“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”
Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
It was Eeyore who first alerted me to the perils of happiness. Living on the edge of the Hundred Acre Woods, in a place called “Rather Boggy and Sad”, the downcast donkey was Winnie the Pooh’s gloomy companion in A.A. Milne’s much-loved children’s books. Forever losing his tail, he was the archetypal outsider, the melancholic foil to Tigger’s boundless bounciness.
My father used to warn me: “If you laugh too much, you’ll end up crying.” And as he read the books to me, I was drawn to Eeyore. This beloved donkey reflects the dark side of the pursuit of happiness, which Thomas Carlyle, a 19th-century critic, termed “the shadow of ourselves”. Those of us who, like Eeyore, keep losing our tails, are doomed to feel like failures, told by society that we should just “cheer up”.