Alright, this is it. This is the one. This post is that post. The one where a barely employed, barely tolerable millennial teaches you all about the single greatest virtue known to mortals- happiness. Although, the bulk of my readers are barely employed, barely tolerable millennials, so I should be fine. Also, this is going to be a little different. I don’t have a whole lot to say, but I do have a whole lot to ask. Here’s everything I wonder about happiness. Open ended, objective subjects like this have just as many interpretations as interpreters, none of which are wrong. So please, go ahead and educate me. Answer these questions with your version of the truth in the comments below. Maybe your haphazard droplet of semi-wisdom will turn out to be the missing piece in someone else’s puzzle of happiness. In which case, someone you probably don’t even know will forever be happy because of something you did. For once, be selfless instead of self-conscious, and realize that your opinion not only matters, but is invaluable in a way the mere human mind can’t comprehend.
Happiness is one of the most talked about subjects in the world. Countless scientists have spent innumerable years studying its cause and effects. Preeminent thought leaders over the last few centuries have written book after book, blog after blog exploring the subject. I personally subscribe to about a dozen different ones. It’s not only one of the highest virtues to aspire to, it’s arguably the only virtue to aspire to. Yet, I’m not even sure what it is, and that makes me unhappy( I guess… ? Can’t be sure at this point).
So, what is happiness? Is it just that hop in your step, and a whistle on your lips? Is it just a smile instead of a frown? Or is it a much more deeper, zen like state. Is it (fairly) permanent, or is it something you can fall in and out of ten times a day? Is it ending up at the shortest line at the bank, or is it your son’s high school graduation? Is it something you experience because of favorable circumstances and serendipities and things falling your way, or is it something that creates all those things. Is it an emotion, or an attitude? Is it something you choose, or is it something that chooses you?
Now let’s dig in a little deeper. Is it everything it is made out to be? I mean, is it really that much of a requirement? Some survey conducted by some organization showed that Indian street kids are the happiest people in the world. The reason, they know what their life is going to be. They are born on the street, they’ll beg for a few years, then sell something at traffic signals for the rest of their lives. Maybe they become construction workers. They have no shot at an education or any opportunity of any kind, and frankly, I’m not even sure they are aware of those concepts. These are the people that are supposed to be the happiest ones on planet Earth. Good for them, I suppose. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a roof over my head and a drink in my hand than be happy sleeping on the street. I’d much rather have something that engages my mind, than the knowledge that my life will never be much more than begging at traffic signals. If this is what happiness is, I don’t want any part of it.
Nevertheless, let’s dissect this argument. The way I see it, these kids are thought of as the happiest for two major reasons. One, lack of expectation. Two, lack of worldly knowledge (Quite literally, ignorance is bliss). Following that logic, you can be truly happy if you never learn of anything, and never aspire to anything. The phrase that came to my mind as I wrote this last sentence was, “That’s just sad” (Look at the irony). Thankfully, I know this logic is flawed. Warren Buffet may just be the most knowledgeable and wise soul alive today, so that negates the ignorance part. I’m pretty sure you can’t say he never aspires to anything. He disproves both the arguments for happiness, and by his own admission he “tap dances to work everyday.” (Although 87 billion dollars can probably buy you happiness as well).
Now, for one of the more challenging questions on this topic. Is happiness an elongated state of joy, or pleasure? Will I be happier if I work my ass off for five years and build something meaningful and true to myself, or will I be happier lying on a beach or watching TV shows all day? If it’s the former, then it means the road to happiness leads through discomfort, rejection and hardships. If it’s the latter, the road to happiness leads to discomfort, rejection and hardships. Maybe happiness is an independent concept, separate from joy and pleasure.
Everything I’ve ever read on the subject shares one common theme though. They all suggest, that if you tell yourself that you’ll be happy once you get that job, that house or that relationship, then you’ll never be happy. At one point you said you’ll be happy once you get the things you have now, and guess what, you’re apparently still not happy. So happiness is something you have to opt for now, irrespective of your external circumstance. If that’s true, then shouldn’t we all be able to be happy, all the time? Well, that obviously isn’t happening. No wonder so many of us never find happiness, given that most of us don’t even know what we’re looking for. And yet, we don’t ever stop an think about what it means to us. Also, just a random thought, do you think The Dalai Lama is always happy? I mean if it’s anyone, it’s probably him.
Through countless books, articles, courses and what not, there’s only one thing I know for sure about happiness. Gratitude breeds happiness. Hell, I don’t even know what happiness is, or if it is really that essential. What I do know is, if you count your blessings and be genuinely thankful for them, there’s always going to be a hop in your step, and a smile on your face.
I’m going to stop now, before my head explodes, and before I lose a few readers. This article didn’t even scratch the surface of the ideas I want to share with you on this subject, but I write blogs posts, not theses. Maybe someday you and I can take it up again.
One more thing. Writing these blog posts, and having you all read and critique them makes me incredibly happy.
Or does it?