Thursday, January 8, 2009

"We have no 'Right to Happiness'"

As I read this short piece, I found myself in shock that so little has changed in our culture since Lewis wrote it. I feel that this piece could just as well have been written yesterday as forty some years ago. In fact, I personally believe that if anything, the problem Lewis describes in this essay has become greater today than it was at the time Lewis was writing. To me, it seems that everywhere you look in the media lately, romantic relationships seem to be based only on what a person can get out of them physically. Happiness has been reduced simply to sexual pleasure and as soon as a person no longer makes us “happy” we are free to dispose of them and move on with no regrets. And as C.S. Lewis argues, this whole concept stems from the fact that we feel we are entitled to sexual happiness. The same person who sees it as unacceptable for people to commit immoral or illegal acts in pursuit of “monetary happiness” won’t even blink at a person committing the same act in pursuit of sexual pleasure.

On the third page of the essay, Lewis states, “It is part of the nature of a strong erotic passion – as distinct from a transient fit of appetite – that makes more towering promises than any other emotion.” I think this is a very good point. It seems that sexual pleasure and physical “love” carry with them many more hopes and expectations than any other type of pleasure. We expect that love and marriage will carry with it a “happily ever after” story in which two people remain completely and easily enamored with one another for the rest of their lives. Further, in listening to a lot of the popular music today or in watching any of the latest chick flicks it seems that the greatest happiness is only found through a romantic relationship with someone else. I believe that these general beliefs and expectations have led to the point at which we have arrived now – we are constantly seeking happiness through romantic relationships and when we cease to find happiness in a significant other, we find it acceptable to simply move on to another person.

As an unmarried college student who is constantly bombarded with these types of messages, it is very easy to fall into the pool of thought that all you really need to do to be happy is to find the love of your life and marry him or her.
This essay served as a good reminder that no earthly pleasure will completely satisfy and no human relationship, no matter how good it is, can provide us with true joy. Lewis says that relationships work only through struggle, hard work, discomfort, and compromise.