The Happiness Trap

Don: Why do we do this?

Roger: For the sex, but it’s always disappointing, for me anyway.

Mad Men has been asking this question all season, what is it that drives us and what do we do after we get everything we thought that we wanted? Can things really make us happy? Can one really be fulfilled in this life or is it just a quick succession of busy nothings? There always seems to be something better, just over the horizon, the grass is always greener, our friend’s wife is always prettier, our coworker’s car is always better and the list could go on forever.

Temporal things only bring temporal enjoyment. Don vividly and viciously explains this truth to a client when he says,

Are you? You’re happy happy with 50%? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50% of anything, I want a 100%. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it, you want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it.

We are slaves to this drive and we will do and continue to do anything to fulfill it. Just look at the world with its debt and credit, all because if we can just get that thing a the very moment we wanted it, it would complete something in us like a missing puzzle piece. And yet it doesn’t, it fails.

Glenn: Why does everything turn out crappy?

Don: What do you mean?

Glenn: I don’t know. Everything you wanna do, everything you thinks gonna make you happy just turns to crap.

Don: You’re too young to talk that way

Glenn: But it’s true.

Soloman, the richest , wisest man that ever lived said,

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 ESV)

There seems to be little hope when we look at the world. If nothing here can give me lasting happiness, joy or peace, what is the point of living? The Apostle Paul says there is hope and he reminds us of where it comes from in Galatians 5, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Jesus says to his disciples in John 15,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

When we look at this we think, “But this is hindering my fun, this is taking away my freedom”. Yet we have already seen we are slaves to our drive for happiness and that drive is insatiable. Jesus is offering us freedom from slavery and the gift of true fulfillment. He calls us to abide in his love and obey his commands; but if you look closely, his love and his commands are one in the same. For loves sake he has given us the way to navigate life that will lead to ultimate joy, fulfillment, peace and identity if I let go of myself and my desire to chase after the cheap thrills of fast-food dreams and one-night let downs. Jesus has lovingly given everything, provided everything if we would just let go of the mud pie and accept the vacation at the beach he is offering.

Advertisements

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s