There seems to be no lie as destructive yet universally accepted than the idea that we control the quantitative amount of happiness in our lives. The perception of happiness has become an objective tangible thing, which some people have an abundance of, whereas others spend a lifetime seeking it. With such a fallacious viewpoint, we tend to to attempt and hack our appropriation of happiness. Moreover, we sentence ourselves to a masochistic rat-race, mindlessly running the same trodden path to happiness, only because society collectively accepts this path as the way to more happiness. A widespread departure from fundamental teachings of religions, estrangement from our deepest selves and a perpetual obsession with the collective maya (illusion), has geared us fundamentally towards unattainable goals.
“There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy” – Arthur Schopenhauer
The above written quote has a tendency to be viewed as exceedingly pessimistic. This is because we miss the profound axiom on which this quotation is predicated upon.
The Yin & Yang, the inherent duality, the opposite yet inter-connectedness of all phenomenon, the timeless balance of nature applies immaculately to our emotional states of mind as well. We are intent on labeling every experience in our lives as happy or sad, excitable or dredging, fun or boring. This is an abominable pigeon-holing to the immensity of life-experiences. Our levels of happiness, our moods always oscillate between good and bad, however the aggregate is always a constant. We unmistakably, yet ironically always pay for our happiness by embracing our unhappiness, yet we somehow believe we can hack the very essence of life by generating no-strings-attached pure happiness.
If we ingress deeply to understand the onerous cycle of happiness, we observe a few explicit truths that need to be address. Firstly, happiness is always short-lived. We bask momentarily in our happy moments, are enamored and thrilled with the objects of our happiness, only to later take everything for granted. This tiresome script never fails to repeat itself. We subject ourselves to a monotonous cycle of happiness followed with sure-short disillusionment. Let’s take an example to illustrate this cycle to which all of us can relate to.
When we graduated from College, our wishes and desires, our thoughts and hopes were all held together by one singular goal, the goal of finding a job or making a career. Our happiness was tied wholly to what job we would land. We made an internal pledge to ourselves and the world that if we landed our dream job, we would be gratified and happy. As time progressed, all of us did sooner or later land reasonable jobs and were well settled in our careers. However to our dismay, there was still something amiss. We weren’t objectively feeling much different, or much happier than how we felt when we graduated as an anxious bunch. The only difference was that the objects of our stress, anxiety and unhappiness were simply swapped with different objects. There were complains of inconsiderate employers, unequal fiscal remunerations, lack of job satisfaction, worry over family issues etcetera. In short, we were just as miserable as we were at any other point of our lives.
The fallacy exposed by the above example unveils the abject falsehood of our collective thinking; “we will be happy at a certain point in the future”.
This is misleading and absolutely false.
Happiness is now. Happiness is in the present moment.
To quote Jesus,
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…” Matthew 6:34
The second universal truth we need to understand is, We never become more happy, we just trade in a certain form of happiness with another form of happiness.
Alcohol induced pleasurable feelings we pay with our health and hangovers. Drug induced euphorias come at the price of our dopamine receptors. Moving abroad for better career opportunities come with persistent longing for our families. Getting in fantastic shape we pay with missed social events and efforts at the gym. Marriage for love and solace with the surrender of our personal ambitions. The joy of having children with the pain of childbirth and and life-long self sacrifice. To summarize, happiness always comes with a sacrifice. To find happiness we must be first be prepared to give.
A while back, when I was intensely deliberating, fighting and struggling to decipher the essence of life, there was one question I could never answer. Is life ultimately sad or happy? Is every life different in terms of quantities of happiness? Are some people just dealt better hands than the rest? Hours of involuntary introspective recourse, meditation and prayer lead me one day to a deeply liberating truth. I was lying in bed, on an overcast Seattle afternoon, perturbed, gazing hopelessly at the window trying to can life with whatever words I could. Suddenly, I had a deeply liberating epiphany, a moment in my life which I can never forget. I finally found the perfect description of life, a word which completely described what life was, a word that settled the debate on whether life was a hopeless futile entity, or a happy blessing. It was this. Life is neither sad or happy, life is neither endless struggle or a bed of roses;
Life is simply, Life!
I couldn’t fathom the simplicity yet profundity of this revelation. Life is life, it needs no further explanation, no further analysis, no encapsulation in our powerless thoughts and words. Life just is! All we need to do to understand life is to make absolute peace and unconditional surrender with life. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So, instead of trying to seek more happiness, avoid sadness, and consistently filter life through a lens of sad and happy times, just make peace with what life is. An emotion much higher than happiness will embrace you. Forgive me for the alluring title of this blog, We do not need to be more happy, we only need to be more peaceful.