I watched a documentary the other day which explored the topic of happiness and what makes people happy.
One man who has polished shoes all his life smiled as he spoke about how he has spent many years raising funds for a children’s hospital.
The tales of simple folk who are content with their life was juxtaposed with alarming scenes of frenzied buying at department stores as people rushed around madly for last minute Christmas shopping.
Cliche and hackneyed as it sounds, the producers inevitably always came back to the same conclusion: the happiest people are those with a strong network of friendships, family and community and who give unselfishly to others who are in need. One psychologist pointed out how often very small children laugh and giggle for no reason at all, finding happiness in the simplest of games and situations, and how we lose this ability to express pure joy as we grow older.
If proof were needed that materialism alone can never feel the gaping hole which our souls need for nourishment, all we have to do is look at extremely rich celebrities. Sure, some do it for publicity, but it is clear that many of them “give back” either through raising funds or by being more hands on and donating their time, because with extreme wealth often comes a nagging sense of guilt. “How can I have so much when others have nothing?”
Those who do not come to the cold realisation that they must do something meaningful with their money other than buy yet another mansion, often become incredibly self-destructive. It is no coincidence that we hear of so many actors and musicians who turn to substance abuse, accidental overdoses and sometimes even suicide. I think the same applies to children of rich parents for whom everything comes easy and who do not have to work for a living because Daddy will provide. In their search for something which will make them “happy” they turn to an instant chemical fix.
Our lives must be productive and contain meaning otherwise we are mere empty shells who consume and splurge on goods which we really do not need.
This is not meant to be a bah, hambug article. We all love shopping for (and receiving) Christmas presents and it is an important part of the spirit of this festive season. But when I hear (for example) parents lamenting that they do not know what to buy their young children because “they already have everything”, it makes me wonder whether these children will end up in a relentless pursuit of happiness which remains elusive to their grasp.
I wish all my readers a peaceful, meaningful Christmas.