There is a huge difference between experiencing a moment of happiness and being happy. A permanent and complete happiness is exclusively a result of the understanding of ourselves, of the freedom to express what we are, and of the capacity to give a helping hand to those who are not happy – because, a lonely happiness is only a passing illusion.
Some days ago, I spoke with a person and she stated: “Happiness doesn’t exist, it’s only an illusion. One can be happy only for few, limited moments, and the most we can hope is a condition of serenity.”
She was so convinced about what she was stating, that she was astonished that someone could assert the opposite. Actually, it’s very difficult for a person to affirm with real conviction, to being happy.
But what is happiness? We often use many terms without understanding their meaning; our language is so superficial and it’s not rare to make entire debates about arguments that basically aren’t clear to anyone.
The etymology of happiness cross-refers to a sense of fulfillment. Happy is a person who fulfills his desires. The more we seek for more precise meanings of this term, it seems that we are unable to find any. Fulfillment is happiness; the cornucopia of desires fulfilled, makes one happy.
It’s not so much, is it? However, it’s a bit difficult to realize a condition that is generally so unclear. If happiness is just the fulfillment of a desire, then the above mentioned person who stated “Happiness is only an illusion”, is correct. It’s impossible to be happy in a permanent way.
St. Augustine, one the early church fathers, stated that happiness is to desire something which we already have. Isn’t this astonishing? Most people normally consider they’ll be happy once they achieve something they yet don’t have, and St. Augustine overturns this point of view; and, his perception of happiness is probably closest to the real. It’s still not convincing, because it speaks about “something” we already “have”.
Let’s make a similar statement in a more modern, and hopefully, more comprehensive way: happiness is the result of the cohesion with our intimate self. Namely, we are happy when we have realized who/what we are.
As most people don’t have a practical idea about their intimate self, let’s make a supposition that every one of us is born with specific potentials and abilities for something – the so called “innate talents”. If we are able to find a profession or an activity which will allow the expression of such innate talents, then we’ll not only be fulfilled, but also consequently, happy.
Our happiness will not only be relegated to limited and short moments, but it will be our basic condition, regardless of the moments of major or minor pleasure, or those of major or minor sadness, which are determined by life situations. So, happiness will be a state of being, and not a result of having obtained something.
Now, the idea that someone is born to be a writer, an artist or a postman, is really much too simplistic, but it’s only an example. Reality has many aspects.
However, the concept is similar enough: every one of us has an innate essential direction. Realizing such direction toward a personal Path and making it concrete, makes us fulfilled.
In such a way, happiness is “simply” the realization of what we really are and the meaning of our existence (if you prefer, you can use the term “life mission”, but it’s the same thing). The more we are distant from our real nature, the more we’ll be unhappy.
This is the underlying reason why so many people who had achieved success in life, which is surrounded by pleasure that a “mere mortal” could only dream about, continues to remain unhappy, feeling an immense emptiness within. On the opposite, a person who has realized, at least partially, his essential nature, is happy independently from what he possesses and what he is able to obtain in material terms.
In most cases, almost everyone is bound by cultural habits and conventional education, to paths which are not related with our essence, our true nature; no one has ever taught us that the most important thing is to understand ourselves and our innate talents; in such a way, we have grown more and more unhappy, with an increasing sense of non-fulfillment.
So, here’s a possible answer to the question “What is Happiness?”: begin a study of ourselves in order to realize deeply and concretely who we really are. Only in such a way we’ll understand what can make us fulfilled. This, at least holds true for the writer of these words, that this is the higher and definitive success in life.
Everyone seeks money, prestige, pleasure, social power, etc. in order to feel fulfilled; everyone does this according to his own acquired, imposed and conditioned tendencies. Everyone seeks and needs happiness, but they chase it desperately in the only place they’ll never find it: outside of themselves. I understand that this has already been stated, but is it truthful? Let’s consider this: if happiness would depend only and exclusively from what we can achieve from the outside, then it would be impossible to be happy. Happiness would be a fantasy, a chimera. Not because we couldn’t achieve what we desire, but because what we already have we can lose. We can lose what nature had given to us and what we had already conquered living our daily life.
There is a way to realize a concrete and lasting happiness: become aware of the infinite possibilities and potentials hidden within every one of us- and of which we are almost totally unaware. And, through such new awareness, taste, touch, see, hear in a new way, all that life can offer to us – namely, to rebirth to a new life.