The Anxiety of Happiness

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His life is a pursuit of a pursuit forever.
It is the future that creates his present.

All is an interminable chain of longing.
—Robert Frost

I’ve long thought that in this section of his poem, “Escapist–Never,” Robert Frost captures a lot of what contemplative traditions describe as craving, a source of great suffering. Craving is distinguished from motivating force, intentionality, and determination; in craving there is an element of fixation on what we don’t have, to the detriment of appreciating and being grateful for what we do have. There is an endlessness to that pursuit, a going on and on in thinking about the next potential source of joy while a sense of sufficiency or satisfaction right now eludes us.

Look at where we are looking for happiness: at what is not yet here.

In the poem, there are also hints at the ways in which we can mistake temporary pleasure for the deepest happiness available to us. Read More