Rhetorical gymnastics

Words shape perception. We all seek "happiness" in one form or another. Many philosophers have said it is the highest end of man. What this word actually means in many ways defines what we seek. I'm regularly asked "are you happy?" As with most important questions, what this actually means is often rarely defined while prescriptions of how to obtain it abound.

Happiness is usually contrasted with sadness and other negative emotions with contentment being some reasonable, attainable middle ground. However, today I saw someone contrast it with pleasure which really reshaped how I see the word. When the continuum is pleasure >happiness>contentment, happiness slowly comes into focus. I think we all expect pleasure to be fleeting, but there seems to be some feeling of selling ourselves short if our goal is "contentment." Realizing that there are much more engrossing, exuberant states of being than happy reminds me that happiness is just a notch above and is also a generally sustainable goal.