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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unreasonable Happiness

Lately when 3:15 rolls around I find myself staring at the wall, thinking about happiness. And joy. Does happiness lead to joy - or vice versa? Is there a difference between the two?

I think about the very few people I know that I consider honestly happy, and I try to dissect their lives for the formula that makes them so. A few are obviously passionate about how they spend their life energy, others have just made the choice to be happy, no matter what the circumstances. A few I can see no reason whatsoever why they should be so happy - life seems to have dealt them a rough hand, but no matter. I think about where I land on the spectrum.

Like many people, I believe I love animals and keep them around to remind me about the joy of living in the now. Animals don't drag around thoughts about whether they're living up to their potential, or their reason for being on the planet. They don't create endless stories about how if they hadn't made the dumb choice to run off that day, they'd be back home and much happier than they are now. They don't wonder if they've been putting out too many negative thoughts to the universe and that's why their luck has changed ..... we couldn't ask for better role models.

Complaining is the antithesis of happiness. It's impossible to be happy when you're negatively verbalizing - or listening to someone who is. And complaining is our national past time. We complain about the weather, politics, neighbors, our aches and pains, other drivers, co-workers, bad service - and sometimes we're downright righteous in our complaining. "If people weren't so rigid and intolerant," we think, "we'd all be much happier." And there we are, rigid and intolerant and complaining about those that are rigid and intolerant. And on and on it goes.

In an earlier post I talked about my hope that a new mattress would be the Thing That Makes Me Happy. And it does! My back couldn't be more pleased, which makes me very happy. I started on bio-identical hormones, thinking okay, all those annoying symptoms will disappear and I can go back to being really happy again. They work, and I am! I'll move to a larger house where I can spread out and I'll be happy. Yes, it's great! I got a new job and a pay raise - yay! - that definitely makes me happy. Lots of things make us happy in life.

But lying in the dark at 3:15, I realize that though we may have a life filled with lots of individual events that make us happy - it's still not happiness.

I'm a sucker for quotes (quotes that really hit home make me happy) and one of my all-time favorites is from the book Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. Dan's teacher, Socrates, tells him,

"A fool is 'happy' when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That's what makes happiness the ultimate discipline. Happiness is not just something you feel - it is who you are."

"Feelings change. Sometimes sorrow, somtimes joy. But beneath it all, remember the innate perfection of your life unfolding. That is the secret of unreasonable happiness."

3 comments:

only ish said...

This culture sort of programs us for consumerism as the path to happiness. It's odd because, playing around with words, "consumption" - a pernicious dis-ease which ravaged the industrialized world about a century ago (now called tuberculosis). Also called "wasting illness." Does seem rather wasteful to be forever lusting after material goods, people, places only to discard them when we find they didn't bring us the happiness we were seeking!!

My happiest times are when I perceive that I need nothing, and I feel whole and complete just as I am.

Thanks for your blog, I enjoyed reading it!

Lyndsey Powers O'Quinn said...

Your comment got me thinking about the "wasting illnesses" we suffer from today - we have such a disconnect, especially from the natural world - there must be a correlation. As a species - are we learning? or just creating new mutations of the same strain of dis-ease?

Skye Alexander said...

Thanks for your comments! Yes, it does seem that a pernicious disease is ravaging the world. And we are certainly wasting our natural resources to feed this disease. An interesting correlation....and a frightening one.