Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why Not Happiness?

Happiness is certainly something most of us want. (Let me be clear, when I use the word happiness I am using the definition in my book. If you have not read the book, it defines happiness as contentment. Happiness is knowing my authentic self and liking me and being ok with me and whatever I have or have not done. It is not the same as having fun or excitement. It is not the same is being pain free … it is acceptance of my SELF. It is unconditional compassion for my SELF.) I see suggestions about achieving happiness on Facebook and other social media many times every day. Almost all of these cute quips accurately describe happiness as something that comes from inside, as opposed to being the result of external events or other people’s opinions. I believe this is so and clearly I am not alone.
If we look back to some of our earliest writings, Lao Tzu says “At the center of your being you have the answer…” Buddha says “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”. Jesus says the “…Kingdom of God is within you…” The stoic philosophers, well they are pretty clearly not big on externals. Our declaration of independence states we have the right to the “… pursuit of happiness”. All of this is good stuff. It verifies that our happiness is up to us and is not dependent on success, love, better cars or an excellent shrimp cocktail. I become curious then why so many people who are enlightened and have the personal relationship with the creator or have accomplished ultimate serenity in the moment are not happy all the time. This is the thing nobody talks about. This is the other thing about happiness that I also believe but that I don’t see much reference to.
I watch the news and see people wailing and crying because of the tragedy of the moment. Many of us appear to be willing to give up our happiness in the face of loss or pain or hideous behavior on the part of others. It is as though we are looking for an excuse not to be happy. Sure life is pretty random and understanding the why of things is way out of scope for even the smartest of us. But this is always true of life. It is not news nor unusual nor unexpected. Why should it be a reason for letting go of our contentment? My suspicion is that the happiness, or serenity, or contentment that many people claim to have is bullshit.
Think about it. If happiness is an inside job, and not dependent on things out in the world then it follows that we have the choice to be happy all the time, no matter what is happening to us or around us. I can be in the middle of the most horrific situation of my life and, if happiness is truly and inside job, I can decide to be happy anyway. I may be suffering monstrous torment of one kind or another, whether inflicted by nature or my fellow man and I can decide to be content with myself nonetheless. Furthermore, there is no moral imperative that we ever be unhappy.
I am not aware of any sacred texts or philosophical treatise which requires that I give up my contentment just because something I don’t like is going on. Regardless of what is happening to us or around us and no matter how bad I may have screwed up, it is OK to know and accept myself and remain content.
I believe contentment or happiness is something that can coexist with other emotions. I can feel the pain of loss and be ok. I can be in terrifying and dangerous situations and be ok with myself. I can feel excruciating guilt when I notice that I have made mistakes or committed sins, and be happy at the same time.
There is not and never has been a requirement that we be unhappy regardless of what is going on, except possibly in the media.
After all, contentment does not sell on TV or social media. Only hysteria, gnashing of teeth and other unnecessary and unhelpful reactions merit the attention of the networks and internet addicts. The media teaches us we should be unhappy when bad things happen. The reality is that there are no bad things happening. Whether a thing is bad or not is solely dependent on my perception. Shakespeare said “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” I am not sure about the bards’ qualifications as a philosopher or guru but this speaks to the point. When a natural disaster occurs or a tragic death occurs there is no question we will have feelings about it. Fear, grief, confusion, etc. are all logical feelings in these situations. However there is nothing that says I can’t be content with myself at the same time. I can decide to be happy anyway.
If I accept myself, and my feelings, including uncomfortable feelings like sadness, shame and guilt, then I am going to be content all the time. At that point happiness then is in my control and I can choose not to give it up to circumstance. Ever. I have not yet been presented with a good reason why I should not be happy. I would like to know if there is some authoritative statement somewhere that explains when I should not be happy. In the meantime, and probably even is such a command exists, I choose contentment.