The Pursuit of Happiness

Deena Mueller

For all the grief we get for being such a materialistic, greedy society, it really is overblown. Admittedly, we stand in line for hours to go shopping, and we like brand names. It’s true that only months after getting another iPod, we want the newest one. Yes, we pick careers based on their earning potential. Yes, we’re obsessed with making ever growing profits. So we are materialistic. We like things. We like money. But not as much as we like happiness.

As much as we love our possessions and our riches, we’d part with them in exchange for happiness.

Many of our families just spent several hundred dollars to fly their children home for five days! They were willing to spend their hard earned money, because they’d rather be happy and have their kid at home than have a few hundred extra bucks in their bank account. Last week I got a ticket, had to go to court and it was a mess. By the end of it I was willing to just pay to have that stress gone, so I could go on being happy. It would have been nice if I could have kept that money, but it wasn’t worth me feeling anxious and unhappy. There are so many examples of how we trade money for something we think will be better for us. Think of an armed robbery victim, who willing throws his or her wallet at the attacker, so that they can return to living their life happily, even if less wealthy.

I’ve often felt guilty of how much money I’ve cost my family. Add up college tuition, health and car insurance, sports equipment, food, clothes and everything else I’ve ever needed and it is an astounding sum. So many times I’ve tried to apologize for the cost of something, and my father has always had the same answer: “It’s only money.” As if at the end of the day, it is not the most important thing to have.

We’ve all heard the Beatles tell us that money can’t buy love, but maybe it can buy happiness. Not in the sense that the more money you have the happier you’ll be, but money can be traded in for things that make us happy. Perhaps really good food is your passion, or maybe it’s travel. You must give up [pay] your money to get and do these things. What matters is whether the happiness you get in return is worth parting with your money.

We try to be careful with our money, and not just throw it away, but pretty much everyone has had the experience of dropping a twenty dollar bill. It sucks, and we get upset, but only for a minute. How long can you stay mad about losing twenty dollars? It just isn’t worth enough that we should make ourselves unhappy over it.

As the holiday season approaches, people are often accused of being materialistic. It seems like they care more about shopping and getting the newest, hottest products than values like family, charity and happiness. Again, I think this is slightly a misconception. Plenty of people miss the point of the holiday season, and plenty actually are materialistic. Many, however, are just trying to get something to bring happiness to the people they care about. A lot of money is spent on the holidays, but a lot of that money goes toward happiness, so maybe we’re not so bad after all.