“What happens after the pursuit of happiness?” by Bertrand Russell

Prompt: Many societies believe that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right. But it is also true that attainment of happiness remains elusive. Perhaps Bertrand Russell had it right when he said, “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

Assignment: What gives us more pleasure and satisfaction: the pursuit of our desires or the attainment of them? Plan your response, and then write an essay…

What happens after the pursuit of happiness? What happens once you have acquired all you thought you needed to be happy? What if after the pursuit of happiness, you are not happy after all? Was it the journey toward happiness that kept you motivated to achieve more?

Once you get the things you think you need to be happy do you need to start pursuing new things to be happy? Does the meaning of happiness change over time? Or do you only realise that it is not things that make you happy once you have it? All these questions arise once you start to figure out what is happiness and whether it is the pursuit of our desires or the attainment of them that brings true happiness.

People often say ‘it’s not the destination that matters it is the journey’. Can this also be true for the pursuit of happiness? Does accumulating material things like wealth bring true happiness in any case or is there more to it than that? You get filthy rich people, but are they really happy and how do you measure happiness in the first place?

It is also true that what makes you happy changes over time? When you are five you might think happiness is getting a new bike, but when you are thirty happiness might be getting a new car. But what if after years of thinking that ‘getting things’ will make you happy you still find yourself longing for something, longing to be happy, which part is important then the ‘getting things’ or the journey of life?

There are many books with the theme of finding happiness. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is just such a book. The book is about her life experience. She had everything most people think they need to be happy. At 32 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer.

Nonetheless, she was still not happy. After eventually getting a divorce she decided to give up all these outward marks of success and travel for a year in the pursuit of true happiness. She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life, three months in India, finding her spirituality and ended her journey in Bali, Indonesia, looking for a balance between the two extremes of worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s first phase of life was probably spent in attaining what she thought would bring her happiness, a home, a career and a husband. Once she has this she still felt unsatisfied and went on a second search for happiness, but she was not looking for something specific to make her happy, she went on a journey to fins what really makes her happy.

Reading this book also makes the reader ponder the meaning of happiness. It makes you wonder about what you think will make you happy and whether this will in fact be the case. Being aware of the fact that perhaps after striving to find happiness you will still feel a void is important. It can teach you from a young age that it is more about ‘getting there’ than it is about ‘being there’.

There can be nothing worse than only realising this at the end of your life. Imagine spending your whole life in pursuit of a top carer, a big house, lots of money, a wife and kids etc. only to reach age fifty and sixty and still feel unhappy.

This likely happens to many people since we live in a materialistic world where we are told that money and objects are what we need to be happy. For people that believe in more than a physical world, like Buddhists, life is a spiritual journey and happiness can only be found in living and enjoying each moment solely for the sake of being, not for achieving something.

Bertrand Russell said, “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”, meaning that it is the journey towards attaining your goals that makes you happy and not attaining the goals themselves. But perhaps it is not just about the journey or the goals but simply just being happy with being.

Read new assignment prompt “What man calls civilization always results in deserts. Man is never on the square – he uses up the fat and greenery of the earth. Each generation wastes a little more of the future with greed and lust for riches.” by Don Marquis