waves of pro-democracy activism that have swept across the Arab world in recent months were sparked by a desire for happiness? Similarly, do you think the brave Freedom Riders who put their lives on the line fifty years ago this spring to integrate buses and trains deep in the American south did so to support the cause of happiness? (Follow that Freedom Riders link and watch that new PBS doc. It's riveting.)
We are by no means opposed to happiness, and we are pretty sure Toni Morrison isn't either. Still, we've got a hunch that happiness should be a by-product or a consequence of the pursuit of those other, loftier ideals and not the object of the pursuit itself. If you are searching for meaningfulness -- in your work, your relationships, your way of moving through the world -- then we suspect you will end up feeling happy, at least most days, if by happiness you mean feeling satisfied with the general direction of your life and energies. However, if you focus on happiness primarily and lose sight of those larger-than-self aspirations, we worry that you'll wake up some morning twenty or thirty years from now and go, "Geez, man, is this all there is?"
Don't mind us, kids. We're just grouchy old broads who get a little high-minded and tender-hearted this time of year. Here ends the sermon on the speech. We now return to our regularly scheduled grading so that all those Happy Turtles strolling across all those stages over the next couple of days can have their accomplishments certified as legit, official, and diploma-ready. Peace out, and srsly: Congratulations, graduates. Dogspeed to each and every one of you.
(Image credits: Morrison picked up here; Peanuts here.)