by EBB on Monday, July 04, 2011
On this July 4th the modern mother finds her thoughts turning to the memo that started it all: The Declaration of Independence. ( After all, now that John Hamm has signed on for three more years of Mad Men - what else has she got to worry about?)
More specifically she is thinking about the Pursuit of Happiness. As you have doubtlessly noticed there is much talk these days about 'making happy'. Which most scholars argue is not exactly what the founding fathers had in mind.
One example of 'making happy' is the article in the Atlantic entitle How to Land Your Kids in Therapy Why our obsession with our kids' happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods by Lori Gottlieb. In summary, the author shares her professional realization that being your child's BFF and doing everything in your power to boost her self esteem might not be good for her in the long run. Then we have The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. #1 New York Times bestselling book, blog, life style and now on Jeopardy! This 12 Step Year of The Happiness Challenge program is an international success.
Naturally this modern mother wishes happiness for all. She certainly doesn't want to be surrounded by melancholy/disgruntled grade-schoolers, friends and citizens.
Yet, one wonders: is happiness something that can be willed or imposed on oneself or ones children? Can you ever really "make" yourself happy in any real and lasting way? Is happiness an end in itself or is it a byproduct of a content life? Is looking for happiness like looking for love or enlightenment? Is happiness something that hits you over the head when you have stopped searching for it and gotten on with the business of life?
There is a Harvard Study that has been asking What Makes Us Happy and following the same people for 70+ years. If you have the time - it is an interesting read. The brainy folks at Harvard have come up with some good conclusions. Not to spoil it for you but their conclusion is that happiness has more to do with personal connections, "displaying mature adaptations," education, and a healthy lifestyle than willing yourself happy or having your parents intervene if you get a "B" or don't make the varsity team.
However you spend it, we hope you have a very Happy 4th of July!