What I learned about happiness from “Trading Places”

On the list of overplayed, yet completely underrated movies, “Trading Places” might just be at the top.

I swear that flick is always on, but yet so few people got it when I walked around yesterday saying, “Merry New Year! It’s beef jerky time!”

If you’re one of those folks, I feel bad for you and suggest you immediately start channel surfing until you find it on somewhere. Don’t worry, I’m like 90-percent sure there is some law that states it has to be on a cable channel somewhere at any given hour of the day.

For now, however, I’ll just give you the skinny on the line. No, wait, that’s stupid of me. Just watch this.

Eddie Murphy’s character of course has the classic line to ring in New Year’s completely wrong. Man, he used to be so funny. Can we get funny Eddie back in 2014?

Anyway, this got me thinking about the whole phrase “Happy New Year.”

For the past two days my entire Facebook timeline seemed to be filled with folks declaring what they planned to do in 2014 to make themselves happy. Heck, some didn’t even have specifics, they wrote that their goal was to “be happy.”

Now it’s not that I’m against being happy at all. I want to be happy and I want you to be happy. The more happy, the better.

But to me happiness seems to be the most fleeting of all our emotions. It’s kind of like emotional crack. We get really really high, come down from it, and then often start trying fill our lives with things to return to that place. (Granted, I’ve never done crack, so if this is completely off, my apologies to the crack folks.)

It kind of makes sense then that one of the first definitions in the dictionary for happy is favor by luck or fortune. Another says it’s feeling enjoyment or pleasure because of your life or situation.

Of course that’s all well and good, unless your life or situation kind of sucks at that moment. Then happiness might not be so easy to grab hold of.

I think aiming to simply be happy might be selling ourselves short and might also lead us into the situation of constantly trying to maintain that temporary feeling.

If we spend the year simply chasing happiness could we be in danger of being like the seed that feel into the thorns and eventually became choked out by the worries and riches and pleasures of this life?

Maybe. Maybe not. It’s a slippery slope to say the least.

But maybe we should set the bar a little higher with our New Year’s resolutions and wishes this year. Maybe instead of shooting for happy, we should shoot for joy, which in one place is defined as being the source of great happiness.

I like this definition because the “source of happiness” has a ring of permanence to it.

It makes me think if I have joy, I could tap into it when happiness has escaped me and I’m all bummed out trying to find “Trading Places” on Netflix.

It makes me think it’s the emotion that can fill the void, rather than being the emotion that needs refilling.

So, I wish you a joyful New Year, one that I hope is often happy, often merry, and often filled with beef jerky.

— @TravisKWilliams


About travman44

I work as a reporter for a newspaper in southwest Virginia. I play as a writer specializing in deep thoughts on shallow, and occasionally not so shallow, subjects. I'm also a former history teacher, bible college alum, and lover of the NBA and kids' breakfast cereals. It's a delicate blend. -- @TravisKWilliams on Twitter
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