Friday, March 11, 2016

Happiness


Happiness and intelligence seldom go together, said Ernest Hemingway.  Malayalam poet, Akkitham (who will be turning 90 exactly a week from today), illustrated it with an example in one of his poems.  The little son joins the father on the latter’s morning walk.  On the roadside they see the body of a woman who was raped and killed in the night.  The father tells his little son,

Light is sorrow, my son,
Darkness is solace.

Was the Buddha a happy person?  Was Jesus?  The existential sorrow that haunted intelligent people like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus is reflected throughout their brilliant novels as well as non-fiction works.  Can Mahatma Gandhi be described as a happy person?

On the other hand, can we describe any of the above as essentially unhappy persons?



They were happy at a level that the mediocre people don’t ever achieve.  Wealth, luxury, possessions, power, entertainment, delicious food – the list of things that serve as sources of happiness for ordinary people may be quite endless.  None of these would have made any of the above people happy.

The song of the birds, the rhythm of the rain and the grace of the mountains would have provided quite a lot of happiness to the people mentioned above.  Yet their happiness did not come from them either.  Their happiness belonged to yet another level.

They were all pursuing the light that Akkitham spoke of.  That pursuit was the source of their happiness.  Yet the same pursuit would cause them sorrow too.  The Buddha would declare life as sorrow once his pursuit found its fruition.  Jesus would lament and ask his Father God to take away the his cup of grief.  Sartre’s pursuit would reveal to him the terrible responsibility that accompanied human freedom.  Freedom is a condemnation, he would discover – with the happiness of the enlightenment and the sorrow that underlies every enlightenment.  Camus would similarly be torn between the agonies and ecstasies of life’s absurdities. 

Today, happiness is an industry run by spiritual gurus who wear various garbs.  None of these gurus have actually experienced the agonies of the pursuit of happiness.  They have discovered it in exactly the very same things or places where the common man also discovers it: wealth, possessions... (see the list above).   These gurus are just ordinary people, just as ordinary as the tradesman.  The only difference is that tradesmen sell hardware while the gurus sell software.   And both laugh all the way to the bank. 

Light is sorrow, my son,
Darkness is solace.



 This post is inspired by Indispire Edition 108: #Happiness

16 comments:

  1. Nicely put. I differ from you, in the last para you said, These gurus are just ordinary people, just as ordinary as the tradesman.Firstly, all are not same.And secondly,even if they are so, they are trading something valuable , something which we have forgotten to create ourselves, something which we have denied in our stressful life. Thus, when everybody is running after Materialism, they are marketing Spiritualism. It benefits those who believe them and a little to themselves as well. (hope so!)

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    1. It is spiritualism, @ngel, and not spirituality, which they are peddling. That's precisely my problem with them. I am myself a victim of one such godman who is a mere landgrabber though he has millions of followers both in India and abroad. He took over the school where my wife and I worked, threw out the entire staff on the road for the sake of grabbing the 15 acre land of the school, and shut down the school. How can I ever think of him as a holy man when I know the simple truth that he is a land mafia don? I know quite a few more of the same sort.

      There may be a few honest souls among the entire lot of frauds. But we know much about gangsters, rapists, swindlers and the like who don the holy garb and cheat people.

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  2. Happiness is a variable of pain/sorrow. The 'pursuit' of it makes happiness a trickster and a drifter too. I have lately felt that happiness is another name for child. One stops being happy after that.

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    1. True, Sunaina. That's precisely why Jesus said that "unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Only the child's innocence knows real happiness. After that, we substitute happiness with possessions, and such things.

      Bertrand Russell has a beautiful essay on this. If material possessions can make us really happy, then the man with the most possessions must be the happiest person. That's his logic. Is Vijay Mallya a happy person? Is Mukesh Ambani? If they are happy, why are they still running after more and more - endless running? Illusions...

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  3. Happiness is a choice..i have seen sometimes its also a habit n can be developed

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    1. Highly debatable, Ananya. I have seen quite many people who choose happiness in the pub.

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  4. I could relate to it and definitely a spirited post. God won't deny you a spiritual experience just because you are not a spiritual leader.

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    1. In fact, spiritual leaders hardly ever have spiritual experiences - they are busy selling god to others.

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  5. Great one! As Earnest Hemingway had stated, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

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    1. I quoted Hemingway from memory. Thanks for the original quote.

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  6. Happiness is hidden in the smallest things and simplest acts while we are busy making our way through complexities and materialism to achieve it! People probably feel that contentment means stagnancy and laziness whereas it is the first step to happiness while we strive to achieve the next goal.

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    1. Happiness is not a destination but the journey, as someone said.

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  7. Thomas Gray said it right, 'If ignorance is bliss, why do we seek knowledge?' You have answered this unsolved question so beautifully. And happiness is quite a mirage. We run after it, and the distance never lessens.
    Very thoughtful read. :)

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    1. Happiness cannot be the objective or goal of a search...

      Glad you liked it.

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