Research Position Paper- bglunk

“Who Defines A Happy Life ?”

Happiness without meaning is a selfish way to live. Think about only putting oneself first for life. Without selfless, kind acts how does one have a true sense of what things are worth? It is impossible for a shallow person to be happy in every sense of the word. There is always something bigger or better that they believe will make them happy, but in the end the void in their life where happiness should be is only filled for a short amount of time. Filled by the thrill of a new object, filled by the satisfaction of knowing that they have the newest and greatest object, therefore they are the newest and greatest. What a person has does not make them what they are.

The popular TV show Real Housewives of Atlanta is a beauty-is-skin-deep illustration of this selfish “happiness with no meaning,” previously mentioned.The show films some of the wealthiest women in Atlanta in their everyday lives. These “high class” women are followed around by cameras showing things such as the work, family, and leisure their lives consist of. Although these women seem to have everything they could ever ask for when the exterior is pulled away the deeper side is shown. No amount of money, job, object, even marriage is ever enough to keep the women happy. Every time something extravagant happens there is always mention of something more extravagant that could of happened. This TV show in itself can prove that satisfaction through fortune, fame, and material objects is never really happiness. In the end everyone always wants more and more to try to fill some sort of void their life has. This type of “happiness” is only skin deep. The deeper kind of happiness comes from meaning in ones life, something these women do not possess. Their materialistic lives take them over, and the objects they own, end up owning them.

Materialistic items, like the ones the real housewives treasure so much, so not have meaning or actual value. They are defined by a dollar sign. Nothing in life has meaning without commitment or devotion. The appreciation of objects is superficial; therefore, it results in despair. However, devotion and commitment relate to meaning on a deeper role when happiness is gained through meaning beyond material significance. We spend our non-refundable time searching for something that makes us feel complete or satisfied. A large portion of us will resort to working our whole lives for money and materialistic belongings while the rest of us come to realize that true fulfillment in life cannot be bought with money, but rather with devotion and commitment. Commitment to something important, commitment to something fulfilling, and commitment to something that makes one feel like they have conquered the world when they complete it. This type of dedication can only come from the strong meaning behind the cause.

It is a counterintuitive that if someone is happy his or her life has meaning. This is not always the case. In many ways a happy person is portrayed as someone who is selfish, a selfish person will most likely not do things to give their life meaning. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”(Grewal 2014). Without meaning life would just pass by, nothing left but materialistic memories and uneventful.

Happiness gained from superficial aspects is equivalent to no real happiness at all. Early in the book Fight Club, Tyler Durden talks about how materialism can make one possessive. He states, “We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” This statement can support the idea that superficial, shallow, and meaningless pleasure cannot be construed as happiness. Having meaning in ones life truly defines happiness. As a general idea, happiness is most commonly described as feeling or showing pleasure or content. What makes ones life pleasurable varies from person to person. Is there a difference between long-term happiness and momentary happiness? Can different people be happy in different aspects of their lives? The definition of happiness and meaning are extremely different. “When you ask people what makes their lives worth living, they rarely say anything about their mood. They are more likely to cite things that they find meaningful, such as their work or relationships.”(Acacia Parks). A person who genuinely appreciates life is someone whose life has a lot of meaningful aspects to it. These are the givers, not the takers. The selfish “takers” live lives that are solely based on things they can benefit from. These types of people will never get far in life. A meaningful life trumps a happy life every time.

“Happiness without meaning is characterized by a relatively shallow and often self-oriented life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided. The meaningful life guides actions from the past through the present to the future, giving one a sense of direction. It offers ways to value good and bad alike, and gives us justifications for our aspirations.” Clifton Parker

Meaning can also be defined in many different ways depending on the person. Meaning is defined as something that is not directly expressed. What gives a persons life meaning is not usually out there in the open for everyone to know, that is what makes it special and worth something. “It’s important to understand that for many people, a sense of meaning and happiness in life overlap; many people score jointly high (or jointly low) on the happiness and meaning measures in the study. But for many others, there is a dissonance — they feel that they are low on happiness and high on meaning or that their lives are very high in happiness, but low in meaning.” (Smith 2013). Out of the two it is clear that meaning is worth more to oneself then happiness.

The push and pull between happiness and meaning and which is more fulfilling can be debated back and forth but when it comes down to it there is cause and effect to each scenario. Superficial aspects tend to be associated with happiness without meaning, therefore superficial results in despair. Devotion and commitment are related to meaning and how ones life takes on a deeper role when happiness is gained through meaning. This is why commitment and devotion result in happiness.

Superficial aspects result in despair. The thrill a Housewife of Atlanta gets when she puts on her new pair of Christian Loubatins, which cost over thousands of dollars, cannot last lifetime. Eventually she will get tired of those shoes, they will get worn down, and all the money she spent on those shoes is just disappears, as if it was useless. This is not happiness. This type of thrill is nothing compared to the thrill a person gets when they spend months working on building homes in other countries, just so a family they did not even know can have a safe place to sleep. This type of happiness, commitment, and devotion for a purpose is the most rewarding form of happiness, because it is meaningful. When someone yearns for something they cannot receive or will not receive this is portrayed as desperation. As stated in previous papers the Real Housewives of Atlanta are a perfect example of showing women who yearn for unnecessary, materialistic items to try to gain happiness. Their superficial pursuit results in a race for who can have the most and who can gain it the quickest. The cause in this demonstration, to gain “happiness” through the newest and best objects money can buy. The effect is a life that is unfulfilling due to the constant disappointment that maybe the best of everything is unattainable. Devotion and commitment are related to the meaning in ones life. Dedication to someone or something can go a long way in and bring prosperous results along with it. When a person is committed to something the strive makes the task worth something. It transforms from just a meaningless act to something that was worked at, achieved, and finally earned. When a person is devoted to a cause the meaning makes the happiness worth something much greater then objects or material items.

Works Cited
Baumeister, Roy F., and Kathleen D. Vohs. “The Pursuit of Meaningfulness in Life.” Homepage.psy.utexas.edu. Web 44 (n.d.): n. pag.
Baumeister, Roy F. “Do You Want a Meaningful or a Happy Life? – Roy F Baumeister – Aeon.” Aeon Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Compass, Philosophy. “New Developments in the Meaning of Life.” Philosophy Compass 2/2 (2007): 196–217, 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00061.x New Developments in the Meaning of Life (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Hagerty, Michael R., and Ruut Veenhoven. “Wealth and Happiness Revised.” Social Indicators Research 64 (2003): 1-27. Web.
“The How of Happiness: Chapter by Chapter.” Adventures in Reading. N.p., 01 May 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Jones, Orion. “Why a Meaningful Life Is More Fulfilling Than a Happy One | Big Think.” Big Think. N.p., 13 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Kauppinen, Antti. “Meaningfulness and Time.” – KAUPPINEN. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Marsh, Jason, and Jill Suttie. “Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?” Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One? N.p., 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Smith, Emily Esfahani. “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 09 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
Wiest, Brianna. “A Meaningful Life Is More Important Than A Happy One.” Thoughtcatolog.com. N.p., 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

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