Joe Giordano: “The Pursuit of Happiness”

The Pursuit of Happiness

“Are you happy?” Felecia asked.

Vance expressed surprise. “What sort of question is that?” 

She nibbled the chocolate cake before her, then laid down her fork, gazing at the horizon as she savored the flavor. 

The aroma made Vance’s mouth water. “How can you stop at one bite?”

Her eyes returned to his. “Would you like the rest?”

He raised his palms in denial. “If I started, I’d want the entire cake.”

She smiled. “You might find a taste more satisfying.”

He huffed. “I doubt that.”

“Even after a good meal, don’t you relatively quickly want another?”

“Sure.” 

“Eating is a fleeting pleasure.”

“But natural and necessary.”

Felecia chuckled. “Not a whole chocolate cake. Reducing the urge for unnecessary things eliminates unhappiness over unfulfilled desires.”

“How do you define unnecessary?”

Felecia mused. “You’ve just released a video that went viral on TikTok. I’m wondering how you feel?” 

Vance frowned. “Happy but not satisfied.” 

Felecia shook her head in disappointment. “Your video is trending, and you can’t take more than a moment to enjoy the achievement?”

Vance leaned back, kneading his chin. “I need a second hit. Something to top the first. But my mind’s a blank, and in a week, people will forget me.” 

“You’re pursuing fame?”

“Yes, but becoming an ‘influencer’ also has financial rewards.”

“How much money would make you happy?” she asked.

“Enough for a penthouse in Manhattan, a Ferrari, vacations in Europe, and a private jet to get me there.”

“Wow. Your net worth will require a lot of zeros.”

Vance nodded. “I suppose.”

Felecia scoffed. “Society induces false beliefs about what we need. Vain desires like power, wealth, and fame are insatiable. Past a certain point, they add little happiness.” 

“I can’t agree. Anyway, what’s your answer?”

“I rather focus on tranquility and freedom from fear.”

“I don’t want to die a one-hit wonder.” 

“Fear of death causes unnecessary anxiety. There’s no Heaven or Hell. Don’t worry about it.”

“What about God?” 

“God exists but isn’t involved with humans. He has zero troubles, so why get involved with people who might bring Him down?”

“What about the ethics of doing good versus evil?”

“Live a virtuous life to avoid the pain of not doing so and the societal consequences of your bad behavior. But a fear of God causes unnecessary trepidation.” 

“You still haven’t told me your formula for happiness.”

“A self-sufficient life surrounded by friends you can count on.” Felecia’s eyes held Vance’s. “Especially, a soulmate.” She paused before continuing. “Better to dine on bread and water with a friend than to eat chocolate cake alone.”

Vance took Felecia’s hand. “I enjoy being with you.”

She squeezed back. “The mind misunderstands happiness. There’s a diminishing return on pleasure – say another viral video. Chasing yet another hit, you’ll continue to be tormented that you might lose your popularity, blunting exaltation at your achievement.”

With a sigh, Vance released Felecia’s hand. “Perhaps, I’ll never be happy.”

 


Joe Giordano’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and Shenandoah, and his short story collection, Stories and Places I Remember. His novels include Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, and the Anthony Provati thriller series, Appointment with ISIL, Drone Strike, and in June 2022, The Art of Revenge

Visit Joe’s website at https://joe-giordano.com/

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