The Pursuit of Happiness

By Adina Pelle

Many ages ago, when the Gods roamed the earth, it was obvious that mortals needed a boost to their spirits and self-confidence—or the very existence of the Gods was in jeopardy.

After much deliberation, in an effort to avoid a plebeian’s revolt against the imminent law, the cluster of Gods determined that one God would be chosen to represent the celestial word and oversee the earthly turmoil.

A rushed ruling from the newly elected God spread quickly among mortals. The decree read, in part, as follows:

 1)       As humans united by working-class enthusiasm into a democratic paradise

2)       are given that a stable society requires total harmony,

3)       each citizen of this democracy, to maintain peace and order in the earthly
          kingdom, can and should be happy…therefore it is hereby directed…

4)       Kiss freely in public to show contentment and submission.

I reproduced only a single passage of the new governance—where the public kiss was defined as an indicator of mortal happiness. The decree also included other aspects, like banning criticism of the elected God, but we will save those elements for a future conversation.

Thus, the formal rule of kissing in public was introduced as mandatory for all mortals. To monitor the way which the populace respected the rule and to ensure implementation of the decree, a patrol was created. Members of the patrol had freedom from dawn to sunset to identify, observe, scold and report the offenses of all who dishonored the law and refused the duty of displaying mutual affection and achieving ultimate human happiness.

The unofficial title of the new divine rule was The Kiss Decree. Among the populace, the seemingly simple rule generated a lot of confusion. The Happiness Enforcers often heard and dealt with excuses like the following:

Uh, I forgot to kiss her.

Please excuse me, but today—I have a nasty cough.

I have a toothache and cannot bear anything near my mouth.

We just kissed; you were not watching carefully enough.

The Happiness Enforcers, who were conscientious about the job (which included four weeks of vacation every year, medical and dental insurance and a well-funded retirement program) granted by the democratically-elected God, were equipped with a number of sophisticated monitoring tools for testing the Mortal Kissing Rate (MKR). Any breach of the rule was considered treason against the supreme goal of happiness within the citizenry.

Execution of the decree was variable in different age groups and professions. Adolescents and young people in general were the most fervent supporters of kissing to show their happiness. Their lips could be heard vigorously at work in parks and alleys or any other public places.

“Sorry to trouble you, but we have to kiss in the next five seconds,” a young man might say to a girl next to him.

She, in return, was bound to the rule…whether he had bad breath or cold sores. Other young people turned to kissing to avoid boredom.

Now we come to the purpose my telling this tale.

Mortals between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five had a different attitude toward the decree—a more nuanced and jaded one. It seemed they enjoyed kissing more when it was forbidden by their elders.

The Happiness Enforcers filled out forms capturing the date, month, year and location of the violation (or non-violation, if you will) which described situations like the following:

 X sat on a bench in the park where words of love were exchanged with Y. Closely monitored with a calibrated instrument, the episode was fully recorded and documented. The couple did not kiss. They held hands and read each other poetry and whispered delightful words of love. There was incidental touching of private areas.

But, they did not kiss. A citation was issued.

Other couples obeyed the decree with great enthusiasm and gusto. Here is an example:

Honey, there is nothing between me and him. We were seated at the same table simply due to overcrowding at the restaurant. When the time came…we were forced to kiss to prove our happiness. You appeared at the wrong moment…had you come earlier, I could have kissed you instead.

From instrumental records and statistical analysis, we know the decree was not properly honored by married couples. The intensity of their desire to kiss and be kissed was minimal. Married adults felt no reason to kiss in public. Many studies were funded and it was found…the desire to kiss was not present in the home either.

However, another phenomenon developed, occurring approximately four months after the decree was implemented. In spite of citations, harsh fines and prison sentences, fewer and fewer kissed in public. Tests revealed they no longer had the love inside that inspired kissing.

The democratically-elected God and his counsel were left scratching their broad, divine brows.

They observed citizens of advanced ages from sixty years and older invading the streets—enthusiastically kissing with their old, floppy lips. Otherwise, it was obvious. Humans grew less and less interested in properly manifesting their happiness. This scene displeased the Gods.

So, the divine rulers did what they always do. They wrote another decree. The democratically-elected ruler worked night and day on the draft of a set of new rules to keep all mortals happy.

Shortly thereafter, the first golden coins were cast.


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