What if happiness is not an object—in either sense of the word: neither a thing, nor a goal?
Stephen Batchelor, in Alone With Others:
At the very roots of our language we find two verbs: 'to be' and 'to have' ... [and] they denote two of the most fundamental dimensions of our existence: those of having and being. These two dimensions reveal two distinct attitudes towards life. In terms of having, life is experienced as a horizontal expanse precipitating towards ever receding horizons; in terms of being, life is felt in its vertical depths as awesome, foreboding and silently mysterious.
Having always presupposes a sharply defined dualism between subject and object. The subject thus seeks his or her well-being, as well as his or her sense of meaning and purpose, in the preservation and acquisition of objects from which he or she is necessarily isolated. The maxim becomes: "I am what I have" (Fromm). As a result, any sense of fulfillment will necessarily be illusory, because there is nothing one can have that one cannot fear to lose. Absorption in the horizontal dimension of having is the origin of all states of ontological insecurity. Anxiety, alienation, loneliness, emptiness, and meaninglessness are the fruits of living as an isolated subject amidst a multitude of lifeless objects.And Jonathan Lear, in Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life (yes, once upon a time I really did read this stuff), goes back to an older English sense of the word happiness, similar to happenstance, meaning "the experience of chance things' working out well rather than badly":
Happiness, on this interpretation, is not the ultimate goal of our teleologically organized strivings, but the ultimate ateleological ["not teleological"] moment: a chance event going well for us—quite literally, a lucky break.As I've written before: the yellow light is in fact shining all around us. This (cheese-and-mustard sandwich, this life) is what we have been waiting for. Mysterious, surprising, Eden is right here.