I’ve never actually been that good at being happy. I tend to be either slightly manic or rather downbeat (or further downbeat,wrapped in a soiled duvet of bleakness, but we’ll not go there right now). The times I really connect to actual happiness it really feels like something different to happiness.
I find the word happiness to be a bit overexcited. It reflects a state of mind that I know is doomed to crash. Happiness means bouncing around and eventually getting tired and falling to pieces. It strikes me as an unsustainable emotion. This is fine, of course, it just means you shouldn’t get too carried away. I don’t think the pursuit of happiness should be an enshrined doctrine. It’s a dangerous route to take.
Not that I’m some kind of misery farmer. I don’t think sadness is actually a good thing (though it can be useful, and is a process that we clearly need). It’s just that what I really want from life is contentment.
Contentment is that warm glow that comes from simple things. It’s not an explosion, but a cosy fire. Knowing that you’re living right, loved, and on the right path, is enough. It isn’t a reaction to good news, its the process of living. It’s being solid. It’s being in yourself. In the present.
In actuality, I think that’s the happier thing.
So happiness comes from not necessarily shooting for happiness. Happiness comes from being in yourself, and living a forward facing life. Happiness is simplicity and directness. Open hearted engagement with the universe around you and the people within it.
It all sounds so straightforward. I kind of suspect that happiness, or at least contentment, should be the default. We shouldn’t have to chase it, it should just be here, swelling from within and surrounding us like an irradiated blanket. Bursting out and into the world around us, spreading itself freely like a friendly virus.
I do not always pick the best metaphors.
Anyway, the point is that this clearly isn’t the case. I don’t know if its just me, but I think most people aren’t happy. I hear a lot of grumbles, and I sense a lot of alienation.
I think there’s something very wrong with our world, and that leads to people being disconnected from the sources of happiness that are present both outside and in. There’s artificial distance, and too many distracting noises and goals. We are drawn away from the things we need in the pursuit of something else.
The pursuit of happiness. It’s not a pursuit. We shouldn’t be chasing it down. That’s only going to scare it off. I read somewhere recently that the pursuit of happiness required a catch and release policy. You can’t hold on to happiness rigidly. You have to swim with it.
Life is fluid. We have to be the same if we’re to make the most of it. Contentment comes from fluidity, and hard immobility is the thing to avoid.
Illustration by Grant