The Happiness Trap

The Quest for the Holy Grail is one of the most enduring legends in Western European literature and art. The Holy Grail is generally considered to be the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and the one used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the blood flowing from Christ’s side as he hung on the cross. The magical properties attributed to the Holy Grail have been traced to the magical vessels of Celtic myth that satisfied the tastes and needs of all who ate and drank from them. The vessel became the principal quest of the knights of King Arthur. For Arthur’s Knights, the quest for the Grail was the highest spiritual pursuit and the self-realization of the questing knight was equally assured by finding the Grail. The symbol of the Grail as a mysterious object of search and the source of the ultimate mystical or physical experience has persisted into our present century. A major film studio has used “The Search of the Holy Grail” as the center theme of a major motion picture, which illustrated man’s continuous search for ultimate fulfillment.

Ponce de Leon, was a Spanish conqueror and explorer. On November 19, 1493 Ponce de Leon was one of the first Europeans to see the small island of Borinquen, the Indian name for Puerto Rico. In 1506, with two hundred men, Ponce de Leon sailed to Puerto Rico and found that it had rich deposits of gold. The natives in Puerto Rico were friendly and helped Ponce de Leon establish a port and gather gold. In 1508 he returned again to Puerto Rico and became governor of the island. Finding lots of gold on the island he became a wealthy man. He became fascinated with the tales of the natives, which told of a mysterious fountain with age-restoring powers. His search of this “Fountain of Youth” became an obsession, after his replacement as governor. Exploring many regions in his search, including the Bahamas and Bimini, he and his men eventually came to the land he named La Florida, meaning “land of flowers.” The first visit to Florida found the natives to be friendly, but by the second visit, in which Ponce De Leon was intending to colonize Florida, the natives were hostile. A battle ensued and Ponce de Leon was shot in the stomach with a poisoned arrow. After his transport to Cuba for recovery, he eventually died from his wounds, never to find the elusive fountain of youth.

Have you ever noticed how much we are like King Arthur’s Knights and Ponce de Leon? Searching for that one thing, that if we could only obtain it, then the rest of life and/or our circumstances would immediately fall into place and we would find wealth, success, joy, confidence, happiness or whatever it is we seek! After all, if we could find that one thing that would allow us to have or be everything that we ever wanted, wouldn’t that make us happy?

    We seem to have been conditioned to think that we will be happy when:

  • we arrive at a certain destination.
  • marry the right person.
  • our schooling is finished.
  • we get a better job.
  • we obtain a certain income.
  • move into our own home.
  • the baby is born.
  • our bills are paid.
  • we recover from our illness.
  • we acquire a new car.
  • we finish a disagreeable task.
  • we retire.
  • we are free from all responsibility.
  • And the list could go on and on.

If you were to ask twenty people what they want most in life, it would come as no surprise that nineteen will answer that they would most like to be happy. After all, that is the bottom line.

In fact, this idea was so important to the founding fathers of this country that they claimed the pursuit of happiness to be an inalienable right and some social scientists claim it is the goal of all human behavior.

So why does happiness elude us? Prince Bismarck once said that he had not known one happy day in his life. For years he had ruled an empire, had wealth, fame and fortune in his hands, and with all of that he had not grasped one day of happiness. Are we in danger of the same?

Never before in any society have we had so many who have achieved their dreams of home ownership, widespread travel, college education and so on.

Never before has so much money been spent on leisure and recreation. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent this year on everything from Super Bowl tickets to computer and video games, surround sound systems, recreational vehicles and travel–all in the name of fun.

Maybe that’s the problem. The big question for our grandparents was, ‘Am I doing right?’ Then the question for our parents was ‘Am I getting ahead?’ But for us the burning question is ‘Am I having fun?’

We live in a world where success is defined solely by the size of a bank account or balance sheet while happiness seems to be defined as excitement. We are told that happiness is the bi-product of a sexier deodorant, toothpaste or shinier floors, while the mark of success is in the wearing of a certain name brand of clothing or the ownership of a certain automobile.

The average person spends over nine years of their life in front of the television, lured into escapist hours watching worlds of make believe and fantasy. Is it any wonder that so many lose direction or perspective?

“Unhappy people rarely blame themselves for their condition. Their jobs are at fault, or their marriages, or the vileness of parents, or the meanness of fate. The real cause is the incoherency of their lives. Sterile and confused, they have no warmth to give in work, play or love. They wait in apathy for a visit from the fairy godmother, and in the meantime try to distract the boredom within them.” The One Sure Way to Happiness, June Callwood

“Happiness is not a gift from the gods”, said psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, and Abraham Lincoln said, “We are as happy as we make up our minds to be.” The reality is that no one nor anything outside of yourself can ever make you feel happy or successful. You and you alone have been given that power for yourself.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” – Albert Schweitzer “Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

Perhaps these two individuals have given us the cardinal principals that define happiness and success. If you want to find true happiness and success, find a worthy purpose outside your own personal gratification, and when you do, “happiness sneaks in a door you did not know you left open.” John Barrymore

— The views expressed are fundamental principles of the Honor Copy in Brigham City, Utah, which is locally owned and operated by the parent company which operates as GraphiXpress Network and Cache Valley Print, both are located in Cache Valley, Utah and offer a full range of design, color and black & white (standard or wide format) copies & print, digital scans & archiving, direct marketing & mailings, administrative and other business services.


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