Thursday, March 26, 2009

Of Life, Drama and Happiness

A thought, an idea, a concept, has been laying at the back of my mind for some time now: happiness. What is happiness? What drives happiness? What is the state of mind called happiness? I could have dived into the wealth of literature on the subject. I could have brainstormed with well rounded intellectuals. Yet I did not feel like dwelling on philosophical concepts about the human condition, but more thinking about what makes people around me happy. Simply. Simplistically even.

I came up with three possibilities that can explain the state of mind of a person when he/she says “I am happy”:

  1. Happiness can be the compliance with a pre-defined image of our lives that we‘ve built since childhood. It can be that a child develops the idea that happiness is having a husband, kids and home she calls her own. Happiness for her would be achieving that dream.
  2. Happiness can also be the state of no-unhappiness. So for example, unhappiness for a person is being alone, having a money problem, being divorced, or any number of other unfortunate events. Whenever any of these unfortunate events does not occur, a person can call herself happy. This option is most commonly mentioned by wiser adults: “you have everything, you are healthy, have a loving family, a job, of course you are happy”
  3. Happiness can be the achievement of loved one’s happiness. The person forgets her own philosophical considerations about “happiness” and her sole aim is the achievement of one goal: make a loved one happy. I have noticed that parents are too busy providing for their kids’ needs and “happiness”, and the accomplishment of that purpose is just enough for them to assert that they are happy. I am sure kids provide a conceptual continuity to us human beings. In that sense, I am almost sure that readers who have children or dependants do not relate to this post. This option goes hand in hand with Voltaire’s “cultiver son jardin” idea that struck me at school. In a sense, thinking about life’s purpose and goals is an ingredient to unhappiness. Getting busy providing for loved one’s life can drive to happiness.

Each of the above options can be applied to one or many of our acquaintances. Yet, more often than not, we notice exceptions. Persons that were actually able to achieve the image they drew for themselves since childhood are not happy. People, who have it all, are not happy. Parents who have a well cared for family, are unhappy. And conversely, some people who do not fall into any of the above categories radiate happiness.

So what is wrong with the sea of life? Is each and every person swimming in a different direction? Nothing is wrong, really. Except that, whatever the direction in which you swim, this sea has an end: death. From that observation on, there is one step to acknowledging that Life IS a Drama: The fact that a loved one dies. That we are broken hearted. That we miss someone insanely. That we are waiting for someone irrationally and against all odds. That there is unfairness. That an innocent is accused. That a child is lonely. That a little kid is abused. That a good kid is suffering from a disease. That it’s too late for something precious. That we regret. That we mourn. That we hurt someone we love. That we are deceived. That we are rejected. That we have a mental illness. That we know we are going to die but don’t want to …yet. All the pain that comes with being alive can’t but make life itself a drama, a tragedy.

In that context, with that observation in my mind, happiness can’t be but a choice. Yes, against all odds, against suffering, hurting, mourning, a person can make the choice to be happy. Happiness cannot be a state of mind that is undergone passively. It is a proactive, conscious choice. It’s a perspective on things that do not accept putting one’s self down. I choose to be happy, therefore I am happy.

And why isn’t everyone happy then, you might ask. Because some people are not convinced that they deserve to be happy; Because for some others, being happy means that they are moving on from a drama they are not ready to let go of. But that is another story…


Delirious said...

I will share with you something I've had for years. I don't know who wrote it, but when someone sent it to me in an email, I printed it out and it's been hanging in front of my eyes ever since. The more I read it, the more I agree with it:

"What, then, is happiness?
The answer is not complex.
Happiness is simply a state of inner freedom.
Freedom from what? With a bit of self-insight, every individual can answer that question for himself.
It is freedom from the secret angers and anxieties we tell no one about.
It is freedom from fear of being unappreciated and ignored, from muddled thinking that drives us to compulsive actions and later, to regrets.
It is freedom from painful cravings that deceive us into thinking that our attainment of this person or of that circumstance will make everything right.
Happiness is liberty from everything that makes us unhappy."

Maybe this freedom (or at least the first steps towards it) is why I've finally begun to find my happiness...

Maya said...

freedom... this concept is a keeper...hopefully you will keep on exploring this freedom. :-) (that was a happy face, not a smiley face! )

Antoun said...

Very nice poups..
Well there are a couple of facets to this claim, for 1 it means that happiness is something internal, independent of external factors, given that you are able to control your own faith whatever the direction you swim in and for 2 I think you are introducing the concept of contentment within your idea of happiness which is another concept altogether and that does not equate to happiness - at least in the way i would like to define it

Antoun said...

where did my post go? :(
told you very nice..
but 2 points:
1- you have to distinguish between the two concepts of happiness and contentment which you tackle as a type of happiness, but that in my opinion is a completely different concept
2- through your choice hypothesis, you are asserting that happiness lies within and could be achieved independently of external conditions, which I would also push back on.. just think about your happiest moments and you will find particular events, people, or whatever external driver that helped fulfill it...

Maya said...

interesting points...
mmm... contentment.... what is it? a numb state of mind?