I think it is very difficult to define “happiness” in today’s society. Typically, people believe their happiness depends on their income or whether or not they have the latest version of technology or how they look. The amount of money a person earns in order to buy new technology or the latest trends is becoming the root of all happiness.
I recently watched the documentary “Happy” which follows various people in different regions of the world to see how happy they are. One story in particular made me question the true definition of happiness. Manoj, a rickshaw driver, lives in a slum in Kalkata, India. Although he lives in extreme poverty and pulls a cart of people everyday, he is considered to be as happy as the average American. He lives in extreme poverty, works through intense heat and monsoons, and has little to eat, and yet he thinks he is one of the richest people in the world because he loves his family and friends.
While watching his story, I felt sorry for the conditions he was forced to live in, but as his story continued, I realized he was rich, just in a different way than the typical American would agree with . He has the love of his family and friends, he considers his neighbors as a part of his family, and he considers himself lucky to have any shelter at all. If any American had to live this way I highly doubt they would consider themselves “rich”. I think that this is the perfect example of how peoples’s happiness today is too dependent on social conformities. People are in constant competition with one another to prove whose life is better, rather than living deliberately and for themselves. I believe this is what Henry David Thoreau’s ideologies were founded on: the concept of living for oneself and un-materialistically.
Manoj seemed happier than many people I know, and he has so much less. Because he feels that he is not in competition with anyone else, he works to provide for his family, but not so they can buy the new iPhone or latest trend, but rather so they can continue to live their lives. Thoreau would believe that Manoj’s lifestyle is ideal in order to live his life for himself instead of for the approval for others. Manoj is rich; he is rich with love and happiness for the life he lives.