Happiness:Our right and our obligation
When we say that God made us all equal, what does it really mean?
Does it mean that He meant for all of us to have the same things in the same measure? Perhaps, He meant for all of us to be able to attain Happiness despite all our surroundings and circumstances.
What then is this Happiness? I tried out a number of descriptions, even queried a few people I know can talk sense, particularly after a couple of swigs, and here is what I find most answers converging towards:
Happiness is a state of being in which
- Life is what Life should be.
- When Life is as we want it.
- A sense of being where one belongs.
- The warm glow of the heart and soul at peace with itself.
- The feeling of an ascent, fulfilling one’s higher self.
But the description that resonates most with me comes from some texts by Norman Vincent Peale. I quote it: Happiness is the fulfillment of the Soul, whether it is only for a fleeting moment or an unending eternity. When the Soul rejoices, we experience a particularly ecstatic state, in which we know that our Life is perfect. At that moment, nothing else matters, there is no pain or insecurity, and our entire Life squeezes into that experience called Bliss.
I can also wager that every one of us has felt this state at least once in our lives, and most certainly in our childhood.
Let us pause for a moment to relive the happiest moments of our lives. Breathe deep, close your eyes, and remember the happiest moments of your Life so far. When was it? Childhood, youth, adulthood? What was it about? Family, Work, Society, or Sport/ Art?
Why was it the happiest moment of your Life? How long did it last? Why does it not continue to date?
What brings happiness as we understand it?
- Getting what we hope and wish for:
- Winning something everyone wants but can’t have:
- Successfully overcoming others or ourselves:
- Having what others don’t have:
- Feeling appreciated, sought and respected by others:
- Becoming what we consider valuable or worthy:
- Giving or getting what our loved ones ask for:
- Contributing to the attainment of a common desire:
- Upholding what we stand for, in face of pressure and enticement:
- Not trying to be this or that but surrendering to the fullness of Life:
- Letting life flow through us
We can analyse each one of our happy experiences, and they will invariably fall under one of two categories. For dramatic effect, I like to call them Poor Little Happiness and Rich Big Happiness.
My rational mind interrupts me: Hang On!!! Poor Happiness and Rich Happiness? Are you out of your mind?
The more I think, the more the answer is: Yes. But, what is the difference? How do we distinguish the two?
By understanding what the source of our Happiness is:external or internal. Now you know where I am leading us to.
Poor little happiness lives inside us, Rich Big Happiness lives outside us. If we seek happiness which comes from an external source, it is more elusive than internal. Why? Simple: our frame of reference is no longer in our hands, and it is like catching a reflection, the object of which is not controlled by us. See the happy child playing alone with its toy; what happens when another child comes with a new toy? The first child dumps its toy and seeks out the new toy, often displeasing the other child!
Poor Happiness is something which all of us can have, without having to spend much if at all, while rich Happiness can be had only by spending money and being ostentatious and extravagant. Poor happiness often comes from appreciation and contemplation, and, often, rich happiness comes from gratification and consumption.
More important, poor happiness can be felt even in the attainment of others, while Rich Happiness is to be felt only in our direct experiences of consumption or gratification.
Poor happiness is inclusive, rich happiness is exclusive in nature. Poor happiness grows by spreading to others, while Rich Happiness can survive only by not spreading.
Rich Happiness is like the plate you eat in or the five star hotel we eat in, while poor happiness is like the food itself. Form and content.
Poor happiness is the golden hearted plain neighbourhood girl, and Rich Happiness is the exciting, luscious glamorous head-turner, we don’t look at her heart because our eyes are glued elsewhere.
But you know what is the biggest difference between poor happiness and rich happiness? When Rich Happiness grows older, it starts becoming poor little happiness. Poor happiness is like the mature mother or father in us, and Rich Happiness the spoilt and pampered child in us. Self-effacing versus self-centered.
Yet, how many of us ignore the poor happiness that is in our grasp, even as we crave the Rich Happiness that eludes? Why?
Because we are conditioned to believe that anything that is easily attainable is not worthwhile. Even more, we believe that what everyone has the possibility to obtain is simply not worthwhile. We constantly crave to be more than all others. Our happiness in most things comes not from what we have or what others have, but from the difference between what we and others have. It is only by having what others don’t have that we derive our sense of importance and worth. The irony is no one can have rich happiness in all things. Recall the pitiable end of the great legend Michael Jackson last year! How much he must have endured within, even as the whole world looked up to him as an icon having attained all that many of us could only dream of: wealth, fame, adulation, freedom and power! Yet, it could not heal Michael’s innermost obsession with his skin. How painful it must have been for him to go through those grafts to erase the painful inner image of himself, despite this adulation of millions!
So when we say we are not happy, we really mean that we have chosen to ignore the poor happiness that is readily available to us in all circumstances. That we ignore the faithful dog that is always wagging around the master, and crave the beautiful bird or butterfly on the bush that flies away when we try to get close.
Perhaps when we change ourselves a little bit, and start observing the numerous disguises of poor little happiness, we will feel a lot more at peace, knowing that life is not all bad, and the world is not such a bad place after all.
Now that we know that some form of happiness is always available, what should be our relationship with happiness?
I would like to leave behind a thought with you: happiness is not only our right but also our obligation.
It is our right because the entire natural world is happy except mankind. Have you ever come across a terribly unhappy tree or kitten? Even the unhappy plants and animals that we know of are only those which are our pets. Perhaps the human thought patterns have their influence on these beautiful creatures too! We too were happy sometime in our lives, when we did not know how to judge ourselves from the perspective of our peers and our society.
Happiness is also our obligation, to ourselves, and to those around us, because when we learn to be truly happy, we stop fearing life, we stop grudging how others lead their lives, and we make things a bit better by not being rough on others around us. When we are happy, we have a higher energy and a better aura, and this is infectious. You know it in the office and in the house, when you are happy.
I am an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (class of 1982, Mech., Engg), and run an international business consulting firm (Ace Global Consulting).
My other serious interests in life in order of seniority are: music (I sing – almost professional standard, play the keyboard,write and compose Hindi popular music, including Bollywood), feng-shui, writing and public speaking. I have just released my first book, The Winner’s Price- life beyond the Campus.
I have a passion for travel (85 countries), and am a foodie. I live in New Delhi, India. My vision of a caring world is one in which: no one on Earth would sleep hungry; no one would lack self-esteem; no one would be judged by his possessions and failures; and no one would be denied the opportunity to pursue his natural flair or competence.