What is happiness?

The Dalai Lama says the purpose in life is to seek happiness.

If we are unhappy, then we should rearrange our lives so that we are on the path toward happiness, he says.

The concept seems simple enough. Even toddlers understand happiness. I think that often times, they understand the term more than adults do because a child experiences emotions on a purer level.

A child knows happiness, sadness, hunger, joy, maybe even fear before he/she develops a language to identify it. Experience, movies, television, news, friends, school, family, pets and millions of ideas enter our memory banks and convolute simplicity.

We become bound by language. Our ideas and thoughts are limited by what words we can frame. Culture and societal norms affect us, influencing conformity or non-conformity. We find that in order to live comfortably in this fast-paced, technologically globalized world, we must keep up with the ones coming up with the ideas. Then we must fight to maintain our place in society.

A brilliant idea one year is worthless the next. As a result, stability suffers, but efficiency enhances. It’s because of the idea that we advance, not the resource. Next, we forget what happiness really is. We come to a collective idea that happiness is this or that. It’s what T.V. tells us. And we find ourselves trying to emulate the Kardashians; or we accept our lives for what they are and try to maintain as best as we can. We confuse change with instability, two separate concepts. We work toward goals that answer the question “what makes us money,” forgetting to ask ourselves “what makes us happy?” We forget what happiness is.

What is happiness? I often think of The Dalai Lama’s thesis statement from his book “The Art of Happiness,” and wonder exactly what happiness is?

For everyone, happiness is different. My happiness is not your happiness. Your truth is not my truth. Presently, I still can’t identify what my happiness is to adjust my path toward it.

I would love to rearrange my life, but there’s no clear direction where I’m headed. I can’t say that if I get a car and a house, I will be happy. I cannot say that material wealth leads to contentment. There’s a serious problem with society that most of us seek exactly that because we think it leads to happiness. I think it leads to greed, narcissism, insecurity, etc. I could be wrong, though. I’ve never been rich, so I’ll let you know where it led me if I do.

What I can guess, however, is that regardless of our ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel (excuse the cliché), we must keep moving. We must remain positive. We must realize that the only physical certainty is death and that if we look hard enough, we will find something before me meet that certainty.

You may ask, what if I don’t find happiness and all of that time is wasted? Think about if you didn’t do anything. The chances of finding happiness in an apathetic or indifferent state is far less than if you were active about it. Imagine entering a contest and losing or winning. If you don’t enter at all, you won’t lose, but you surely won’t win either. You’ll just be where you were the day before.

When Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama’s peace emissary, came to speak at my school, I asked him what happiness is. Before I could obtain it, I had to know what I was obtaining.

“Do you know what it feels like when you’re unhappy?” he said.

I said yes, and he told me that was a good start. The fact that I asked that question means that I have examined my mind, he said.

I have thought of my question a lot since then and I still don’t know where my happiness lies. But I have taken action and believe that I’m on a good path to discovering it, regardless of whether I can see the end result. For the record, I can’t. There’s no certainty except for death, remember?

More like this:

Comments

The pursuit of true happiness can be exhausting, especially for an intelligent mind. To quote Hemingway, "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." But we're young, and I'm confident that the discovery isn't too far away. I'm still searching, too.

That's a wonderful quote. I'll have to remember that, Justice130. Hemingway is one of my favorite writers.

Excellent writing, Donna. Nicely structured essay.

Two things: 1. Maybe stop looking. Happiness is there, inside you and all around you. Let it BE. The hunt for it IS exhausting like Jake says, when it's found YOU. It came with you, you came with it. 2. I know it's only a technicality but I like to think that the only thing certain in life is change, not death.

Jake--you seriously thing happiness is an age thing? Hate to burst your bubble, but get ready for the pinprick.

Why do you have to tell me that?! I will take your wise words anytime, though. Happiness is always a good discussion topic.

Thanks for the advice Roody2shoes. I was corrected earlier. Happiness is not a path. It's there. Now only if I could find it.

I didn't believe it either when folks would say, stop looking for it and it will come/be there. But, it happened just that way for me so I'm with Tom. I heard it said once a long long time ago that "paths" are revealed when we mix it up with the universe. Doesn't mean we recognize them when they are right in front of us, doesn't mean if we do we've the courage to proceed into the unknown. "Comfort zones" are comforting for a reason, no? Break on FREE and you shall SEE. Maybe:) Perhaps its as simple as smiling and laughing every chance we get and before we know it we are surrounded by bliss. We humans do tend to complicate that which is simplistic. As a side note, do you have any idea how many comedians test MENSA? There is indeed genius in comedy and why Shakespeare's fool was generally the holder of wisdom.

It makes sense that a lot of comedians have genius qualities. They have to be so sharp. The type of people that really get to me, though, are the ones who blend humor with heartbreak.

To paraphrase something I once read: Sometimes you forget that happiness doesn't come from getting something you don't have, it comes from recognizing and appreciating what you do have. I have always thought that the best things I have found were the ones I wasn't looking for, and in some cases didn't even know I wanted.

that reminds me of some Sheryl Crow lyrics: "it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.... I'm gonna soak up the sun." dodododo. That is very true, Tom

great stuff - love it all - the blog and all the comments ...

thanks, richzombie. As usual, I look forward to your next poem.

Quote u: I still can’t identify what my happiness is to adjust my path toward it.

perhaps Robert Frost said it best

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

I remember this poem from my high school English class! I guess it did have something to do with me. Just didn't know it yet, hehe.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

SD Reader Newsletters

Join our newsletter list and enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe!

Each subscription means another chance to win!

Close