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“Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do.” – Helen Keller

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[spare quotes]

“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.” – Buddha

“Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?”

“[Peace] is the highest and most strenuous act of the soul, but an entirely harmonious act, in which all our powers and affections are blending in a beautiful proportion, and sustain and perfect one another. It is more than the silence after storms. It is as the concord of all melodious sounds ... an alliance of love with all beings, a sympathy with all that is pure and happy, a surrender of every separate will and interest, a participation of the spirit and life of the universe.... This is peace, and the true happiness of [humanity]” – William Ellery Channing

– Charles Palahniuk

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In Pursuit  of  Happiness    

In Pursuit of Happiness The fact that you are even entertaining to read on may be enough of an indication that there is no such thing as an undisputed mathematical equation to achieve what should be an entirely simple task. “No such luck” writes Alexandra Du Sold …

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus

Who can forget the heart-breaking real-life story of father and son, portrayed by Will Smith and his then 5-year old son Jaden Smith, in the touching 2006 motion picture “The Pursuit of Happyness”? Let me set the scene: the drama film is based on the biographical rags to riches story of our protagonist Chris Gardner, a simple man, who falls on hard times as a single parent, with his adorable 5-year old son in tow. Struggling while moving in and out of homeless shelters for nearly a year, he is determined not to lose sight of the American Dream and, to that end, one day finds an odd memory jolt plastered on the outside wall of his son’s day care centre: “Happyness” – misspelt and silently voicing the need to have its “y” replaced with an “i”. Gobsmacked and somewhat outraged he remembers Thomas Jefferson’s input on America’s Declaration of Independence, particularly the part about the right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’. It speaks of a right to life and to liberty but not to ‘happiness’ as such. Could this mean that happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never attain? Can we achieve happiness while in pursuit of it or is this a dichotomy in itself only to demonstrate that we are doomed to fail from the start? So if indulging in happiness is far from straight-forward, what exactly is its quintessence? WHAT IS HAPPINESS? “What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.” – Sigmund Freud

In theory this should be an easy enigma to solve: 2,000 odd years of documented humanity should give us ample explanations or definitions of what happiness is or isn’t supposed to be and how, if we apply ourselves accordingly, we can live “happily ever after”. Or can we? Wikipedia (my favourite quick rescue) conveys bluntly – albeit not in a word or less – that “happiness is a mental state of well-being characterised by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. There. That sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Moreover, additional help is amply at hand further down the line in an overabundance of approaches extending, but not limited, to biological, psychological, religious, economic and philosophical

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In Pursuit  of  Happiness     angles. Phew. Admittedly there’s a lot to chew so let’s be selective and look at a few discourses only. Two things seem certain on the onset: my happiness is not identical to yours and happiness is predictably ever changing. “Doing nothing is happiness for children and misery for old men.” – Victor Hugo  

“The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors.” – Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Buddhist teachings speak of the ultimate freedom from suffering leading to nirvana. It is achieved by overcoming cravings and earthly indulgence in all forms. This newfound freedom then becomes the foundation to generate loving kindness and compassion, which in turn promotes the desire for happiness and welfare to all beings starting with oneself. A somewhat different approach indeed, particularly compared to the more materialistic recommendation of ‘pursuit’ entitlement inherent in our American Dream episode above.

“The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” – Karl Marx

Catholicism offers yet a different path to what it calls felicity, the Latin word for happiness, which is based on the Beatific Vision of seeing God in heaven. Thomas Aquinas states that “man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek.” So a perfect happiness cannot be a finite reality then? Therefore physical pleasure or any form of worldly power or temporal fame or honour really would amount to nothing noteworthy or gratifying. Well, according to the Catholic Church we might well be sentenced to misery in this lifetime. I suppose this means suffering through our living years is then our only option to find (only in death) that special something that is infinite and perfect, also referred to as God. Anything but tempting – if I may be so bold and air an opinion.

“(Happiness is) the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason.” – Aristotle

Interestingly, good old Aristotle, in 350 BCE, also commented on riches and honour to be part of the innate human quest for happiness or eudaimonia, the Greek word to sum up

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In Pursuit  of  Happiness     ‘being well and doing well’: the practice of virtue. Happiness, he argues, is a human desire entirely for its own sake whereas health, friendship and the above wealth and merit constitute simply a means to a ‘happy feeling’. Contrary to some religious beliefs eudaimonia is characteristic of a good life, a pursuit or an activity though and not an isolated emotion or a general state. A happy person is virtuous (and vice versa) and therefore capable to fulfil common human ends. Makes sense? In theory perhaps. Practice often has a way of proving the best theoretical concepts are not worth the paper or papyrus they were written on.

“The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

The Greeks may have invented democracy and with it laid the foundation for economic freedom and prosperity, which in turn correlates strongly with the general happiness of its citizens. Today the economic suffering of one small European country has not only made global headlines but is threatening to cause serious doom and gloom across world markets. Who would have thought suffering and happiness are that closely intertwined? Perhaps there is no happiness without sadness? Or worse, is my happiness contingent on other people’s misery?

“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Well, I should certainly hope not. If we stop for a moment with the definitions and complications, perhaps we can start finding relevant lowest common denominators for moods and emotional states, such as our senses for example. As humans we have access to a plethora of means to experience what makes us happy, at one time or another – be that temporary or permanent. Some of us may smile over someone else’s smile or by gazing at one of nature’s intricate flower blossoms. Others might be overjoyed by music brought to their ears unexpectedly, or the scent of a woman could send yet a third into an ecstatic outbursts of true bliss if they were to allow it. It is often our own ignorance which may in fact leave us blissfully unaware until we let ourselves be reminded that life is nothing but a wondrous gift for which we should bear gratitude at all times. It is habitually our own pile of expectations, which makes us prone to being numb and unmindful, defiant of a life worthy of celebration and sheer delight.

“Love, awareness and happiness can be recognised as ever-presence.

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– Pantanjali


In Pursuit  of  Happiness     The Hindu thinker Patanjali, author of the Joga Sutras wrote exhaustively on the roots of human bliss. He advocates a clear, lucid, empty, and open mind in order for an individual’s innate brilliance, peace, and transpersonal wisdom to shine forth naturally. Humour me for a moment and explore what could happen when our often extrinsic view of the world were to start corresponding to how it truly is; then the subjective view and reality might finally shift into mutual synchronicity: I wonder whether this is in fact an environment where harmony, true happiness, and peace can start reigning.

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.” – Ayn Rand

FOLLOW YOUR BLISS

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Josef Campbell’s admonition to “follow your own bliss”. In Sanskrit, the ancient spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: 1. Sat 2. Chit 3. Ananda

= = =

Being Consciousness Bliss or Rapture

Big words with still bigger meanings, even for the more savvy ones among us! Rapture, come take my hand and take me to my consciousness (preferably higher) and my being (who am I?) in the process! But how do I find thee? “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not long ago, my personal quest for bliss and inner contentment enticed me to attend a happiness therapy seminar aptly labelled “From Monkey Minds to Buddha-in-a-Box”. I had heard about my brain being considered in a state at times, be that dazed, confused, or occasionally hung over, but the term Brainstate Training, which was the essence of the transition to the promised land, had me nothing less than dumbfounded. Brian Loafer1, our friendly lecturer with a distinct Texas accent, likely and at a guess in his late thirties, misguidedly tries to bank credibility almost immediately by announcing that he just married to a woman nearly twice his age. You’ve got to be joking! I can’t but help the double-take. I neatly wrap up my amazement and lock up any ensuing judgemental thoughts in an imaginary drawer in the hope that I can still keep an open mind for Boxy Buddha. “Retraining the state of your brain is the miracle work we practice here”, Brian promises. It changes our lives and liberates our minds forever – a prerequisite for a blissful existence, a permanent state of happiness. You’ll forgive me if I don’t regurgitate his sophisticated mumbo jumbo here and paraphrase how this is supposed to work for us mere mortals: ‘You are to take one measure of plain old zeta-brain (of the alert, awake and conscious kind) and quieten it down by switching off the inner monkey, aka your thought generator. Should that prove too difficult, reactivate some of your own memories of

                                                                                                                      1

The  name  has  been  changed.  

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In Pursuit  of  Happiness     inner peace – if you can’t find any, call Google or Wikipedia to the rescue – throw in a couple of pinches of conventional happiness (watch a cinematographic tear jerker if you must), while remaining detached, and you will find yourself in nirvana-land practicing non-duality in no time and all day long.’

While the convincing technical term for this exercise is ‘theta-delta meditation’ (how posh!), my brain, after two intense hours of this, is suitably fried yet far from liberated, and that’s just from listening to all this training-in-theory awareness. Brian may have every reason to celebrate the on-going demise of my head(iness) but I’ve decided that I was far from ready to wire my temples to a black box and risk turning into Frankenstein’s daughter – even if that meant missing out on guaranteed nirvana.

“Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.” – Aristotle

Brian and his brain wave machine are now a thing of the past, of course, and I am nearly back on that fully-fletched brink of pursuing my own rapture. Truth be told, there is no uniform miracle solution to “live in happiness” – I hope this much has transpired. Still experimental I for one will explore interesting angles of all sorts with an open mind if I feel they could be essential with becoming (more) virtuous, grateful and fulfilled. Except this time, I am more generous and forgiving with myself. I have replaced the search for “who I am” with a simple “I am” in the hope that this moves me a step closer to finding that third and final missing ingredient to complete the trinity of ‘being-bliss’: my proper consciousness.

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In Pursuit  of  Happiness     Quotes: “Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do.” – Helen Keller “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus “What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.” – Sigmund Freud “Doing nothing is happiness for children and misery for old men.” – Victor Hugo “The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors.” – Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” – Karl Marx “(Happiness is) the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason.” – Aristotle “The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung “Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne “Love, awareness and happiness can be recognised as ever-presence.” – Pantanjali “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.” – Ayn Rand “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” – Ernest Hemingway “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.” – Aristotle  

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In Pursuit of Happiness  

I-MAG version of "In Pursuit of Happiness" for December 2011 publication, 2,000 words

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