For many of us, when we find happiness, we are quick to learn that in society there is a hierarchy of happiness, an arbitrary order that places some forms of self-fulfillment as being greater than others. Where the world calls one kind of happiness "real" or "perfect" it calls another "hollow" or "empty" as if to say that a person riding high on one type of wave is not as truly happy as the man standing next to him, riding a separate, but higher, one.

One might even say that society uses this very hierarchy to prevent people from doing what it considers wrong. It places achievement ahead of drugs calling it more "real" and it places love ahead of the Internet calling it more "profound." Even though two people sitting in a room might be just as happy and just as content with life, one is somehow better off than the other; one is smiling for "real" and "true" reasons even though the joy they feel is just tangible and just as real to both of them.

As one of those people only satisfied by the "higher" forms of happiness, I would like to believe in this hierarchy. But even I have to wonder if perhaps I've been played as the patsy. Perhaps, due to the way I was raised or due to my own human nature, I am incapable of enjoying the most easily traveled paths to happiness, perhaps I missed the boat and I'm forever doomed to work twice as heard for the same amount of joy as the person next to me.

Perhaps, but somehow I doubt it.

Because one thing that I've learned about happiness is that like any other emotion it isn't permanent. At some point it's going to leave, at some point you're going to feel pain and at some point you're going to look back on those better times, back when your life was good and you were at peace with the world. When looking back on better times, everyone hopes and prays that those days will return soon. Some, those who earned their happiness and worked for it, look back and smile, enjoying the memories of the times gone by. No matter how much they long for those days, they're comforted by the memories and cherish them like gold.

But those who chose the easy way, look back on these memories and cry. They cry because it becomes obvious what addictions and egos are when it comes to happiness. They are not hollow forms of the real thing, they are not less-tangible or less-perfect stand-ins for true contentment, but rather, they are deceptions. It's happiness that isn't even there, just a means by which the mind tricks itself into thinking otherwise and whenever the pill has worn off, the lust-object is gone, the ego is smashed or whatever mirage that was used is faded, the mind can see clearly again and it sees the trickery for what it was, just a scam.

But the mind invariably wants more, more happiness, even if it means trickery and deception. Denial is a powerful force, but it's also easily shattered by the winds of change and those seeking true fulfillment, those seeking a more complete happiness, a more real feeling of contentment, do not fear it, for it can not hurt them. They'll at least have their memories to enjoy, unlike the guy behind them in line.

So my friends, perhaps I am a dupe, perhaps I am the idiot and perhaps I'm stuck doing things the hard way for all eternity. But even though my victories may be smaller, even though they may be fewer and even though they may be less impressive, they will always be cherished. I'll look back upon my life and see mountains and valleys, highs and lows, good times and bad, but even though my life may be checkered with dark times, at least I'll know none of my good times were mirages.

Because when you remove the mirages from the easy path, much like removing the white squares from a chessboard, you're left with nothing but a sea of black staring at you, an ocean of pain that can no longer be hidden and a life of unfulfilled potential.

That is not the life I want to lead and I will not let myself fall into it, no matter how easy the path may be…

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