Unreal things don’t make us happy. Of course, we could go philosophical and debate the term “real”, but how I’m applying it is in terms of things we actually experience—things we taste or see or feel, for instance.
An easy example was last evening’s Cardinals-Dodgers playoff game. The happiness of the moments therein varies by degrees of experience (and which team you like, I suppose!). If you were playing the game versus if you were in the front row versus if you were in the last row versus if you were in a nearby bar versus if you watched the game at home versus if you listened on the radio versus if you didn’t see it at all. I didn’t see it. Life happened and I missed the game. When I got home it was recorded, and though I knew the outcome, my wife allowed me forty minutes to use the television to watch the highlights and celebrations. I was excited, sure, but mostly in a fake sort of way. It wasn’t real because it wasn’t real—I wasn’t truly experiencing what was going on in the game, for it had already happened and I knew the outcome: two facets that shattered the genuineness of a “real” experience. It gave me a tinge of happiness where usually ecstasy would exist because usually I watch the game and live and die with every real moment.
Another example is our virtual existence in its many forms. Facebook is a valuable way to connect to others, but it doesn’t make us happy for the most part. In fact numerous studies are being published which indicate the very opposite: Facebook makes us sad. (Here’s one such article.)
What we see in Facebook (and other platforms) is other people having real experiences, and we do so in a setting that isn’t real for us—we are, after all, just staring at a screen while they travel Europe or sit courtside or hobnob with this or that celebrity. Unreal things don’t make us happy, and cruising Facebook reminds us of all the “unrealities” in our own existence—the trip we didn’t get to take, the education or job we don’t have, the boat we long for . . . all these unreal things cloud our brains and depress our hearts. Add to that the things which are posted to social media: the absolute most real moments of one’s life. People don’t post sitting in traffic on their way to the concert; they post crowd-surfing their way to the front of the stage. This “edited reality” again only reminds of the insufficiency of our own present reality.
Unreal things don’t make us happy. So if there is any truth in that, I would think the opposite—or some form of the opposite—would be true: Real things make us happy. Or maybe a better word is “fulfilled.” The thought of food can make my mouth water, but it cannot fill my stomach. Apply this line of thinking to the choices one makes, and one’s life may just start to fill up. Rather than fantasize about the sexual exploits I cannot have (those unreal marriage killers) I should pursue my wife wholeheartedly. Rather than view an album of photos of some near-stranger’s trip to the lake, I should dive deep into some water, and feel the coolness envelope my skin, and breathlessness grasp my lungs. Rather than watch a show about adventure and dream dreams that will always reside in the realms of fiction, I should take a walk without a plan or drive off into the chip-chirp country night.
This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be some unrealities in our lives—good fiction and fond memories would beg to differ. But our ratio of reality to unreality needs to tip the scale to that which we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. We need to live lives of constant touch, in-touch with reality, in-touch with ourselves, in-touch (truly so) with others, and in-touch with who God made us to be and how He made us to live, rather than mere ghosts of ourselves, figures of an envious “if only” imagination.