just as many paragraphs – unacceptable. Everyone knows three is the limit.)

Indeed, happiness exists. However, it exists in a much different format than a glorious mullet or even delicious llama meat, which I was lucky enough to find out last week is seriously tasty.

But scrumptious camelid flesh skewers aside, what I’m getting at here is that happiness is a feeling, which means, just like any other feeling (sadness, anger, boredom, excitement, lust), happiness is temporary. Nothing, at least on this planet, can ensure you’ll be happy all the time because the realistic fact is, when feelings, emotions and all that other bullsh*t are involved, there are no guarantees. Even llama meat is no guarantee.

Of course, at the same time, we’re not helpless when it comes to trying to maximize the possibilities to feel happy. For example, for me, I seem to feel the most happy when I’m making people I love smile and vice versa (ah, shucks). So, why not just do that forever and, ergo, be happy forever too? Well, because these same people with whom I’ve shared and still share so much joy, also have the ability to make me the most angry and depressed I’ve ever been.

And don’t think that’s just me. This happens in fiction as well, so clearly it must be fact. Uh, or something. Take, for instance, this passage from Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, in which family patriarch Estaban Trueba attempts to recapture a happiness of yesteryear to no avail:

“The distant mountains disappeared behind the clouds of a shrouded sky; only the snowy peak of the volcano could be seen in all its clarity, outlined against the landscape and lit by a timid winter sun. He looked around him. In his childhood, during the only happy time he could recall, before his father slid utterly into ruin and abandoned himself to alcohol and disgrace, the two of them had gone horseback riding in this part of the country. He remembered that he played during the summers at Tres Marías, but it was all so long ago that memory had almost erased it, and he did not recognize the place.”

See? There is no one person, no one environment, no one delicious meat shish-kebob, as it were, that will make a person feel happy permanently. There is no one anything. There is no key.

Sure, various nouns (that is, people, places and things) can contribute to moments of pure happiness for all of us (Estaban has his childhood horseback riding, for example, and I have my delicious llama meat), but to attribute happiness entirely to some object or some thing that exists outside your psyche seems wrong.

In fact, even writing this pseudo-manifesto on happiness seems wrong because I’m pretty sure, that much like searching for some sort of mythical “key,” overthinking why and how we, as humans, feel certain ways at certain times doesn’t really do anyone any good. In fact, during the time I’ve wasted composing this post just thinking about happiness, I may have missed out on some fleeting moment of it because I was too busy trying to use the functional slice of my brain to theorize about something that will never fit neatly into a theory. And although the width of said slice of brain is about the girth of a lowercase “L,” I’m still convinced even the smartest person couldn’t will a feeling of happiness through even the most logical of analyses. Instead, I think happiness is something we just feel when we happen across it, however and whenever that may be.

And on that heart-barfing note, you’ll have to excuse me. I must now go take a shower to wash the waft of dirty hippie off myself. Indeed, I’m hoping being clean and free of the stench of patchouli will allow me a few fleeting moments of happiness. But even that is no guarantee.

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