The Pleasure Principle

 I took this in November 2011 at Memorial Park, Linden, NJ.

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively. After a short time, a very short time, there would be little that one really enjoyed.

For what keeps our interest in life and makes us look forward to tomorrow is giving pleasure to other people.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

I came across this very awesome quote this morning at Brain Pickings Weekly. I thought of teen me, trying my hardest to map out my life to the fullest. I’d major in Education, be out of college at 21, land a dream job teaching kindergarten, get a great place of my own…

And of course, my life did not turn out like that at all. Funny how life happens while you’re making plans.

I then thought of a piece I read at Rod Dreher’s blog a few days ago, “What’s Wrong With The Freakin’ Show”. He writes about reading an article by The New York Times columnist David Brooks about “how the world of choice and plenty in which we now live has occasioned the rapid decline of the traditional family.” Dreher writes:

To some degree, we’re all implicated in this mindset — in this idea that life should be a buffet of choices, and that we shouldn’t be bound too tightly to any particular choice, because that limits our freedom to act to maximize our own happiness. It is a well-known paradox that the happiest people are the ones who don’t pursue happiness for its own sake. This is what Brooks is getting at by saying that people are better off when they are embedded in a structure of commitments that limit their freedom. By closing off their ability to move laterally, they have the capacity to dig deeper…

The thing is, there’s no escape from struggling with commitments, no matter where you are. It’s simply the social and psychological landscape all of us live in. Have people ever lived under conditions in which so many people had so much freedom of choice, where the direction of their lives was in profound ways contingent on the exercise of their own free will? This is what we all think we want, because many goods come with that freedom. But we know, or ought to know, that it won’t make us happy, not permanently so.
This is one reason why lottery winners are often so miserable. They don’t know how to deal with the freedom all that money buys them, and it ruins them. People who don’t have much money love to imagine that if only their financial problems were taken care of, they would be happy. More often than not, they just exchange one set of anxieties for another. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

Such truth there, that to find joy within is to focus out. And up.

Share your thoughts