Happiness is an overused term, and rarely well defined.
Usually, when we think of a “happy” person, what comes to mind? A kind-hearted, somewhat bumbling buffoon. Charlie from Flowers for Algernon in the earliest and latest stages of his development. And yet we spend most of our lives, in innumerable ways, trying to achieve fulfillment and satisfaction.
When I was eight years old I wanted to own a drum set and to be a drummer. Why? Because I thought that becoming a musician would make me happy.
When I was eighteen and had never been kissed, I wanted a girlfriend. Why? Same answer.
I’m twenty-nine years old and I’d like to think that my aspirations are a bit loftier. Certainly, I strive for a fulfilling personal and professional life, which includes financial success, satisfying relationships—all the usual. But I can want those things and still celebrate the moment. In short, I strive for happiness.
Define happiness however you like: fulfillment, gratitude, gratification, achievement, joy, or something more personal. But inevitably, we find that everyone is seeking the same thing. The toddler and the jihadist, though they seem to have nothing in common in their pursuit of specific goals, are actually both doing what they’re doing because that’s what they want to be doing. Because they believe it will lead them to more happiness, now or in the afterlife.
These are personal questions, without clearly defined answers. Consider them.