“Happiness is being surrounded by people you love and that love you. In order to be happy one must be proud of who they have become.” (Perez) At the beginning of my Critical Thinking and Writing class, my professor asked my class to join The American Happiness Project, a program that hoped to “offer a collective and social understanding” behind the meaning of happiness. (NIckleither.com)
Through this project, people from all over the country are able to fill out a short questionnaire that describes how happiness makes them feel. After hearing some of the responses of my fellow classmates I realized that there was commonality uniting most of our descriptions. There was a glimpse of self-approval. In order to be happy most students craved a sense of self-acceptance.
This got me thinking. How can someone achieve self-acceptance? How do we reach a level of self-satisfaction that outweighs the negativities surrounding our daily lives? The answer stems from our morals and ethics. Morality is our principles regarding what is wrong and right. Morals vary depending on the person. Based on parental influence, religion, school, and various environments our values are a result of what we have been taught. Personally, I value treating others humanely. I value self worth and standing up for those who can’t defend themselves. Through this I find happiness.
However, looking at my morals has caused me to realize that there is a disconnect between what people say they stand for and how they act. Often times we get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we become unaware of what our actions stand for. As David Foster Wallace demonstrates in This is Water, we often get caught up in a routine. We spend long hours at school or at work, go home to chores that have to be done, and at the end of the day find ourselves so exhausted that we end up falling asleep only to wake up the next morning to experience the same misery. It is this routine that that takes the meaning out of our actions. We grow accustomed to saying the same things, and participating in the same activities that they become our default setting.
For example, in A Ruff Compromise I discuss how the idea of having a dog as pet has become second nature to us. Taking into account the abuse that many dogs experience, I question the right of an individual to keep a dog against its will. From dog shows that involve extremes such as putting eyeliner on a dog to make their eyes appear larger, to unintentional neglect, dogs are often taken advantage of. Abuse is not simply confided to physically beating, but rather it includes commonalities such as not giving them a bath on a regular basis and only interacting with them when we find it most convenient. Throughout history there has been a shift from using dogs as a means of protection and survival to having one as merely an accessory. However, as a dog owner myself it would be insulting to say that all dogs face abuse.
The difficulty lies in balancing between what you know is right, not taking away the rights of an innocent animal, and what you want, an adorable dog to act as a companion. Treating dogs humanely and giving them a better life than they would have had without you can achieve this. It is a well-know fact that humans and dogs have a unique bond. There are countless stories of dogs who save their owners lives and I know that there isn’t anything an owner wouldn’t do for their beloved dog. Yet, when we get caught up in the routine that is our life, our actions often advocate opposite of our values. Although, abusing our dogs is hardly ever the intention in a loving relationship, by placing our dog on the back burner of our life, this is often the result.
In addition, In A Moral Kill, I discuss the hypercritical aspect of eating meat. Many of us walk this earth embracing the taste of meat. In fact, the average man eats 6.9 ounces of meat a day. (meatami.com) Yet, if you ask these same people if they are willing to kill an animal, more than likely, the answer will be no. Our morals tell us that killing is wrong. However, through our actions we indirectly support the killing of animals. Factory farms inflict despicable treatment on their animals. Just after 6 months old, pigs are transported to slaughterhouses where they are completely exploited. Workers beat their sensitive noses and backs and stick electronic prods into their rectums. (http://www.peta.org) Crammed together they struggle to get air and are left with little water and food. In fact, according to a 2006 industry report, “more than 1 million pigs die each year from transport alone.” (http://www.peta.org) The way I see it, if you do not support the killing of animals, you should become a vegetarian.
The disconnect between our morals and our actions can be exemplified through our everyday lives. Yet, when we get caught up in the default setting of our busy schedules we loose sight of what our actions mean. We start doing things out of habit and ultimately drift away from our main goal of achieving happiness. As the Dali Lama states, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” (Brainyquote.com) When our actions do not match up with what we believe, we are deceiving ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to take a step back from the status quo that we have grown accustomed to. It is our responsibility to make choices in our lives that correlate with what we stand for as individuals. It is our right to achieve happiness.