“VLADIMIR: Say you are, even if it's not true. ESTRAGON: What am I to say? VLADIMIR: Say, I am happy. ESTRAGON: I am happy. VLADIMIR: So am I. ESTRAGON: So am I. VLADIMIR: We are happy. ESTRAGON: We are happy. [Silence.] What do we do now, now that we are happy? VLADIMIR: Wait for Godot” (1).
Happiness is consistently described as an object or state of being that people long for, which gives purpose and meaning to a life. Everybody wants to be happy. Immanuel Kant describes this human desire as follows: “to be happy is necessarily the wish of every finite rational being, and this, therefore, is inevitably a determining principle of its faculty of desire” (2). Our entire society seems to be turned to finding happiness with self-help magazines, courses, books providing instructions on how to be happy.
Coca-Cola slogans state ‘choose what makes you happy’, and wellbeing magazines provide different step- by-step plans for ‘opening yourself up to love’, ‘finding your balance’, ‘letting your energy flow’, with techniques to ‘control your breathing so you can be in a state of perfect relaxation’. The use of the second person pronoun in these catch phrases is not a coincidence. It seems the most direct mode of address to affect an audience and make us realise that we are all individually responsible for our own wellbeing and happiness.
Happiness is something that everyone wants and desires but that often feels unattainable and out of our reach – something impossible which keeps being dangled in front of our eyes with ‘good-life’ fantasies and mythical, unrealistic images of happiness and contentment. By rejecting these images, we fear that we are running the risk of being unhappy (3). In our society, What do we do now, now that we are happy? seems a question that arises when people strive tirelessly to attain happiness only to realise that the label ‘happy’ has become meaningless.
(1) Beckett, S. (2006 ). Waiting for Godot: A tragicomedy in two acts. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
(2) Kant, I. (2004 ). Critique of Practical Reason. New York: Dover Publications.
(3) Ahmed, S. (2010). The Promise of Happiness. Durham & London: Duke University Press
Performance by Rosa Doornenbal: 1 February, 8pm.
Performance by Emily Perry, 1 February, 6-9pm. Performance continues, Saturday, 2 & 9 February 12-3pm.
Supported by Goldsmiths Alumni and Friends Funds.