The pursuit of happiness

Have you ever thought about what it means to be happy? Not what some philosopher or artist has said or written, but what it actually means to you and to somebody else? Have you ever wondered why you ask these questions? Is there any difference between being happy and being lucky?

In life there is good luck and bad luck, happiness and unhappiness, but that is something beyond our control for most part. What is considered good or trivial for one person can be a total disaster or very good fortune for someone else. Just look at the different standards of living on this planet for example. A whole lot of people would be extremely happy if they only had part of the water which you flush your toilet with. Besides, can one really be happy when seeing the surrounding misery? Is it really that important? Is “being happy” really the essence?

The way we cope with our life’s situations and complications is the decisive, encompassing factor, but society has given us the illusion that we should be passionate (lit. that it is good to suffer), that there is justice, that there should and will be compensation for our mishaps, and so on and so on. Death and illness don’t have morals however, something which most people fail to accept. In some cases external compensation is arranged for, but it is impossible to soothe our never-ending hunger for security and happiness, it is insane to try to win the global crusade for the “good” and to eradicate the “bad”.
The compensating, comparing mind can never be at peace, the grass is always greener on the other side – if not in this life, it’s in the afterlife – and so we continue to hope, to seek answers, try to find solutions to our problems. But the whole point is that in most cases there is no actual problem: it is created inside our heads by the desire to find compensation, to find explanations instead of accepting the facts. In fact, a lot of the world’s real, severe problems are never being dealt with simply because of this enormous amount of individual, localized preoccupation, creating more barriers, more sides, more opinions, more ideologies, more laws, more conflict, …

happy: “lucky,” from hap “chance, fortune” (see haphazard), sense of “very glad” first recorded c.1390. Ousted O.E. eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig (~ gezellig), which has become silly. O.E. bliðe “happy” survives as blithe; from Gk. to Ir., a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky”

luck: from M.Dutch. luc, shortening of gheluc “happiness, good fortune,” of unknown origin. Related to M.H.G. g(e)lücke, Ger. Glück “fortune, good luck.”

The question of happiness is by far a linguistic problem. It is created by thought, i.e. it is a product of time, projected from the past onto the future, and it is always subject to a vast range of parameters. When people ask you whether you are happy or not, either answer is like choosing a side to something that has no sides. You are forced to choose, but does it signify anything except that we can all now say that you are “unhappy” or “happy”, which will only change the next time you think and talk about it? If i tell you that i am unhappy it has no actual meaning, because it is impossible to compare our personal lives, let alone their interpretations. Nevertheless we keep on doing exactly that, and instead of making life more simple by accepting the facts, we complicate our lives and our relationships by striving for that ideal picture that we’ll never reach anyway. And even if somebody would, the image will have changed, to something bigger, more beautiful. By focusing on the mental images, life itself and its precious moments will most definitely be overlooked.

Instead of pursuing happiness, one could go for the encompassing state where this quest becomes less relevant or even obsolete: when there is the total acceptance of the way things are and when one is able to live more or less balanced, despite the ups and downs, the mind is no longer occupied with such a petty and largely impersonal affair as happiness. We do not control our lives and our personal fortunes and misfortunes, only to some degree. We can steer a little here and there, that’s all. Death and disease are never far away. If you are at the wrong place at the wrong time, there may be very little you can do to get out.
The pursuit of pleasure and happiness beyond the basic human needs, on an individual or social level, is bound to create more conflict since it moves away from the way things are, not changing it, but building things on top of the confusion and misery. The “war for peace” doctrine illustrates this repeated mistake very well.
Harmony is natural and does not need intervention; it is unwholesome human intervention itself that disrupts the ways of nature.
The only movement towards change and harmony lies within, within the total, non-discriminating acceptance of all things good and bad, and without the illusion of compensation, without the mental and societal machinery.

3 thoughts on “The pursuit of happiness”

  1. Well put. I believe in the practice of acceptance, and also accepting that there are things you can't accept (yet). 😉

  2. Thanks, even though i wrote this one too quickly i think, it's a little blurry here and there:p.Your comment reminds of the precept "Change what you can't accept, accept what you cannot change", which is not fixed in time, of course. Most people don't realize how far that can go.

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