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. The fool, in “Intuitions” (written Oct. 1932; published in Youthful Writings, 1976) By Albert Camus
According to Webster’s New Universal Unabridged dictionary, “happiness” is defined as, “The enjoyment of pleasure without pain; felicity, blessedness, or satisfaction.” It would seem that happiness would be relatively easy to acquire, as defined above, however so many people are not happy. Happiness is not just one single thing; it cannot be defined in one statement as given by Webster’s. What is “happiness” to one person could be “hell” to another, so I am not going to attempt to define it, but I do believe that people can obtain it. Happiness is subject to many unseen circumstances, it is also determined by individual perceptions of it, and is believed to be obtained through many avenues such as materialism, money, power, and sometimes (but rarely?) self-reflection.
There are many unseen forces, circumstances and social pressures that we must endure; these are some of the obstacles to our happiness. I believe that most people would agree that there are circumstances “beyond our control” that affect our happiness. I am referring to the most essential mark of human identity which distinguishes us from other animals, the possession of free will and the innate perception of good and evil with the ability to choose between them. The choices that other people make are a crucial and conditional factor in determining our happiness.
There are are also social pressures that we have to deal with that can affect our perception of happiness. This must be a major factor, as society ultimately forms our perception of what is acceptable. Television and media are constantly bombarding us with messages of what is supposed to bring us happiness, and everyone falls into that trap. Our society is abhorrently selfish, wanting more and more things, as we are never happy with what we have. According to the Austrian writer and poet, Baronness Marie Von Eber-Eschenbach, “To be content with little is hard, to be content with much is impossible.” It is much like a double-edged sword.
The problem with wanting more and never being happy with what we have, could be because our country has always been “rich” compared to the rest of the world. The majority of the people in the U.S. (except for the poorest & homeless?) has never really experienced true poverty, hunger, thirst, or wanted for shelter. Perhaps if we Americans had to live through another depression, it would force us to rethink our priorities and would make it easier for people to be happy. More people could find happiness by trying to live by the words of Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, and have few desires.” Of course this is difficult, as our culture and society tells us that more is better and that something is wrong with us if we are not following the pack.
Happiness is determined by individual perceptions of what happiness is. I really believe this to be true. Since we are complex organisms, we possess complex brains, which allows us to think and reason. Maybe the hardest part of obtaining happiness is actually deciding to be happy (this is where the self-reflection comes in). The Roman statesman and and philosopher Seneca, explains it best in the following, “The mind is the master over every kind of fortune: itself acts in both ways, being the cause of its own happiness and misery.”
Happiness is believed to be obtained through many avenues such as materialism, money and power. These are probably the sources of torment and unhappiness for many people. Sure, they can make living easier, but they are not a necessary ingredient to happiness. In fact, in many cases they are the cause of misery (after winning the lottery, people find out that their lives become much worse than before they had all that money).
It is only logical to realize that excessive material possessions are not going to determine your happiness. This is where we trick ourselves into believing that if we only had that certain thing that we think we need, then we would be totally happy.
Happiness can be achieved through self-reflection and people need to realize that it is the craving of more things that keep them from being happy. I leave this one final quote to think about, one of my favorites from a children’s book, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Happiness is something that each of us as an individual can only find within ourselves.
Happiness hand photo: zeenatsyal.files.wordpress.com
Chinese sign for happiness: chinesecomments.com