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I've been mulling over a post on the inherent inconsistency of the concept of paradise but haven't gotten around to putting my thoughts down on paper yet. Meanwhile, Cato Unbound has an article on the futility of trying to achieve a state of continuous bliss. This is broadly my own view - I don't think it is possible for us as human beings to stay ecstatic for very long periods of time, for, it seems to me that happiness is relevant in context and vivid only when it is juxtaposed with periods of calm or even suffering. The Cato Unbound article discusses this issue at length and I'd recommend reading it in full. A selection follows.
Thus, one of the most striking developments in Western societies over the last several hundred years is the steady expansion of the hope and expectation of happiness in this life. Concomitant with this expansion has been the steady erosion of other ways of conceiving of life’s purpose and end. If other ways of doing so have not been entirely abandoned — there are those who still live for virtue, honor, one’s homeland, or family name — in a world that places a premium on good feeling and positive emotion, these other ends have nowhere near the power to channel and constrain our choices that they once did. The same may be said of religion — long considered the ultimate end — but which today, even in places like the United States, where religious observance remains strong, is more often than not treated as a means to a better and happier life. The American author of the 1767 True Pleasure, Cheerfulness, and Happiness, The Immediate Consequence of Religion was undoubtedly ahead of his time.[10] And yet only decades later, that famous observer of the young republic, Alexis de Tocqueville, found it difficult to be sure when listening to American preachers “whether the main object of religion is to procure eternal felicity in the next world or prosperity in this.”[11] Today, when not only Protestants, but Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims regularly offer their faiths in America as effective means to earthly happiness, it is more difficult still to discern religion’s main object. In a sense, they too serve the greatest of the modern gods, the most uljavascript:void(0)
Publishtimate of ultimate ends: the god of good feeling, who now reigns here below.

Note Photo from at DaveWard at Flickr

Update 1, April 6 2007 The article link to CATO Unbound no longer seems active and I can't find the essay in the archives either. I'll update the link if I can find it.

Update 2 April 7 2007 The mysterious disappearance of the The Pursuit of Happiness in Perspective has been explained. Thank you Will!

Update 3 April 9 2007 The article I was referring to in this post is now available.

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Sorry! The essay was mistakenly posted for a couple hours during the editing process. It's for the April issue that kicks off on Monday morning, so please check back then. I'm glad you enjoyed the sneak preview!
Thank you for the clarification! Cheers.
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