Infinite Jest and Our Infinite Pursuit of Happiness

[One fifth into the book]

The book has been gathering dust for eleven months. I wanted it for my twentieth birthday. It just seemed appropriate, a serious book to mark a whole new chapter in my life. A serious book for serious responsibility my new age had in store for me.

I just began reading the book yesterday, after countless trial and error episodes of picking up the book, opening the first page, and giving up.

I guess, in one way or another, reading Infinite Jest is like trying to understand life itself.

There are so much things going on, too much so that you cannot keep track of everything in front of you. You feel that you know nothing even though you have been this far, and yet there is still a very long journey ahead of you.

You don’t know if all this, all the efforts, energy, time, feelings that you have invested is going to be worth it.

Hell, you cannot even decide whether you like it this far.

And yet you don’t have another choice but to keep going.

Well, you can throw the book away and just end it right here and right now. But then, what is the point?

You’ve made it this far, why stop now?

Personally for me, not knowing where I am headed is far more interesting than a stop sign.

After all, we never know where life will take us. Whether we will like it, or whether it’s worth it.

***

[Halfway thoughts]

Every single one of us is trapped in our own never-ending pursuit of happiness. We seek pleasure in every form of entertainment available, and in the process, become addicted to that pleasure, however small it is.

Soon your daily cup of coffee is not enough; you’ll find yourself craving more. Soon you feel frustrated of your progress in school or work, and pushing yourself to achieve more. You find yourself so get used to music blasting to your ears, that you despise silence.

Whatever your addiction is, it is never enough. You always need more.

More. More. And more each day.

Happiness is indeed addictive, and this is the central point of Infinite Jest.

This is a book where men in wheelchairs are the ones you should be afraid of, terrorizing people not through mass shootings or exploding bombs, but through a film.

A film with pleasure so intense, the viewers are unable to think of anything else and refuse to function as a member of society. Because frankly, what else do you need when you have a total form of entertainment, providing you with complete happiness and pleasure, right there in front of your eyes?

Why do you have to go out to socialize, study or work when you can just sit on your sofa and be happy, whatever that word means?

After all, isn’t happiness itself the reason for your being and existence on earth, the one thing we all seek, which gives our life meaning?

Given the choice, would you be trapped in your own pursuit of happiness, or would you rather just sit on that sofa and have the happiness you’ve been looking for all your life, just sit there, you and your happiness, for the rest of your life?

***

[Upon finishing the book, and still thinking about it]

There’s a scene in which Orin, one of the main characters in the book, gets called by his father when his plan to watch hardcore porn gets leaked.

He said he’s personally prefer that Orin wait until he’d found someone he loved enough to want to have sex with and had had sex with this person, that he’d wait until he’d experienced for himself what a profound and really quite moving thing sex could be, before he watched a film where sex was presented as nothing more than organs going in and out of other organs, emotionless, terribly lonely.

I found this to be an interesting parallel to the entertainment and the intense pleasure its viewers get.

When asked about what he would choice, my friend stated that he would rather spend the rest of his life searching for happiness even though the shortcut was there, waiting for him in front of the sofa.

Because just like hardcore porn, that kind of instant happiness was hollow. Empty, without meaning.

Because for most of us, happiness comes as an emotional reward. Reward for our hard work, for doing the good things, for not giving up, or simply, for living.

The efforts we spend in our pursuit of happiness gives the meaning of happiness itself.

It’s beautiful, at least to me. That given the choice, we would rather spend much time and energy to seek for happiness than just giving up, taking a shortcut to have an instant kind of happiness, no matter how intense it is.

Maybe, it’s because the idea of a pursuit of happiness itself is so very often romanticized that it is deeply ingrained in our brain. That we are supposed to look for happiness, to fight for it. That happiness must come at a cost, as a reward for our effort. That happiness is something we must forever pursue, no matter for how long. Happiness as an idea, as a dream, and a far fetched one at that. Something we all seek for, in our own journey, one that never ends, something that we can never fully have.

David Foster Wallace, also in Infinite Jest, sums it up perfectly.

…perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it.

Maybe, after all, we find happiness is in the pursuit itself. No matter how long it is, no matter how frustrating it must be, we keep going further and further. For the promise of happiness, that our efforts will be rewarded.

That life is worth it.

2 thoughts on “Infinite Jest and Our Infinite Pursuit of Happiness

  1. btw sudah tamat bacanya? sebenarnya buku apa toh ini ? membuat saya penasaran…oya sebelumnya salam kenal saya hadi, saya mengetahui blog Devina saat saya mencari sesuatu tentang Cikarang dan vihara di sana. trims

    1. Hai, iya sudah selesai bacanya. Kalau ditanya ini buku soal apa, agak susah menjelaskannya. Tentang tennis, kecanduan, terorisme, dan juga kebahagiaan. Cukup menantang tapi sangat memuaskan.

      Salam kenal juga. Terima kasih sudah mampir!

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