“It was the sort of idea that might… make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.” – Brave New World
I read “Brave New World” last fall in preparation for Postman and was pleasantly surprised by how much I like the book, though I was discouraged by some of the eye-opening statements I read. This quote is one of many that I highlighted in my book. It’s slightly terrifying how spot-on Huxley’s predictions were about 40 years ago. The world he envisioned is obsessed with happiness and serves this god to the fullest. When citizens are not happy, they simply pop a soma pill to forget their worries and slip into a drug-induced euphoria. Upon waking, they’ve forgotten all their troubles (or simply realized they were ineffectual when it came to the pursuit of bliss).
I don’t think we have to look very far to see parallels to our current social environment. Certain cultures, particularly in the United States, are compelled to reach happiness through various means: money, beauty, success, sex, material things… the list goes on. (I’m sure other countries, and certainly groups within other countries, also adhere to these standards of happiness, I am just most familiar with American society.) We are overtly and subconsciously driven to obtain and achieve these things to reach an, in my opinion, unattainable level of pleasure. The irony is once you become the best or have the most, the happiness doesn’t seem to last for long. You become aware of some other thing that you need and the cycle start again.
I also think that we need to embrace the trying times; those times when happiness is a distant memory. Instead of avoiding conflict and discord, could we choose to learn from it and grow? The characters in Brave New World had been so conditioned by their societal “progress” that the majority of them could even comprehend this concept.
I want to make the point that I fully support finding joy in things – there are so many things in life that make me smile and feel warmth in my heart. I’m merely saying that I don’t see that happiness as an end point, but simply one aspect of life.