Because I’m Happyyyyyyy

How have you been faring, dear reader? Are you feeling OK? Better than OK? Are you happy? Be honest, now. Are you full of joy? Tickled with delight? Mulling on mudita? Jingling with jouissance? Leaping with lief? Chucklingly chuffed?

Summer’s illuminating sizzle is finally settling in after spring’s soaked stretch. That means fewer clouds, more sunshine, bluer sky, and scores of Banana Boat-pungent kids hollering obscenities next to you at the pool.

It’s woefully true, as Billy Shakes observed, summer’s “lease hath all too short a date.” But that’s all the more reason to soak in the orange skyball’s pleasing warmth now. So, surely, surly reader, you’re perhaps letting the season’s sultry clime lighten your mood, yes?

What? Why the snarly stare? You don’t like your mood being constantly gauged as if I’m some alienist who charges the price of a new Hyundai hatchback by the minute? Oh, It makes you uncomfortable? You’re put off with my prying into your inner-life like some pushy yenta?

Well it should, actually. We may live in “a century of feelings,” as one writer put it, but normal, well-adjusted people don’t dwell on their interior emotions. Especially the most elusive state of all: happiness.

Asking someone over the age of three if he or she is “happy” is, prepare yourself, a stupid question, mentally taxing for the responder, and a depressant. How can that be? In our enlightened age, haven’t we evolved on mental health? Isn’t the stoic ideal of grim, teeth-gritted endurance outmoded? Shouldn’t our cloying focus on feelings alleviate discomfort? Wasn’t our wealth of prescription drugs chemically spliced together because we all occasionally need a little serotonin boost, if only to wade through the Monday slog?

To scale up a tad, isn’t the global-consumer-gratification economy premised on satisfying human want and need? “People do not toil and trouble in order to attain perfect happiness, but in order to remove as much as possible some felt uneasiness and thus to become happier than they were before,” wrote economist Ludwig von Mises. Dropping two-hundred big ones on a new Nespresso doesn’t bring unalloyed delight, but, speaking from experience, it smooths out the morning scuffle of slapping the Keurig to make it brew one plasticine cup of coffee.

In a paradox worthy of a Chesterton bon mot, striving for happiness actually saddens. Because Hobbes was right, and not just for pre-Industrial Revolution times. Life really is brutal, short, and mostly boring. We aren’t actually supposed to be some bucked up duffer every waking minute.

In Abigail Shrier’s new book Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up, the bogeywoman of the transgender craze continues her dissection of modern child-rearing. She zooms out from the harm inflicted by trans-medical-industrial complex to tackle how, to use a term coined by sociologist Christian Smith, “moralistic therapeutic deism” is turning parents into indentured servants to their progeny. Harried Mom and put-upon Dad are working themselves into a tizzy trying to bubble-wrap their kids against the world, Shrier argues. Parents should instead be toughening their children up against life’s bumps, rather than smooth out a rocky road.

That’s the kind of sage advice an author can easily offer from the page, which makes a reader nod in agreement, before immediately rejecting it to placate a toddler screaming blue murder after running into a wall while playing “chase.” Easier said than done, basically. True: Every parent wants their kids to be independent problem-solvers who don’t whine about how the Play-Doh jar top is too tight to pop off. But sometimes it’s just easier, especially for insecure dads who want to demonstrate their masculine virality, to tear the lid off, if only to buy a few more uninterrupted minutes hate-reading man-child takes on Twitter.

Balancing the inculcation of resilience with tending to each and every owie is a years-long struggle. Shrier also makes a larger point about the role happiness plays in parenting: “If we want our kids to be happy the last thing we would do is to communicate that happiness is the goal.”

Well, what kind of psycho parent doesn’t want their precious child brimming with cheer? Does CPP need to pay Mrs. Shrier a visit? Are her children chained in the basement, doing reams of algebra homework while subsisting on bread and water?

It turns out that pestering someone—not just youngsters—about whether or not he or she is pleased as punch every second of the day is a way to emphasize that No, happiness is not our default setting. In accentuating merriment, we beget misery. “Nobody feels great. Happiness is not the emotion of the day,” Shrier levels like an obverse “Sesame Street” character.

Does our overemphasis on elation explain why liberals tend to be sour-faced complainers? A 2021 CDC study found that, on the whole, self-identified lefties are more depressed than their ideological counterparts. Matt Yglesias wrote of the findings: “liberal girls have the highest increase in depressive affect and conservative boys have the least. But liberal boys are more depressed than conservative girls, suggesting an important independent role for political ideology.”

The why seems pretty obvious, and doesn’t require evidential proof, such as contrasting candid videos of screeching, sign-holding, pixie-cut harpies alongside a bunch of drunk, beaming, MAGA-hatted frat dudes. (Though watching Hillary-voters having toddler tantrums on the street inspires its own kind of perverse glee.)

The left, reflecting on its inner Marxism, strives to utopianize the world, the goal of which is based on the belief in perfect contentment. The right accepts mankind’s inextinguishable tragedy, which forms an epistemological block to false felicity. Relentlessly chasing happiness can be a real downer. It’s even more dismaying for the liberal miserabilist who can’t be pleased until every corporation enacts strict DEI guidelines and the earth’s average temperature never wavers a fraction of a degree.

So how do you actually live a happy life? It’s cheesy, airport-best-seller advice, but it’s simple. So slow your pace. Take in the brief bouts of jubilation when you can. And for the love of emotional equanimity, stop asking people how they feel. I’m fine, dammit, you probably are too.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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