Happiness is a strange thing that may only seem simple enough to understand apparently but to me it is a strange concept all together, difficult and complex, though it may seem otherwise. What we only assume in life as happiness is perhaps but a delusive sense of being content with oneself. Temporary satisfaction and a sense of momentary joy that comes to be known as happiness in the fabric of the fulfilment of a desire, want or need. But the question is, is that happiness?
True happiness is perhaps something else as it cannot be simply linked to a mood one finds oneself in at times. It may be joy, delight or excitement but it is not happiness. What we may term as happiness is indeed a concept grander than that. It is something which, upon its possession, renders all other things meaningless and worries lesser felt. But what is meaning? I reckon it is something we attach to all things for our understanding of the same. But what actually is meaning? Is it not our own interpretation, based on our knowledge, of things that we imagine, observe and experience? We need to associate meaning to all the things around us, that we come to know about, in order to understand them ourselves and hence meaning is but limited in this sense to our own purview of whatever it is. Things have a larger bigger meaning than the one we might associate to it. Therefore, the human thought, in my humble opinion, is limited in understanding the world and appreciating all the things in the world.
What is happiness then? Is it a state of perpetual serenity? Or is it one’s conformity with one’s circumstantial status? Or is it perhaps the absolute absence of dissatisfaction and sorrow? All of which does not happen in the real world. Is happiness merely an illusion then? One’s own making used to deceive oneself. Whatever it is, it is something to which one would find many answers and many explanations. However, what is for certain is the fact that a momentary or temporary feeling of delight cannot be happiness and if it is well then one can experience happiness and sorrow repeatedly, turn by turn, or in a singular nostalgic moment. Happiness cannot be anything like that. If you are happy one moment and unhappy or sorrowful the other, how could that be true happiness? Let us examine this in order to expand this idea in-depth. To understand the true meaning of something one needs to analyse what would happen in its absolute absence.
There are some people in this world who associate wealth and money to happiness. I am quite sure that in the contemporary world of material, there would be many who would term happiness as being able to afford a better life. If they have a better car, a bigger house, a larger bank balance, they would term it as being happy. They would say that they have done it! But have we not seen the richest of all people, at times, depressed and anguished? We have. So they put the course of their life in the achievement and fulfilment of such desires, needs and wants. But once they achieve them, they come to realise that perhaps this was not happiness that they were running after. It was the lust that the desires put in their hearts. During the course of their struggle, such people have no mercy for humanism, no regard for loyalty towards their fellow beings, true love does not and cannot establish a place of purity in their souls and their minds cannot interpret with any clarity true feelings of love or even hate given that their mental barometers measure everything against only one standard i.e. wealth. However, when they reach their destiny of being rich, if they do, they tend to find their souls hollow and their feelings fabricated and perhaps only temporary. During such a worldly struggle, they break many hearts, disappoint many people around them and destroy or gravely dent many relations. When they come to realise this, in the end, their time has already gone and all they are left with is their wealth and their despair, their riches and their regrets. Are they happy then? Is this the happiness that such people were running after? Only they can tell.
Wise men have always said that happiness lies in small things. Not in large bungalows but in small streets where some golden moments have been spent. Not in large cars but perhaps in the fields where one used to run with friends or the beaches where one sees his little daughter making a sand-castle. If that is the case then this indicates quite clearly that true happiness can never be derived from things material. What does a human being in this sense struggle the whole of his life for? A ton of bricks and a ton of iron? The little innocent smile of a stranger child can sometimes give you pleasure of the worlds and of this life more than and better than a new house. Those little things in relationships that we sometimes think are not that important and take them for granted can sometimes be missed more than all other material things combined. One finds it hard to imagine then that why does a man run after money like that at all. If money is what one holds dear then when the time comes, in the end of it all, how much of that would matter really? If nothing of that wealth is to matter in the end then it cannot be the matter that ‘matters.’ Why then this hard struggle in getting to it in the first place? These are perhaps questions, the answers to which, may only be understood once one starts to see the world around him with one’s eyes of the heart and a thoughtful mind and not what may seem to be the apparent meaning of it. Dogma is a beastly killer.
We can also understand the meaning of true happiness in life in another manner, through the concept of education. If we see what Iris Murdoch truly meant when said, and I quote;
Education doesn’t make you happy. Nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are. Or because we’ve been educated – if we have. But because education may be the means by which we realize we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.
While one may think at first that education makes a person happy. The mere fact that you are educated cannot give you happiness even if it does give a temporary sense of relief and joy. But actually education enables one in realising what happiness really is. Is it in large houses or in small things that the nature has given us for free and are found in abundance in one’s life? Indeed it is education that opens our eyes and ears and hence frees our mind to understand what happiness really is. But then again not the education sought to be qualified to do a job or a business that can multiply your riches; but indeed the education that imparts the knowledge of the mind and the wisdom of the worlds that one learns, in one’s quest for the realisation of one’s self and that of the universe around him. Therefore, one must open the eyes of the heart and look at the world and at life, which are both full of dear little things that engulf happiness for us, true happiness, which is perpetual and serene rather than being based upon a momentary relief and temporary contentment.
Morals and ethics are dying a cruel death at the hands of the race for material, which one opts for given that one thinks it is what will give one real happiness. But as we know, on the contrary, it is not what holds true happiness for a man; it is something different. Something supreme and something money can’t buy. Consider this: for how much time do you think you will remember the new car? Until perhaps when have ridden it for a few months or maybe till the point where you get to buy another one. However, if you have helped an old man cross the road and he has looked back at you, with love in his eyes and prayers and wishes on his lips- for how long will that image, that feeling last in your memory; I think eternally. You will never be able to forget that. Or if you help a little girl get education, or perhaps help a family in their little needs. That feeling becomes eternal and gives you a perpetual serenity and a sense of true and actual happiness that lasts forever and becomes your sole friend in the days of misery and sorrow. During the time, when the end is near, one does not procrastinate about his wealth but perhaps his deeds, his purpose and dwell upon those little things that he did for others, without the expectation of a return, innocent feelings captured from within the relations- those small little tiny things. That, to me, is real happiness that I am talking about. It may never come with wealth and the riches but only with serving mankind for instance. Being happy means having no regrets at the end of the day, when the clock strikes one, and the sun goes down.
While morals and ethics keep changing their meaning, because meaning is merely our interpretation that we attach to things, and that is therefore based on our imagination, observation and experience and is hence bound to change over time- the world is in a constant process of an eternal evolution that started off with the big bang remember? This is how knowledge is achieved. However, the meaning of selfless service to the mankind may not evolve easily or change for that matter. This is what beholds a feeling greater than all other feelings- a feeling of an unmatched contentment- of a serene tranquillity; That is something that will last till the end, without changing or even fading a singular degree. I do not know about you but I call that happiness.