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P.J. O’Rourke on Happiness

"Life, Liberty, and Whoop-de-do", in Forbes ASAP, Winter 2001, "Big Issue Number Six: The Pursuit of Happiness"

Winning the race to happiness is problematic, but so is knowing where to start and finish and which direction to run. Philosophy is no help. “Very little is needed to make a happy life,” said Marcus Aurelius. Tell it to the kids on a rainy day, Marco, when the DVD player is on the fritz, the Game Boy is out of batteries, and the SUV won’t start. “Happiness is activity in accordance with excellence,” said Aristotle, who must have been a better golfer than I am. The Epicureans would be expected to know something about pursuing happiness. Epicurus said, “Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily.” I’ll get the gin, you find some olives and vermouth. But then Epicurus went on to say, “It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly.” Fine, for people who pursue their happiness by eating oat bran, reading St. Peter’s Epistles, and not ducking out of jury duty. Solon of Athens declared, “Until he is dead, do not yet call a man happy.” And then what do you call him?