The Pursuit of Happiness and the
Experience of Suffering

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Happiness does not last.








To suffer is to "go through."

The Pursuit of Happiness           

Our culture emphasizes happiness and pleasure; the natural tendency is to avoid suffering. Our country’s Declaration of Independence proclaims the right for the, "pursuit of happiness." Unfortunately, happiness is a transient state that cannot be reached and kept. Happiness never lasts. Happiness is related to the Middle English word "hap," the root meaning of which implies that happiness is more due to luck -- happenstance -- than effort. If lucky, we might be happy, at least, for a short time. Scott Peck has written a best selling book with the opening sentence, "Life is difficult." This statement struck a chord with the reading public. Peck acknowledges that this is not a new concept. It was expressed long ago by the Buddha with his teaching that, "All life is suffering." Jesus also knew that life was suffering and showed us this with his life as the "Suffering Servant." He provides a model of how the suffering is to be done.

Joseph Campbell offered us the encouragement to, "Follow our bliss." Superficially this statement can be seen as meaning to look for happiness. In reality, bliss means following our passion or that which enlivens life. For Campbell following one's bliss involved much more than the search for pleasure because he also taught that it is important to, "Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world." He then went on to say, " We cannot cure the world of sorrow, but we can choose to live in joy." Sorrow and joy can coexist.

The Experience of Suffering          

Robert Johnson, a Jungian oriented author, points out that the word "suffer" comes from the Latin sub plus ferre meaning "to bear or to allow." To suffer in this sense is to allow something to happen, perhaps, to allow ourselves to experience the responsibility for life choices which permits consciousness to grow. When we suffer in this sense we are opening ourselves to experience the fullness of life’s diversity as a natural process of growth. Such a "suffering" with life must occur for psychological and spiritual maturity to develop. The philosopher Alan Watts speaks to this point when he says, "Because human consciousness must involve both pleasure and pain, to strive for pleasure to the exclusion of pain is, in effect, to strive for the loss of consciousness." Life’s goal is to increase consciousness; so, the temptation to avoid life’s legitimate pain must be resisted.

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