"In Pursuit of Happiness: A Live Virtual Event”, which explored the question: what does it take to be happy? Professionals from several fields provided innovative research that seeks contemporary answers to this question. The speakers for this event included Arthur C. Brooks, Deepak Chopra, Angela Duckworth, and many more. My analysis of the pursuit of happiness focuses on the final session, a discussion between Arthur Brooks, and Deepak Chopra.
How do we measure and define happiness? Author and medicine advocate, Deepak Chopra, provides a detailed model that quantifies internal and external factors that commonly influence an individual’s pursuit of happiness. For example, Chopra states that joy is our innate state when we exist without resistance. Therefore, when we pursue happiness, Chopra argues that you are resisting the stress and struggle of existence in order to claim a spontaneous state of joy. External forces that inhibit one’s ability to effortlessly/peacefully exist (forces that cause stress and struggle), are oftentimes the result of monetary agencies people use in order to pursue happiness. Chopra states that there is no wrong in enjoying the finer things in life but asks: is chasing impermanent happiness worth increasing the risk of personal anxiety and societal injustice? Exploitation of resources, capitalism, colonialism, have all been contributors to inhibiting one’s ability to simply exist.
In light of this, what do you do when one’s pursuit of happiness is an agent of another's struggle? For example, happiness that comes from power, wealth or status is likely to be accompanied by a fear of losing that agent of happiness. If one’s happiness is dependent on external factors or property outside of themselves, I would argue that it is likely to come at the cost of threatening the material necessities others need in order to live in a state where existing takes care of itself.
When asked “what is the pursuit of happiness”, Chopra responded by proposing an alternative action. That is, if you invest in the pursuit of consciousness, you do not need to pursue happiness.
Consciousness leads to the manifestation of creativity, imagination, insight, intuition, and visions of greatness. In concluding the final session, Chopra outlined three addictions that often hinder this pursuit. These include the addition to security, sensation, and power. Ironically, addictions do not compromise one’s pursuit of happiness, but they can interfere with knowing your inner self.
Furthermore, conditions of living do not compromise one’s ability to know their inner self yet can compromise quality of life. Therefore, my analysis of the pursuit of happiness suggests that pursuing happiness, which is monetary and impermeant in nature, runs the risk of increasing resource disparity, exploitation and perpetuated resistance.
Finally, to conclude the session Brooks asked, “what can I do to share more love, and more joy with other people today?” Both speakers answered this question by emphasizing the importance of confronting your attachments and fears. Brooks commented that confronting attachments can lead to sharing the happiness you have acquired by loving yourself. The good news is that love is free, accessible to everyone, and is shown to increase an individual’s happiness. Therefore, in considering agents of happiness, I encourage the consideration of love as it derives from consciousness, eludes monetary value and escapes the imperishable nature of materiality.
Editor: William Michael Cunningham