“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor–such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps–what can more the heart of man desire?”
Does this quote rings a bell? No? The answer could have been otherwise if you had read the 1859 novel, ‘Family Happiness’, by Leo Tolstoy, or watched the movie, ‘Into the Wild‘, based on the life of Christopher McCandless, who hitch hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in search of happiness. But, if this quote from ‘Family Happiness’ were true then why did Will Smith, in his movie on the life of Chris Gardner, said that ‘happiness’ can never be attained but is rather transient in nature and can only be ‘pursued’.
From what I have seen, observed, lived, and read, happiness is one of those few things which can never be quantified, or entangled in a web of words to give it a ‘face’. At the very least, what I believe is that it can best be represented by the mathematical concept of ‘Limits’, which is used to describe the state that a function approaches the ideal value (state of being ‘happy’ and ‘gay’) as the input (one’s effort and luck in play) approaches some desired value (ideal to realize ones goals). In this case the function depends on situation an individual faces; say success and failure, love and hate, hope and misery among many others. As in ‘limits’, the ‘value’ of happiness always tends to reach the desired state but it never really achieves it.
If this were not true then why are we happy only for few moments, days, or months (I do not say ‘years’ as it would be a far-fetched conjecture)? Why are we not happy for indefinite time even when we have achieved what our ‘heart desires’? I ask my friends about what makes them happy. In most cases, they come up with materialistic desires; say a Ferrari, a private island, a beautiful girl as wife, sound health etc. But, how confident man can be in accepting that he won’t be sad if all his said wishes realized? That’s right. Not sure enough. Even if one agrees his eyes would betray his words.
This post is already deluged with questions, so I see no harm in asking one more. Can the universe, excluding you in it, really surmise exact reasons why you are happy, or could make you happy? For this I have a definite answer. No! Only we hold the key to what makes us happy and what doesn’t. Though, on deeper thought, we ourselves are not ‘consciously’ aware what makes us happy. Critics have accused McCandless for profound lack of common sense as he chose not to have compass, study the area he was hiking, and lack of planning. I disagree! Is it not obvious that the very first act by Chris, of donating $24,000, meant for his law degree, to a hunger charity might have made him happy? Or, living on minimum of necessities and yet making his way into Alaskan wilderness could have made him happy and proud of himself?
Take the case of Paulo Coelho. He initially coerced to his parents will of abandoning his dream to be a writer. But eventually, a year after enrolling into a law school he dropped out and lived life as a hippie. And in 1986 walking for more than 500 miles along northwestern Spain he had his spiritual awakening. In an interview Coelho said, “I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water.” However, when it comes to answering ‘what is happiness?’, he writes, “this is a question that has not bothered me for a long time, precisely because I don’t know how to answer it”. Read this story, which is an excerpt from ‘The Alchemist’, by Paulo Coelho, and you will realize why this book remains top 20 best selling books of all time.
It seems that we have come full circle with no answer to what is happiness. But, do we still want to define happiness? Isn’t it better left unanswered? McCandless, however, found answer to all our dilemmas and doubts in his last words, “Happiness only real when shared.” Also, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Have you found the meaning of happiness, yet?