Our culture has become obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. Yet “happiness cannot actually be pursued but must ensue from living a meaningful life”1.
We feel that even though survival is essential, life should not only be about surviving. For most organisms, the purpose of life and all their derived goals and activities are actually rather limited to surviving. But highly successful organisms are efficient in reducing time required for survival and have some extra time to spend. The natural way of spending this time is for own well-being, or happiness as people call it. While microorganisms rarely cease to look for nutrition, lion can afford to rest most of the day.
Even though important to recharge our energy for surviving, happiness and especially pleasure should not be mistaken for the purpose of life. Fortunately many actions that contribute to survival are rewarded by happiness, short-term actions with short-term happiness, and long-term actions with long-term happiness. The very act of reproduction, sex, gives us pleasure, a short-term happiness. Raising healthy and successful children rewards us with a more stable sort of happiness. But ensuring sustainability of mankind offers the long-term satisfaction of living a purposeful life that you can hold on to when you become too old for sex and children have left home to live their own lives.
Survival does not guarantee happiness, but it enables happiness. There won’t be any happiness if we don’t survive.
- Finding by a famous psychologist Viktor E. Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” ↩