We've all seen this movie. Will Smith took us to new lengths of rising to the top, along with the beating question our society just can't stop struggling with, 'What makes me happy?'
I've found that in the past few years, Hollywood has taken a new turn on the movies they produce..at least some of the times. Sure, we still are confronted with those psychotic thrillers and zombie-scary movies that make us jump, and whether we like it or not, there is always going to be release of the 'dumb jock movie' and the 'chick flick'. However, those aside, take a look at those movies that have recently hit the cinemas and video stores. We seem to be on a fast track for the true pursuit of 'happyness.'
Will Smith portrayed the bitter truth to working up in the world. We watched him and his son battle through the harsh realities of corperate promise and compromise. Through homeless shelters, bad jobs and miserable divorce. We watched him lose it all to regain a sense of meaning in his life and ultimately a reason to smile.
A few weeks ago, I was confronted with a different film, dealing with the same sort of question. Stranger than Fiction, which casted Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah and Kristen Chenoweth, deals with an entirely different pursuit of happyness. Although the main line of the story was that Harold Crick (played by Ferrell) was hearing the voice of an author in his head, and feared that this author (Thompson) would kill him off, and sets out on an adventure to save himself, the real point of the story served in the act of saving himself from the mundane. The mundane was, ironically, a corperate life, where he counted the number of brush strokes it took to clean his teeth, counted the number of steps it took to get to the bus, and the number of seconds it took to ride the bus. Of course, by the end of the film, we've watched Crick find happiness, fall in love, and make life worth living.
And then last night, I went to the theatre with the intention of seeing 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. It was sold out, so the consensus was to see 'Yes Man' instead. Despite a few scenes which were crude, and could have been taken out altogether, the movie was incredibly well done. Again, we see a character who is unhappy with his current life, and is told to embrace all the little opportunities. In so doing, Carl (played by Jim Carrey) would not be allowed to say 'no' to anything. Instead, he would agree to do everything that anyone asked him to, and thus learned to live a better life.
And then, we take a completely different spin on all this Hollywood Happyness stuff. Sure, we've seen the very depths of poverty and the overcoming story of a man against the world. We see the 'Bartleby, the Scrivener' reference come through in the mundane fighting comedy as depicted by Smith and Ferrell. But then, we are also faced with a multitude of dramas, sitcoms, documentaries in the comforts of our own home. Everyone is looking to be happy. Whether its the gang from DeGrassi trying to figure out how to find joy, or the latest soap opera, where the ultimate and unattainable goal is to make everything 'okay', or even Oprah or Ellen giving away extravagent gifts in the name of charity, it is all about the pursuit of happyness.
There are lyrics in the song 'Soak up the Sun' by Sheryl Crow. They say 'its not having what you want, but wanting what you've got.' These are incredibly profound. I look at these as a perfect summary of the desired happyness that our society longs for. We are a post modern world stuck in the cubicles we created for ourselves in the name of progress, and all we have to show for it is bigger TVs and smaller smiles.
Happyness and joy are two different things. Joy overflows, and wells up and just can't be held in, it is a way of life, a gift from God, and a pleasure in all things. Happy(i)ness is temporary. It seems quite based on material things, the flash of a smile, the quick fix. It leaves us wanting more. Joy is fullfilling. It is a lifestyle.
In this pursuit of happyness, it is so evident that our world is screaming out in pain. Screaming out for a savior. We are winding down the Christmas season, we have made our New Years resolutions, in the effort to make our lives better. The only One who can change our life is Christ. He's already come. Joy comes through him. In living for Christ, we are charged to spread the news about his coming, to share the Gospel truth, but at the same time, to be content, whatever the circumstances. 'It's not having what you want, its wanting what you've got.'
So where is your pursuit for happyness? Are you escaping a mundane existance? Because if that's the case, you should be looking for joy.
On which note, I feel I should inform you that each of the characters in the movies listed above found a joy, and not just 'Happyness'.