March 04, 2007

Looking for Happyness

I had a chance to watch "Pursuit of Happyness" (and yes, that's the way the moive spells it) this last weekend. Will Smith delivers a compelling performance in this very interesting commentary on the pursuit of happiness. Smith plays Chris Gardner, a down-on-his-luck salesman of medical devices (bone-density scanners) that are in low demand. Sales are sluggish, and financial problems cause his marriage to fall apart. So he and his son are left alone.

The movie proves to be a bit of a depressing ride. The viewer takes on some of the hopelessness of Chris's situation. He has no friends, no money, no real job, and almost no prospects. There is a futility that is almost contagious. This really is a movie about the "pursuit" of happiness. But in some senses that might be the strength of the movie. It gets us to focus on what it means to look for happiness—the things we seek out to give us fulfillment.

But for me, the movie was a great cause for reflection especially at the point where Chris finally seems to have found what he's looking for. One of the last scenes of the movie raises some interesting questions about what the pursuit of happiness is really all about. Chris has just been offered his dream job at Dean Whitter, and all of his hard work is finally paying off. Overcome with emotion, he runs out to the street, bubbling with joy, and as he makes it out to the sidewalk, he joins the mass of people moving about on the streets of San Francisco. And he seems to fit in, melding with the crowd of neatly dressed professionals. But none of them look happy. Every face is serious; they all look almost like drones. Is this really the "promised land"? Has he really made it? Maybe he will be the one who truly appreciates the distance he has covered, and make the most of his opportunity. But maybe not. In the end, the job won't make him happy either. Real joy has to come from somewhere else. Try reading Philippians, and see what Paul has to say about joy. It is a deep reality based on life in Christ. God's grace is really the only place to find happiness that lasts.

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