I have found that joy the way people talk about is like that mountain we see from the city. The closer we move towards it, the farther it seems to run away. Of course, that is idiotic because the mountain is not going anywhere. It is precisely where it is supposed to be. But we keep chasing it as if it is a distant object. How many times do we live unhappily just because we want to reach that mountain?
Why not instead of chasing it, we sit back and admire it. There is no harm in trying to pursue whatever your mountain is, but we don’t have to be miserable because of it. Being happy is a choice, not some distant object. I just recently finished reading the book “Man Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl, which I think is a must-read for someone who is looking for a different perspective on life, and this paragraph makes a perfect sense to me.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
A Personal take on happiness
I think the paragraph above speaks for itself. I think the issue today of why so many of us are unhappy even though in retrospect we are living in one of the best times in human history is because of a twisted view of how we look at ourselves. We see our lives, using someone else’s lens. Although, This can be a good thing to create a structure and maintain order in the world. While on the other hand, this can also lead to people to create a fake identity to show off how good their life is compared to everyone else. I think this particular notion is moving us away from living a truthful and honest life. We are always afraid of judgment and criticism, and this concept of, “Oh! What would others say,” which I think is leading us down to a miserable path?
Again, I am not discounting other variables that lead to mass suffering. The idea of collective pain is a complex topic with many variables that I cannot possibly cover in this single post. And there is some truth to the fact that people may behave accordingly well when they know they are being watched. It is the same idea that you should be a good human being because God is watching, and he will punish you if he sees you doing something wrong. The concept of God is another complex idea which I want to discuss on a later post.
But individual happiness matters and is essential. And one of the ways to achieve that is by not taking our lives too seriously. Our life is not just as a zero-sum game. We should do the things we want because we are passionate about it, and it makes us happy. Whatever it is, in a way that it does not hurt anyone.
Here’s a recent article I wrote on the choices we make and making peace with them: