I just came off vacation with the family. We took a cruise ship out of San Diego that stopped off in Ensenada and came back. This cruise seemed to do two things very well: advertise services (for an additional fee), and encourage partying (of course, with liquor purchased at the bars on the ship). The thing is, most of the people who were partying, and most of the people who chose to pay extra money for this or that, (and most people on the cruise ship, for that matter) seemed quite happy.
In fact, I spent some time browsing the photos taken on board by the cruise ship photographers. There were hundreds of these photos, and we had to work pretty hard a couple times to not have our photo taken. There were elegant dinner photos, photos with the dancers, photos getting on and off the ship, photos at the dinner table, photos around a captain's wheel by the pool, and many others.
It seemed like most people I saw in the photos were pretty happy. But I found myself wondering if they're as happy as they look. I'm sure they were enjoying themselves, but I wonder if they're really happy. And I found myself wondering if most of us really know what it means to actually be happy. It's not that I think these two things, enjoying ourselves and being happy, are mutually exclusive, or that one is necessary for the other to occur.
It seems, though, that so much of our time and energy is spent pursuing pleasurable activities. We want perfectly delicious food, amazingly high-adrenaline adventures, entertainment that is better every time than it was the last time, sex when we're 80 like we had at 18, and whatever else brings pleasure ~ and I think we've unknowingly and unwittingly forgotten how to be happy.
Have we attempted to gain pleasure at the expense of happiness?