For those who chase Happiness

12 09 2008

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a great commentator on sociology, economics, anthropology, and even religion. There are so many people in America, or just the world in general, who seek happiness as a final goal. If not a final goal, it is then at least used as a measure for the value, or even validity, of one’s life. This can be a tiresome way of life and ultimately unattainable. Wolterstorff comments (some emphasis added) in Until Justice & Peace Embrace:

“Down through the ages, man has found himself with desires that his physical situation left unsatisfied: he was hungry, but there was no food; he longed to live to a ripe old age, but found himself on his death bed at thirty; he loved his children and wanted them to live, but half died in childhood; he longed to fly like the birds, but found himself earth bound. Life was experienced as a vale of tears. In response to this experience, human beings learned to eliminate some of those desires that they had no hope of satisfying and to endure the unhappiness of life in the shadow of those they could not eliminate.

Our modern world-system holds out to all the allure – and, to many, the satisfaction – of a stunning alternative. To an astonishing degree we have learned how to alter our physical situation so that ancient desires are now satisfied. Where previously humanity, to gain freedom from unsatisfied desires, had to eliminate those desires, we now have gained freedom by satisfying them. A radical expansion of what may be called freedom by mastery is the great triumph of our modern world-system: that constitutes its most powerful allure and its deepest satisfaction. Of course, this system, in satisfying some desires, also suggests and stimulates others; some of these desires, in turn, are satisfied by yet further mastery of nature, but in the process yet others are aroused, and so forth. Happiness keeps receding.”


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