John Ciardi’s Essay on “What Is Happiness?”

John Ciardi is describing the many ways different people portray “happiness.” He uses examples such as American commercialism, pharmacopoeia and orthopedics to explain how our modern society usually portrays happiness with how many possessions we have or if we are caught up on the latest news. However people may define the word happiness, Ciardi claims the real goal is the pursuit of happiness rather than happiness alone. Each one of us must search for our own happiness, instead of defining happiness as what others tell us, because something will not always be happy for us even if it is for others. We must each find our own “happiness.” Ciardi is also directing us to understand that if we work on something more challenging and difficult it can cause more happiness because happiness can not be given to us, it means much more if we make an effort to accomplish our own happiness rather than easily accomplishing it. For instance, receiving a 5 on the AP exam that we have dedicated the last year to hard work, versus going to the store and buying the brand new Taylor Swift album that came out the day before. These events can both be considered a happy occasion but the one that requires more dedicated time and hard work will bring more happiness to someone’s life than buying a new album that can be bought anytime anywhere and will most likely become boring after a weeks time.

I agree with the point Ciardi is trying to emphasize in the hopes that his readers will think more deeply into this simple nine letter word, though quite a common word, has not given enough initiative to its true meaning. Most people, I included, do not pick up a Women’s magazine and the first word that comes to mind is the word “happiness.” We are fascinated by the clear perfect beauty of the Women on the front page, and sometimes imagine what it’d be like if that was us instead. In spite of how unrealistic the advertisement involved in making this women look flawless is, we still wonder what they use that makes them look so beautiful, and think to ourselves if we used the same product if we possibly could look that beautiful as well. Once again this is what the magazine companies hope their readers will think, but we must not fall down the trap as to believe looking like a model can make us feel completely happy. We must find out what makes us happy by just being ourselves, a statement that seems quite difficult in our society today.

My favorite emphasize Ciardi pointed out was about the key to true happiness comes from effort. Something is bound to be much more appreciative and therefore happy to us when we have worked to achieve that happiness. In my life, I know when I take a hard test or class, I tend to study and freak out more but the final result is much more memorable to me because I feel I earned it. The definition of happiness plays every day in my life because it is difficult to live everyday without that comfort of some “happiness.” This nine letter word is what gets me through each day because without it I could not appreciate anything if I did not enjoy something that made me feel happy.



 This is the Link to Ciardi’s essay:



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