Saturday, January 28, 2012

Which Way to Happy?

A good friend stated: happiness is a luxury. She was responding to a question about what possible happiness people could expect if they lived centuries ago, barely scraping by, fighting disease and selling their children to eat or, if more affluent, competing only for power and social inclusion with all they had. But happy? No one seemed to strive for happiness in, say, 16th century Rotterdam or even in rural Bolivia today. Maybe it's just about a hierarchy of needs.  First, survival, then other stuff. Happiness is the ultimate luxury. Or is it?

Today, where we have the basics under control in most developed nations, we ask: what about happiness? Even in the face of terminal illness, we believe happiness is, not so much a luxury but a right. "I deserve to be happy."  And so the happiness gurus have come out in force with blogs, self-improvement videos, inspirational talks, how-to books and guiding principles for finding happiness. And most tell you one fundamental thing: it's in you and not out there. It was in poor 16th century Rotterdamers, too, I guess, but they just weren't looking inside, what with hunger and sickness diverting their attention.

But supposedly we all have a choice, and can make happiness an unattainable luxury or make it a staple of everyday life. And it is relative. A rural Bolivian's happiness may not be my idea of happiness but that is irrelevant, really, since happiness is highly personal and, if the happiness gurus are right, all about how we choose to perceive things. Comparing is truly pointless.

Now, whether how we choose to perceive things is delusional and artificial or not, the happiness it produces, or not, is real. So delude away! If it's 'in here' and not 'out there' then we might as well shape it and allow ourselves the luxury of feeling happy. The Forrest Gumps of the world do this exceptionally well.  And maybe it took us (humans) a while to figure this out - we ARE rather slow, I mean, we still think war is necessary for god's sake -- and we need all these gurus to point the way but look at the alternative.  Happiness as an unattainable or sometime luxury doesn't feel that good. 

1 comment:

  1. Okay, time to reflect, re-read, re-reflect. This is a BIG one. Merci encore une fois, ma biche.