he trouble with our search for happiness can be best understood in the form of this impressive allegory.
“A police officer sees a drunken man intently searching the ground near a lamppost and asks him the goal of his quest. The inebriate replies that he is looking for his car keys, and the officer helps for a few minutes without success, then he asks whether the man is certain that he dropped the keys near the lamppost.
“No,” is the reply, “I lost the keys somewhere across the street.”
“Why look here?” asks the surprised and irritated officer.
“The light is much better here,” the intoxicated man responds with aplomb.”
Image Source: Billy Graham
Like the inebriate in the story, most of us look for happiness in places that are convenient for us, not in places where happiness actually resides.
Philosophers and spiritual leaders have, since time immemorial, told us that happiness can be found by living in the present, being mindful, doing meditation, helping others, spreading love and compassion, being physically fit, and so on. Everyone’s learned about this. You don’t hear people jumping in shock about the idea that meditation brings happiness. Yet, none of these tried-and-tested ideas get put into practice.
We prefer, instead, to chase money, success, fame, popularity, power, and everything else that all the wise people across ages have told us is bad for us. But we are so pitifully gripped by this illusion that they’re our principal sources of happiness. We look at Shah Rukh Khan’s fame, for instance, and hope desperately to have that kind of love and adulation. We look at billionaires and think, “if only I had that kind of power, I’d be happy.” We look at Virat Kohli and hope that we’d be as successful as he is early in life.
Essentially, our idea of happiness hinges on the notion that we’d be happy after we have something or after we achieve certain things.
It’s a ridiculous idea that we wait for something to happen in order to be happy, instead of just being happy, come to think of it. Happiness is simply a state of being, not an outcome or a destination. Like Dalai Lama said,
“Happiness is the journey, not the destination.”
Image Source: Seido Ryu
No wonder finding happiness is such an arduous job for anyone who’s ever walked this planet. We complicate the idea of happiness, realize that we are doing it, and yet, continue to complicate it.
To be happy, what’s important is that we first commit to the cause of being happy. It usually takes an internal declaration, like a word that we give to ourselves and vow to keep. Then, you identify the things in life that make you happy. Not things that give you pleasure, elation, excitement, cheerfulness, and their cousins, but true happiness.
You probably find yourself the happiest when you’re writing. Or when you’re spending time with friends or family. Or in cherishing the little moments of life, like the fall of rain, the kindness of a stranger, and the blossoming of flowers during spring. Find your sources of happiness, and draw from that deep well rather than be trapped in an illusion of happiness like an insect in a spider web. Maybe then we’d begin to see that happiness is not all that hard to get. In fact, it’s always around us, easily accessible, and to whoever who wishes to access it. It’s just a matter, then, of choosing to be happy and then finding happiness in the little everyday moments of life.
The question though, is, will this too remain an idea on paper or for the mind? Remember, happiness is up for the taking.