Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Way Of Happiness

What is happiness? How can we find happiness?

Happiness, of course, can mean different things to different people. Kids can spend hours at the playground, adults indulge in shopping sprees. Ladies can't live without ice-cream, men want a stiff drink.

But no matter the exact object of your happiness, they all still funnel and flow through familiar pathways. So what are these pathways and where can they be found?

1. Happiness is found in experiences, not things

We like to own stuff. Our cheeks glow when we slink into our favourite dress. We fill our homes with a private collection of knick knacks, from Lego toys to Ming vases. Possession exudes an overwhelming feeling of achievement and entitlement. To own something valuable is proof that we've done well in life.

But how long do such things last? When someone else wears the same dress as ours at a party, we feel humiliated and no longer special. For all material things are transient. They derive value not so much from their utility (no one ever keeps flowers in Ming vases), but from their perceived value by others. The condition - commonly attributed to the philosopher Rene Girard - is called mimetic desire: that we borrow desires from others.

So when we find happiness in things, we are essentially borrowing happiness from others (who desire to own the same thing). But once this external desire is gone, so goes our happiness. How shallow, how fleeting. Instead, we should derive happiness from our own experiences. A sunset walk at the beach. The sparkle in your children's eyes. For the greatest joys in life are felt, not owned.

The state of happiness

2. Happiness is created, not consumed

We consume to stay alive. Food nourishes us. Movies entertain us. Nothing wrong with consuming (we all want to stay alive, after all), except when we take consumption for happiness. That scoop of ice-cream - sinfully orgasmic. That latest Marvel movie - most epic shit ever. How easy we pass things off the rack as 'happiness', these days.

Sure, consuming things make you feel good. But feeling good is not the same as feeling happy. Snorting coke feels good. Masturbation feels good. But do they make you truly happy? Of course not. Happiness has to be something more than satisfying primal impulses. We're humans, not animals. Intelligence and emotions has elevated our capacity for happiness.

True happiness is a positive action, not a physical reaction. And that only comes from creating, not consuming. Cook our own culinary delights. Share your own stories. If others love what you create, well done! If not really, don't be sad but be glad that you tried and try again. For the truly sad ones are those who cannot and dare not create their own happiness.

3. Happiness is making others happy, not expecting others to make us happy

We constantly crave for affirmation. A pat in the back by our boss. A bundle of likes on our latest Instagram photo. Without others telling good things about us, we are mired in self-doubt on our self-worth - and that makes us unhappy. And when we're unhappy, we consciously or unconsciously set out to make others unhappy as well. Misery loves company.

Why depend on others to make us feel happy? Why limit our happiness to how much others allow us to be happy? Why focus on receiving happiness, instead of giving happiness?

There's no happier feeling than making someone else happy. Be a giver. Do favours without being asked. Smile at strangers. That's happiness at its finest. A friendly bug. It's contagious, spreads like wildfire, and springs up in places when you least expect. So don't wait around for happiness. Start your own. Help spread the viral ones around. And happiness will come around to you, over and over again.

Calvin isn't happy being happy. Calvin expects euphoria. Don't be like Calvin.

The Way Of Happiness

Finding happiness seems tough. The horizon is far. Paths are winding. Waters run deep.

But that's only if you see happiness as a destination, a goal, a prize. And that's where people go wrong.

You shouldn't pursue happiness. It can't be found, consumed or received. The seed is already within you. And it's calling out to be felt, built and shared.

For true happiness lies in the journey, the pursuit, the way.

There is no path to happiness. But there is the way of happiness.

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