Pursuit of Happiness comes after just Life and Liberty in the American declaration of Independence dated as far back as 1776. So naturally because of its high importance there is this $10 billion strong self-help books and media industry to support this pursuit. People read self-help books about any and all topics. Be it the Chicken soup for soul series or Living a purposeful life duo. From getting an easy divorce or calming yourself after divorce to never needing a divorce spectrum moves on to living happy married life, having wonderful children, effective parenting, moving up the corporate ladder, investing to be a millionaire and what not. There are weight reducing books, best diet books, beat any disease under the sun books. You name it and Amazon has it. In their own ways, they all claim to have the right prescription to stay happy forever.
When I came to US I got fascinated by the ideas presented in these books. The first which caught my attention was “Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. Those were very new concepts and words to me. I was like “oh I can change myself reading these books”. And not having found quality contemporary fiction then, I became a frequent flyer of the non-fiction self-help isle of the library. Today when I look back at things read 20 years ago I do question their applicability or their claim of completely and forever changing the course of ones’ life. I, once a proud graduate of Dale Carnegi Leadership, was disappointed at the rumors of him committing a suicide at the end. Then recently this life-coach couple running a famous radio show suffocated themselves by Helium bags, only to be discovered dead in their New York apartment by a neighbor. What a title “Life Couch”. Would be nice if all these experts who give advice to solve other people’s problems can solve a few of their own!
I stopped reading self-help books a long while ago but it seems like my boss still reads them. At my company bosses are called “leaders” but my boss really struggles with upgrading her innate bossiness to productive leadership. You ask me how do we know that she is reading those books and I would tell you that its not that hard to guess if someone is reading such books or taking company offered leadership training classes. All of a sudden she becomes very cordial and jovial towards her team. She would come ask you how your family is doing, let you go home early, and may be hold the staff meeting at Starbucks instead of the dark barren meeting room. But do not ever make the mistake of thinking she has finally changed herself. When you start showing the same easy attitude towards work she will catch you as soon as the effect of that positive thinking and making friends advisory material fades off.
Nothing lasts forever but the effort to make it last definitely does which, in itself and very much so, makes our lives as vibrant, complex, and worthwhile as they are. Perhaps that’s why the founding fathers of US wisely used the word “pursuit” and not “attainment”. Who can guarantee the lasting attainment of happiness!
Is happiness marred by life or is life marred by this very pursuit? A million dollar question, the answer to which lies somewhere in those darn grey shades where nothing black and white matters. Yes the inexplicable grey that engulfs the whole universe.