By Tafi Mhaka
Life is a lifelong party. Correction: Life is one big lifelong party and you are the life of the party. But when does the party come to life in this world? The party starts when the doctor or midwife spanks your smooth bottom and jerks you to life and happiness instantaneously surfaces. The party starts to hot up when your parents hold their heads high in celebration of your healthy arrival. The party begins when they crack open a bottle of champagne and toast the arrival of the latest generation of the family to carry their genes to greatness. The party begins when you start to feel fuzzy warm happiness in the arms of a loved one.
The party begins when discover the sweet taste of happiness packets of sweets and chocolates bring into your life. The party begins when discover a feeling of joy in playing make believe with the girl next door. The party begins when you try on new clothes for Christmas. Or when you learn a new word or fact that used to perplex you. The party never ends. Sometimes the music being played at the party sounds so enchanting it is refreshingly good for the soul. Sometimes the music is so incredibly boring and depressing. Whatever happens though: the party doesn’t end.
The party gets better when you discover you have a liking for certain things. The feeling that certain things delight you or make you happier; you enjoy chasing your friends in the street or having fried eggs on toast and sweet orange juice on Saturday mornings. The party truly rocks when the food tastes great and the drinks have a honeyed flavour to savour.
The party rocks when your favorite uncle or aunt brings you a present and keeps you grinning form ear to ear on a Saturday afternoon with their unrestrained friskiness. The party rocks when the life of the party is a bunch of jokes that have the whole clan in stitches and you look at the people present in your life and think: this is happiness.
If there is a corporation out there that could package and sell happiness in one-litre plastic bottles and place them alongside the full fat milk containers in supermarkets scenes reminiscent of the gold rush might surface faster than you could say Black Friday.
But is happiness a commodity you can buy or sell to the masses? Black Friday sells happiness for a price you might say. Everyone is selling a product that should make you happy nowadays.
Happiness is as slippery and dear as one Black Friday a year. It promises so much for such a long time; but lasts a day. The wave of happiness people ride to Black Friday soon subsides into a state of calmness similar to the mind-splitting headaches a smoker suffers upon undergoing a prolonged period bereft of a whiff of nicotine.
This is because at some point in your life you discover that happiness is not really in your hands to keep and safeguard. At your birth happiness lay in the hands of the doctor, nurse or midwife who so finely delivered you. Had they had a bad day and botched up your delivery, your happiness would not have seen the light of day.
In your formative years your happiness lay at the mercy of your parents or minders. What they felt would make you happy coloured or discoloured the story of your childhood.
Later at crèche your happiness lay in the hands of your teachers and minders. And as you matured things began to change and rather quickly they did.
You go to primary school and suddenly reality smacked you in the face: the sad revelation that happiness is not what you thought it should be all along hits you between the ears like a monster hit from Bon Jovi.
The pressure to be happy and look cheerful starts to build up albeit in a very subtle manner that may spoil the party for you at primary school. Questions abound on the state of your life – and mind – as the pity party mob enters your life and turns it upside down and sideways as well for good measure. But this is just the beginning of things. By the time the pity party mob is through with you it will feel like you partied and danced reluctantly at a rave party for 96 hours non-stop. Your poor head will be spinning from the all the loud music throbbing in your head and the repeated interactions with the multitude of perverse types you meet in life who seem to know what it is that is good for you and will make you happy.
The pity party mob is unapologetically meddlesome: They want to know how you could wear such ugly shoes and still be happy. They want to know how it feels to have such a bland hairstyle and still hold your head high. They want to know if your shorts are not extra big. They want to know if the sandwiches you have in your lunchbox taste awful. You take it all in jest and cannot wait to go to high school.
You go to high school most happy and confident about yourself but quickly realize the drama about your lunchtime peanut butter sandwiches was heaven sent.
The high school party is much bigger and the revellers are nasty to the core. Remember: the pity party mob is not a group of people. It is a spiritual movement: a collective philosophy driven by the big doom theory.
You are doomed if you do this. You are doomed if you do not do that. The doom and gloom is real as things can get for you. All of a sudden there is a higher and invisible authority that understands what should make you happy in adulthood. The days when happiness remained rooted in the blissful ignorance of your childhood must give room to the manufactured joy of commercialism. Happiness is sold to the group of highest bidders in the room and the leftovers go to the less fortunate partygoers such as the latecomers and outsiders.
Happiness is the biggest brand on earth and it sells at a premium if you can afford the good stuff.
The promise of a happy relationship comes packaged in the latest phone. It promises you and your loved ones happy times and great conversations.
The status of your happiness comes packaged in a car. Those unfortunate enough to drive small cars must be so miserable.
The look of your happiness comes packaged in cosmetic products. The look of beauty is expensive to put on.
Whether cosmetic enhancement makes up for terrible attitudes and bad behaviour or not is not a part of the deal; you just look good and happy. That is the charming deal on offer.
The taste of your happiness comes packed in highly processed simple to cook high fat and high sugar foods that do wonders for your bulging waistline.
The appearance of happiness comes packaged in the latest suit. The slicker you look the happier you should be.
The impression of happiness comes packaged in the latest blouse and is available on special for one day only.
The happiness of escapism comes packaged in the latest blockbuster movie from Tom Cruise. For one and a half hours the suspension of belief feels impossibly real.
That is the reality of commercialism in the 21st century: Happiness is comes at a price and it is transitory. You are not supposed to be happy for long or too long. There is a new car on the market for you to test drive every 24 hours. Every week there is a new phone for you to rave on about. Keeping up with the latest and best brands is a small pricey mission and the thrill of the chase is not so blissful.
Sometimes happiness is a matter of the faith you adhere to. And life here on earth is not meant to be a wholly thrilling affair. Suffering is a part of the party: you get to suffer for happiness is a long-term game. The endgame is happiness for eternity. Call it the big doom theory if you will. Humanity is doomed to a life of suffering. Unless of course you understand that the real fun begins in the next life you are safe from falling afoul of the rules of the party.
The purveyors of the big doom theory prey on the mass fear of the afterlife to suppress a sense of perpetual happiness in this life among their faithful followers. They, pretty much like the invisible hand of commercialism, know what is best for you and should make you happy if you trust them to guide you in life.
Should you trust the the masters of doom enough they can tell you what will happen in the near or distant future or relay messages from your ancestors for an undetermined price. You can pay the gloomy theorists in hard currency or lend them your soul in exchange for a lifespan of gloomy happiness.
Should that mastery of the dark arts be the kind of thing that brightens your day; you know what I mean; that is soliciting the services of a pastor to help you steal a march on the future. Well: Prophets like these are a dime a dozen. They offer a select range of fully updated services that are carefully constructed to make you feel happy and offer you the services your special status deserves.
Should you be struggling to get a job happiness might come packed in the form of a loud prayer that helps you get a job offer ahead of better qualified candidates.
Should you be unhappy at work the status of your happiness might come packaged in a quiet prayer that fends of the evil spells cast by anonymous green-eyed colleagues.
Should you not be feeling well the status of your health could come packaged in a dubious sermon on a Sunday morning. And if you trust the doomsayers enough they will spray Doom on you to make you feel healthy in the spirit and flesh.
If your business is suffering losses the status of your business might come packaged in a long prayer that will multiply your clients or investments and spell bad times for your competitors.
If you would like to win a beauty pageant your status as a beauty queen might come packaged in a beautiful prayer that will compel the judges to turn a blind eye to other equally deserving candidates in the competition.
If you just want to be happy the state of your general wellness could come packaged in the praise self-proclaimed pastors like Lethebo Rabalago of the Mount Zion General Assembly glorify themselves in when a churchgoer gets a promotion or buys a new house.
Happiness comes packaged in submission when a pastor of the Soshanguve Church, End Times Disciples Ministries asks some members of congregation to lick his lick his boots and strip naked in “demonstration of God’s power”.
Like the movies that are made in Hollywood for your viewing pleasure happiness in faith is packaged in the suspension of belief that requires you to ease into a state of total acceptance of the irrational.
Not all faiths or churches or pastors pray this way: No; honest and industrious clergymen and clergywomen lead them. But the plethora of churches selling life and happiness suggests happiness is in limitless demand across the universe.
Should you want to be happy in this life and the next Pastor X is waiting for you in a backyard church somewhere. Should you want happiness in the next hour or day, swipe your credit card for a little momentary elation. Should you want to be happy like Pharrell; just dance and enjoy the party while it lasts.