I woke up thinking about happiness. That might be because I wasn’t feeling particularly happy today.
But it made me contemplate what happiness means. From a very young age, we learn about being happy, and making others happy. Do this or that, and it will make Mum or Dad happy. Receive some nice presents for a birthday or Christmas, and you will be asked if they make you happy. In everyday conversation, the concept of being happy turns up more often than you might think.
“Happy to see you”. “Are you happy with the service today?” “Are you happy with your main course?” “Ollie looks happy today”. “Happy with that?” “Does that price make you happy?” “Are you happy in that new job?” “I see you have changed the car. Happy with the new one?” And so on. The reverse applies of course. “They charged too much, I wasn’t happy with that dealer”. “I waited in for that parcel that didn’t arrive. I wasn’t happy, I can tell you”. If you counted up how many times you used the word in a week, I am sure it would surprise you.
Once you are old enough to aspire to something, the idea of happiness takes hold. You begin to perceive that something will make you happy. Despite being cared for by your parents, and wanting for nothing outside of your experience that far, you start to imagine being happier, all the time. You enjoyed the sweets you had just eaten, but a second bag will make you happier, you are sure of that. The new toy you got was great to play with, but the option of an additional toy would make you really happy. As you grow, it never stops. You will be happy when you’re older, and able to do things bigger children are allowed to do. The end of the school term will make you happy, as you will be on holiday for a while. But then going back to school will make you happier, because you are missing your friends.
Having your own car will make you feel grown up, and give you freedom of movement. That will make you very happy. But that car comes with its own problems. Breakdowns, flat tyres, and having to buy petrol. So, not that happy after all. Having that nice girlfriend, and getting married. You know that will make you happier than you have ever been. But you have to learn how to live with someone else, change some habits, and worry about things like unwanted relatives, and bills. So, that didn’t work out as happy as you had expected it to. Have children then, that will guarantee life fulfillment, and real happiness. I chose not to, expecting that to make me happy. One thing I will never know the answer to.
A worthwhile career must surely make you happy? Trouble is, when all’s said and done, a job’s a job, worthwhile or not. You have to go to work at times when you don’t want to, and do things you would prefer not to. So maybe that career isn’t the source of happiness after all.
Happiness is far from tangible. We are conditioned to expect it from an early age, and strive to find it, whatever that takes. But the absence of happiness is very different to real unhappiness, you learn that too. At times, it can be found in small things. The wag of a dog’s tail when you come home. Blue Tits feeding chicks in a nest box. But it is fragile, and that feeling you think is happiness can be easily shattered by one harsh word, or thoughtless gesture. Like Inner Peace, it is something we all seek, though not necessarily in the same way, at the same time. It is a word we are all very familiar with, but a sensation that is all too fleeting at the same time.
What about you? Happy?