I find this video with Slavoj Zizek to be entertaining and thought-provoking: Why be Happy when you Could be Interesting?
Happiness is so often desired in our culture that it seems our entire consumerist economy is oriented towards producing products and services that will enable us to finally be happy. For example, Joel Osteen has written a book on how we can choose to be happy everyday, instead of just on Fridays. Yet, if Zizek is right, happiness is a misnomer, a misguided goal we seek after but do not truly desire. Happiness is a break-even point where everything is finally finished, suggesting rest and relaxation. This will always unfortunately be an ideological carrot-on-a-stick.
We tend to think of desire as a response to a need or a lack. So we desire happiness because we have a hole in our lives to be filled. A more accurate description of the way our minds work is that we simply desire for desire’s sake. It does not ever matter what we strive after, in the end it is never satisfying, our desire transfers to something else. So we create fantasies that we convince ourselves is the ultimate fulfillment that would cease the repitition of desire forever, a la happiness, in other words: we lie to ourselves to abate the constant cycle.
Think of a time in your life that you are the most proud of or where you accomplished the most. It was most likely a time of stress, worry and suffering, with perhaps a bit of happiness and joy mixed in upon completion. As Zizek says, happiness doesn’t enter into the things we are passionate about, rather we are totally willing to suffer for them.
Hmm. Suffering. Happiness. What did Jesus have to say about that? Its no mystery that Jesus promised his disciples would suffer, that in their very weakness and defeat, they would achieve holiness and victory in the kingdom of God. Happiness is another issue though. Recent translations of the beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12) have chosen to use “happy are…” instead of “blessed are…” for makarios in the Greek. Scholars may debate the appropriateness of the word, but here it makes a lot of sense. Jesus is redefining the word happiness and what it implies. Happiness to the world may be fulfillment in the sense of being successful, having money, family, and nothing to worry about but to Jesus happiness is found in being poor, in being meek, in being merciful and pure in heart.
Why? Because we are created with one (1) desire etched upon our hearts and that is God. We are formed in the divine image, and constantly strive to be in communion with God. Any other desire or goal, including happiness, is simply wrong if it doesn’t lead us on a path towards the triune Lord. If we only search for happiness 7 days a week, we are going to be unwilling to encounter the pains and struggles of dying to our selves and picking up the cross. But for Jesus, that is true happiness and the only solution to escaping our misdirected desires.