Westerners define it differently than Easterners. For Westerners happiness is a feeling of euphoria. It’s a sense that everything is going to be wonderful, and that we are going to live happily ever after and ride on unicorns that fart cotton candy in the shape of kittens dressed in panda costumes (yeah, that was for you BgK!). In a word, it’s pretty unrealistic. One of the reasons is that the Western view of happiness is based on the external. If I buy a house, I’ll be happy. If I get a good job, I’ll be happy. If I get a big screen TV, I’ll be happy. If I shower myself and my family with luxuries that make Olympus envious, then I will be happy. See a trend here.
The Western view of happiness is totally based on external. Things that we do, obtain, or achieve outside of ourselves. They are hollow victories, and the rarely give any sustainable meaning to one’s life. Remember that smart phone you just bought? Next year’s model will be released soon, and it will have more memory, more features, and touch screen that will lick your nether regions if you get the right app. A Westerners view of happiness is based on conquests. It’s kind of like Gilgamesh run amock, only Gilgamesh never realized that his victories were hollow and that his defining commitment was to protect his people.
Easterners, on the other hand, view happiness as a momentary event. We are happy one moment, and sad the next. Happiness is a state of complete joy and serenity. It is the overwhelming urge to smile, laugh, cry, and dance at the same time. To allow one’s heart to explode with delight. However, it is also with the knowledge that true happiness is momentary. It’s impermanent. Really, the best way to explain it is inner peace. It’s knowing how you react to certain situations, and to be able to allow yourself to feel those emotions that you need to feel to get through trying times. Without that inner peace, we tend to look for outside forces to make us well which causes more suffering, which encourages us to seek out more bad forces, and so on, and so on.
However, it doesn’t end. It’s impermanent in the sense that one moment of happiness is not like another. It is also understood that happiness is in balance with suffering. You can not achieve enlightenment without suffering, neither can you achieve happiness without sadness. However, within that balance comes contentment, and the knowledge that happiness is an ever flowing river. It has it’s good parts, and bad parts, and there is occasional loss, but ultimately that is life. Short, beautiful, impermanent, and understanding that balance comes peace.
His Holiness the Dalai Llama has said that happiness is a muscle. It is something that we must work to achieve, through meditation and focus on where we are at the moment. My wife does not like that analogy. It’s a hard analogy to wrap our heads around. Either something makes us happy, or it doesn’t. What HHDL is saying is that we must be active in our happiness. We must cultivate our own inner peace.
For me happiness comes from making things. The things I make are rubbish for the most part. It’s not the end product, it’s the process. It’s letting energy flow through me to make something, to cook something, to build something. To be a part of the impermanence of it all. It’s joyous actually. I see that joy extending to my kids, as I watch them build something. It cames from this inner need to see how something works, and how it connects us. My happiness comes from the connections I cultivate, the people I talk to. The people who give me a little piece of themselves everyday, and in return I give myself.
More importantly, it’s knowing there is balance that I am responsible for in my own life. I am the cause of my own happiness. I can either be a part of this world, or I can shun it. I know a lot of people who shun it. They call themselves cynics. They would much rather say why I am wrong, then look at themselves. I am not saying that everything in the world is great. There are lot of things that suck. There isn’t a library big enough to contain all of the sucky things going on right now. However, I can’t let those sucky things stop me. In fact, it is my duty to help other out of their sucky situation as other have helped me out of mine.
We are, as it turns out, responsible for those around us.
Go be Happy. Go Be Awesome!