Life, Mirage & the Pursuit of Happiness

On Monday, I stopped by my parents’ house to make the Maghrib prayer. I noticed the walls are in need of repainting. My sister who was there with her three sons asked if I was good with painting. I boasted of my skills. But this got me thinking. My father is in Nigeria right now, and the least thing on his mind is working on his American house, when he has projects in Nigeria that are taking all of his attention. What a life. And this is the house he spent a considerable amount of time and money of his adult life maintaining. Now it means little to him.

A few weeks ago, I was awarded a Kitch Foundation Prize for sociology, with the financial grant of a good amount of money. Money that growing up in Ìbàdàn I fantasized about, money that may lead people to think one is doing fine. I was elated when I received the congratulating email, but after the luncheon, one way or the other, my needs suddenly transcended that grant, and I found myself back in my normal state of needing more.

The point of both of these stories is simple. The illusion of life’s material goals. It is unending. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t strive to have things that are pleasant and make our lives comfortable, but what I’m saying is we shouldn’t think about them as the ultimate precursors to our happiness or sense of serenity. We should not have the mindset of once I make this xyz or have this and that I will be happy so it is logical to do anything including exploiting (extorting) others to get it.

Writing will not make you happy. Have you seen best-selling writers? Becoming the c. e. o of a large tech industry will not independently make you more fulfilling than a high school teacher. For example, you’re more likely in a better state of mind than Facebook owner right now even though he has no housing problems, no car problems. He’s at the peak of the socio-economic ladder yet the need to stay relevant and on top may keep him awake at night when you’re enjoying your own beautiful night.

The purpose of our lives is not the pursuit of happiness. Because happiness is not tangible, and there’s no way you can compound it. You will be sad and happy. Guaranteed.


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