View from the Hill
Happiness Is A Lot Like Pornography
By Catherine Durkin Robinson
Jul 24, 2011 - 7:24:11 AM

LOS ANGELES—The movement or trend to bring happiness to every man, woman, and child has hit a major roadblock. The people in charge are giving up and getting out of the game. That’s right. Recently, I read that our national “shiny, happy people” craze has ended.

It’s over. Finished. Kaput.

Upon hearing this news, I took a deep breath and smiled. All I can say is, “Thank goodness. Now, when are they canceling Wheel of Fortune?”

I suppose I should get curious. Why are we moving away from merriness? Is this merely fallout from watching depressing and morose Leonardo DiCaprio films? Or perhaps people can no longer afford cable television so they’ve been listening to talk radio and NPR?

Whatever the reason, recent trends seem to show us moving away from smiles and favoring frowns instead. Maybe that’s for the better because, according to experts, sadness can be beneficial.

Anyone who’s followed my career must agree.

But does that go for everyone on the planet? Does sadness have an important place in the rhythm of all of our lives?

Maybe. When nasty news goes down ”“ illness, loss of a job, or your kids move back home ”“ sadness is obviously the appropriate response. For a while. Until it gets old.

After a few weeks you either need to focus on a solution, find joy in unexpected places, or get a doctor to prescribe medication so people can stand being around you again. No one wants to hang with someone who can no longer find their smile.

Although, I’m related to a few un-medicated grumpsters and they’re not so bad. For a while. Until it gets old.

On the other hand, perpetual Pollyannas are just as frustrating. Their constant cheerfulness is maddening. With all the famine, disease, and Jonas Brothers songs out there in the world, there is no reason to be all, “Everything is awesome” all the time. It’s kind of creepy. Ignorance is bliss, haven’t you heard, and who wants to be ignorant?

Besides Jonas Brothers fans, I mean.

But really, blissful ignorance isn’t happiness; it is sheer delusion personified by that one friend who doesn’t watch the news, can make the perfect quiche, and raises children who never turn on the disposal and yell, “Uh-oh!” before the circuit breaker fails. They don’t know any better and therefore can’t truly appreciate their drama-free life.

We shouldn’t confuse happiness and satisfaction either. We can be happy without being satisfied with everything going on in our lives. How else are we motivated to change things? Many of us consistently seek to better the way we parent, work, love, and digest carbohydrates.

We may not always succeed in improving, but it sure is fun trying.

Most people don’t wear happiness on their faces, that’s for sure. True joy goes deeper than that. Sincere and lasting happiness lives in our souls and alters the way we look at everyone. It’s not necessarily the goal, but rather the foundation and result of living a wonderful life.

Such balanced souls can be grumpy every once in a while without a lecture. Profound joy is not always noticeable as I’m moving through five hundred parents who can’t find the right 3-ring binder during back-to-school shopping. Give me a break, okay?

Perhaps we can blame higher education or political affiliation. Many studies show Democrats are moodier than Republicans, while those with advanced degrees seem to be less happy than those who stopped after one degree, five years, and $180,000 worth of debt.

I’m not sure I buy that reasoning. Awareness about the world’s problems and actively seeking to better our circumstances has nothing to do with happiness. Such activists or intellectuals can be happy or sad, depending on the day. Their level of intelligence or involvement isn’t the point. We seek higher degrees or perform good deeds because we are required or compelled to do so. Once again, happiness is the added bonus, not the goal.

So what is happiness?

I know it when I see it.

At the end of the day, seriously happy people are as delusional and irritating as seriously sad people. True and complete joy is the ability to balance the time to weep, the time to mourn, the time to love, and the time to rejoice.

Feel it all.

And then it never gets old.

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