Last week I went in Best Buy with a broken camera and a broken cell phone, and an hour later I walked out with…a broken camera and a broken cell phone. Actually it wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t merely that three wild and destructive little guys were in tow. Something about contracts and upgrades, and finally “oh fooey, I’ll have to come back.” But since the four of us spent a good sixty minutes in there, I had ample opportunity to consider the banners hanging from the rafters. You, Happier.
Do you think stuff from Best Buy will make you happy? The latest greatest gadgets, and the turbo fastest, blu-ray, bluetooth? Will that make you happier? And by the way, I know there’s not really a blu-ray bluetooth, at least not yet. What I’m saying is that although it might seem silly–gadgets having anything to do with happiness–those banners wouldn’t be there unless some marketing guru and some not so meager focus group agreed the “You, Happier.” campaign works. Major corporations like Best Buy don’t often make New Coke mistakes. New products and marketing strategies aren’t just thrown into the marketplace to see if they stick. Somebody somewhere has analysis that proves just how effective those two little words are.
And maybe it’s not so silly anyway. After all, who doesn’t want to be happier? All of us have a longing in our hearts for more. The rub lies in identifying more of what. And oh how glorious to know what it is not! And it ain’t stuff. I’ve lived among some very well-to-do people–Washington attorneys, lobbyists, and overachieving physicians–the kind of people who have gadgets coming out of their ears. From my experience the relationship between stuff and happiness may actually be inversely correlated. The more stuff you have, the less happy you are. Certainly, it’s not a hard and fast rule. There are some happy people who have lots of things. And I’m not exactly techno-deprived myself. But as much as I use and appreciate my iPod and my cell phone and my laptop, these are mere conveniences. They have nothing to do with my happiness.
My joy is derived from purpose, not possessions. And I believe every person’s purpose is the same: to glorify God, our loving Creator and enjoy Him forever (See Westminster Shorter Catechism). He’s given us different gifts (Romans 12: 6), and so the ways in which we glorify Him are as varied as we are, but what joy, what energy to do whatever it is you and I were created to do. And what futility to pursue possessions as a means to anything more than a pile of stuff.
So, You, Happier.? Not at Best Buy, not apart from God.
The words of Lewis on this issue are hard to beat:
“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” (Mere Christianity)
Or perhaps even better:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory)
Amen. Let us aim beyond best buys and mud pies!