Is Happiness Really A Pursuit?
A little while ago I read something a friend had sent about being happy. What struck me was how it was worded – it talked about “chasing” happiness, as if it were something that could be caught or surrounded or trapped.
For an American audience, this is par for the course. Anything, including happiness, can be “acquired” – if not by money, as many would attempt, then by reading the right book or with sufficient tenacity. Of course, it is even better yet for the American audience if it can be shown to be based on “science,” society’s alternative god. Tenacity and teachers are important in our lives. That is not to be doubted. But to treat happiness like a commodity, as something to be acquired objectively, or acquired rather like one would master a degree, is simply doomed to failure. When approached this way, happiness is elusive.
How are we defining happiness, when we examine it? That is key. If our happiness is attached to things of the earth, then it is attached to the transitory, the temporary. Attaching ourselves in this life to the temporal to generate happiness, such as attaching ourselves to a specific outcome, is a common mistake. Like all things of this earth, situations and outcomes, even people, are temporary and it is important to avoid the emotional roller coaster that a temporal, earth-attached view promises. We must remain open to what opportunities we are given, many quite unexpected. They are often better than what we ourselves have concocted as best. All of us can let go and appreciate what is around us (or not around us) every minute. It requires just a tiny percentage of the energy that acquiring does, and none of the cost. Faith in an All Loving Creator can help us in this but is not a sine qua non.
As Lao Tzu, one of the wisest men of all time reminds us, “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
Happiness is of the moment and without attachment. There is nothing to lose, nothing to fear.
Once again, Lao Tzu sums it up perfectly. Here a passage written by him that I love, taken from my book, A Monk’s Way:
“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts,
You return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
You accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
You reconcile all beings in the world.”