I actually attack the concept of happiness…

umbrella in storm“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

~ Hugh Mackay

This quote was inspired (and not in a positive way) by my recent readings of an shockingly large number of children and adults being medicated for a variety of reasons ranging from serious disorders like chronic depression to anxiety, ADD and academic performance.   Sad and disturbing. (This coming from a man who can barely choke down a Bayer aspirin without feeling guilt wash over me.)

The recent story in the NY Times (Parents Created This Problem, and Must Address It) highlights this frightening phenomenon:

…a large number of young people (from 5 percent to 35 percent of college students, depending on the study) now view stimulants as benign study aides and turn to them almost as avidly as earlier generations reached for Diet Coke, NoDoz or cigarettes?…

….It has been fostered by an adult-stoked environment of extreme competition and near-hysteria over the perceived super-humanness required to gain entry to a prestigious college…Stories that have, since the 1990s, referred to stimulants as “steroids of intellect,” “brother’s little helper” or “popular performance aids” for “bulking up mentally…”

…If they want to actually combat the problem, they’ll need to start by confronting their own attitudes and behaviors…Parents need to push back against excessive school pressures and re-orient their kids toward more meaningful and healthy notions of success…

Hugh MacKay is a psychologist, social researcher and novelist who has made a lifelong study on the attitudes and behavior of Australians. He is the author of 12 books, including five bestsellers.

Quote Source: madamescherzo.  Image Source: crescentmoon06

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  1. This was profound and timely, David. Thanks for sharing. Wow….


  2. Natacha says:

    AWESOME!!! Great post! Very well said. I totally agree. Millionaires are born out of bankruptcies. I like what one Bishop said, “Our proclivity is to think that there are crowns without crosses, and that is a direct contradiction to Scripture. In reality, it is the agony that creates the ecstassy of life.”


  3. jules1026 says:

    “Parents need to push back against excessive school pressure?” Really? How about Americans in general change their attitude about the importance of education from DAY ONE? I could go on and on in great detail about this topic, but I will just say this (and I apologize if I offend anyone)….

    We, as a society, are to blame for the “excessive pressure” that students experience. It is within OUR power to force our lawmakers to set a challenging curriculum for our kids, so that they are well-prepared from the start for the advanced level coursework in high school and college. However, WE allow the government to divert tax payer dollars to fund all sorts of unnecessary expenses, and under-fund the one thing that is vitally important to this country and its people: education. As a result, we allow the schools to compensate for high teacher-student ratios by placing the focus on achieving strong standardized test scores, instead of imparting actual knowledge to our children through the hiring of truly skilled and well-paid educators. The kids are just memorizing what they see; actual learning is being limited. It’s all about form over function, and the kids are the ones suffering. The schools are not the problem.

    Additionally, uninvolved parenting, for lack of a better term, has also created this so-called pressure through the increased use of the built-in babysitter (aka video games and TV). There is a proven negative correlation between the amount of time a child spends playing video games, whether it be on the Nintendo or the IPhone, and his/her ability to comprehend and perform academically in school. I can’t remember the last time that I went to dinner with friends who have kids and those kids didn’t play on some sort of portable video game the entire time. The use of this type of technology as a form of constant entertainment is at epidemic levels and is putting our children behind the curve at a very early age. I understand the need for the built-in babysitter, but at the same time, if parents are going to use it, then they need to take ownership of the consequences as it relates to their children. ADD/ADHD drugs are a direct result of this type of learning disability. The drugs aren’t the problem.

    If kids feel excessive pressure to perform in high school and college, it is because we did not provide them with the early-educational tools needed to prepare for the future. American kids are forced to compete for the top colleges and jobs with better-educated foreigners, especially in areas such as mathematics, science and engineering. Our indifference to education has put them in this situation. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem, we are just re-directing the blame.

    (Sorry for the soap box…I come from a family of educators).


    • Julie, thank you for the soapbox. I completely agree. With more of this thinking, and more importantly execution (and parenting) are the topic, we’d be in a far better place today.


    • LaDona's Music Studio says:

      Several years ago Albertan students were excelling in maths and sciences (former Premier Ralph Klein wanted all Albertan students to be above average) – then word surfaced that they were being “penalized” in the out-of-province scholarship hunt. A 90 in Alberta was equivalent to a 95 or whatever in Ontario. So we’ve dumbed down – yes, we the taxpayers allowing the government to do this. And we’re back to where we started.


  4. Thank you for this post. A blogger that I follow, lost their baby girl a little over a month ago, and as to be expected, they are still dealing with the loss. She posted last night and while I wanted to leave a comment, nothing felt “right”. Your post this morning was it. I just left a comment (linking back to this post) for her, and I wished her Wholeness. To being able to enjoy the laughter and embrace the pain and memories.


  5. Joy and pain are yin and yang – and perhaps it is our own discomfort with sorrow, pressure, pain, etc that is the reason why we can’t parent our children in such a way so that they can adapt to the more difficult emotions they will experience in life. We haven’t figured it out, we shy away – and hope that our kids are going to learn to deal? Seems a little unrealistic – and perhaps it is the parent that needs to accept the full responsibility of guiding his/her kids through that which is unpleasant and difficult – and rejoice with them when they experience the richness of happiness that can follow.


  6. Alex Jones says:

    Heraclitus says up and down one of the same. Pain runs with pleasure, strife runs with recreation, birth runs with death.


  7. Yet another provocative post, David! I can always count on you!! 🙂 The first section puts me in mind of a little poem by Tess Gallagher that I absolutely love which, I believe, speaks to the poet of ‘wholeness’ versus ‘happiness.’

    “You can sing sweet
    and get the song sung
    but to get to the third dimension
    you have to sing it
    rough, hurt the tune a little. Put
    enough strength to it
    that the notes slip. Then
    something else happens. The song
    gets large.”

    The second segment on the “rush to medicate” makes me shake my head. I, like you, balk at taking an aspirin. Will do most anything–massage, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, hypnosis, etc.–before I’ll turn to a “pharmaceutical solution.” But then again, I wonder why I should be surprised after watching the ABC report just last night on Provigil and the number of adults taking this drug to “stay ahead of the game.” abcn.ws/OldErE In many ways I think we’re heading down a scary path….


    • I love the poem Lori. Never heard it before. Thanks for sharing. As to the pharma era, I think it is just frightening. I am sympathetic (very) to individuals with serious health issues where medication is essential, but the rest…just sad.


  8. Reblogged this on maitheory.


  9. Reblogged this on Adventures of Pickles & Peanut and commented:
    This post rings so true! God created us to have everlasting joy and peace but not to be in a perpetual state of happiness. Life has challenges, sadness and frustrations. In order to learn and grow we need to embrace all the emotions and not live in a state of artificial happiness.



  1. […] Source: David Kanigan […]


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