For those readers who don’t remember high school math, the title of this post indicates that the quantity “Pleasure” is less than the quantity “Happiness.” And the indisputable truth of that statement is the root cause of most of society’s current problems.
Pleasure is a physical reaction resulting from some event, experience, or stimulant. Examples of pleasures are good food, nice weather, working out, orgasmic sex, certain drugs and alcohol, driving a great car, living in a safe home, winning at competitive endeavors, and a myriad of other things that occur in your life. Pleasures are generally good, positive things, but are not always productive and life-enhancing experiences. Pleasures are alluring, captivating, and can be easily addicting. Too much exercise, too much food, too much booze, too much drugs, too much striving to make the big bucks to buy the things that will give you pleasure – these are destructive results of the “pursuit” of pleasures. Pleasure is never a destination – it is always just an event on the path of life.
Happiness, on the other hand, is more, much more, than a simplistic physical state of pleasure. Happiness is an emotional condition – it is the synergistic combination of mental satisfaction, physical calmness, and situational peacefulness that transcends mere physical pleasures. Happiness is an end to itself, and should be the goal of all human endeavor. Happiness is manifested by the sublime pleasure of the experience of life itself.
Sadly, in this day and age we seem to have lost an awareness of the difference between pleasure and happiness. We commonly equate the two, and frequently place more value in experiencing repetitive pleasures than in achieving a state of happiness. Most modern activities seem to be focused on base pleasures – sex, money, fame, power, because we have been misdirected to believe that if we have enough feel-good things, we will be happy. But it just isn’t so.
How can the person of modest means be happy, while the person of vast wealth and fame suffers from self-doubt and disillusion? How can a poor family with several children, who must struggle to make ends meet, still find the inner peace, love, and deep relationships brought by true happiness? How can a wealthy family suffer with dysfunctional relationships, substance abuse, and depression? Obviously, a pile of physical pleasures does not necessarily result in a mountain of happiness.
It is because Happiness comes from within, not from without.
Our Declaration of Independence addresses the inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Take note that no mention was made of a right to pursue pleasure.
There was a reason for that.