Charlie's Blog: The Pursuit of Happiness

1.22.2015

The Pursuit of Happiness


Nobody is happy on earth until he decides not to be. This is the way the path goes: suffering -- in Christian terms -- the Cross; God's Will, Love; happiness here and, afterwards, eternally.
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

A few years ago, Will Smith appeared in a movie called The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith gave a fine performance as Chris Gardner, a down on his luck dad who struggles for a year with homelessness. Eventually, Gardner would find work as a stockbroker and go on to become rich. Initially, I loved the movie. This was because I was a libertarian at the time, and the movie hit on all the libertarian themes of raising yourself up by your own bootstraps. Now, that I am no longer libertarian and have read the Wikipedia article on the film explaining more of the reality of the true life story of Mr. Gardner, I like the film much less. As a libertarian, I saw Gardner as a sort of hero who decided to raise himself up by his own hard work and determination. Now, I see the guy as a degenerate broke loser who caught a lucky break at the beginning of the long 20 year bull market that began at the dawn of the 1980's. The reality is that success has mostly to do with luck and/or selling your soul to the financial services industry.

The libertarian mindset is pretty basic. There are many paths to happiness. Everyone finds their own way, but they all end at the same destination. Basically, happiness is a big house, a sweet ride, lots of guilt free sex with the partner(s) of your choosing, entertainment, and substances usually being drugs and alcohol. Libertarians will be at pains to explain that "libertarian" is not the same as "libertine," but there is a reason that libertarians are described as Republicans who smoke dope. This is because they love the money aspect of being Republican but not so much those traditional family values.



Becoming Catholic is what ended libertarian fantasies for me. There are many wrong paths, but there is only one right path to happiness which is found in the one true faith of the Catholic Church. I often wonder why God allowed me to go down so many wrong paths in my life, and I realize now that it was to remove their temptation from me. I see many cradle Catholics reared in the faith with good parents and the sort of upbringing that puts people on a firm foundation. Yet, so many of those cradle Catholics peel off to go down the same dead end paths I have already been down. You would think they would learn something from my experience, but they never do. It's like a guy who tosses out his garbage only to see people already rich picking through it for something to eat. Yes, they are fools for this. The fool has the unique ability to ignore reality and common sense to embrace that garbage. I call it "Herculean self-delusion" because it takes real effort to be that stupid.

As someone who used to be stupid, I can tell you that wisdom feels a whole lot better. Everyone wants to be happy. The problem is that no one is happy. As Oscar Wilde put it, "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." I remember being 18, and I had this moment when I decided like Chris Gardner that I was going to become rich and successful in life. I call this my "Nietzschean Übermensch" mode. I was going to be a "go getter" in life. Then, God introduced me to a book in the Bible called Ecclessiastes which sucked the wind out of my sails on a permanent basis. The gist of that book is that you can have all that the world offers, but it will only leave you empty inside. The good life looks good on the outside, but it is hollow on the inside. The lesson was that I could become rich in life if I chose, but I was not going to be happy. I made the decision at that moment that I wanted to be happy, so I lost my taste for the world's riches and delights.

If I could sum up my life story so far, it would be like this. I am someone who endeavored mightily to do it the wrong way, but God kept me putting me back on the right track. On the outside, this looks like a series of curses and misfortunes, but I see now how fortunate I was. The thing that matters most is your soul. We all know the verse. It is Mark 8:36. "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?" Your soul is the only thing that matters. The world can go to hell, and it will.


There is no happiness in this world because happiness is found only in Heaven. The ironic thing about this realization is that it will make you much happier in this world if you accept it. I have met a lot of different people in my journey so far, but none of them were happy. The only people I know who had anything resembling happiness in this world were the saints. Only saints are happy, and this happiness becomes complete in Heaven. In this world, they have the blessed hope of that eternal inheritance. They get a taste of the banquet that is to come.

Anything less than Heaven is Hell. The people who snatch their money and their pleasures in this life are merely people who scrambled to the top of the manure pile. I can honestly say that I have never envied a rich person in my life. But I did envy someone who had what I did not. She had faith. I felt like I owned the world, but I did not have faith. So, I traded the world for that faith. Life sucks so bad that I honestly don't believe it is worth living. I only keep living for the sake of that faith. That faith is what sustains me.

Who is happy in this life? Honestly, I would like to know. I used to tell people that I was the happiest person I knew because I thought I could trick myself into making it true. But I knew better. Everyone knew I was miserable except for me. Yet, who else was happy? Now that I have some real happiness, the cynicism comes out. I must be in some sort of blissful ignorance.


I know life is hard. I also know that when things are going well that life is still hard. It will always be hard, frustrating, and disappointing. This never ends. Life is not Heaven. I have no illusions about life. This is why I say that Catholicism is more real than real. Most Christians of the Protestant variety are faking it. You can't fake it as a Catholic. People thought my view of the world was dark as an atheist. It is much darker as a Catholic. The best thing I can say about this world is that it is a suburb of Hell. It would be enough to deal with diseases and natural disasters, but people have to make it worse by doing unspeakable atrocities to one another. The world is full of evil. I read the news each day. Then, I pray. I pray often. I have to cling to that faith and that hope. The world is so dark.

I don't care about what the world has to offer. The more I grow in my Catholic faith means the less I like the world. I think we are ready for Heaven the moment we sever the last attachment to this life. This is why the martyrs go straight in because you can't be more detached than that. This is the pursuit of happiness. It is to seek after God and lose attachment to this world. This is the only way to happiness and very few ever find it. I have been unfortunate in this world, but I see it for the good fortune it will bring me in the world to come. I know where I want to be, and it isn't here.