Friday, February 3, 2012

On ‘the Search for Happiness’

One emotion that unfortunately does not have a clear meaning is happiness. Although it is considered a desirable state to be in no one is able to explain without ambiguity what happiness really is. Some say it is a state of mind; others say that it is a euphemism in some sense for the word ‘pleasure’ which is normally a word used in the context of human or animal instincts and there are those who say that happiness in the ideal sense is an illusion. But whatever be the specific meanings that people ascribe to it, it remains a word of the heavens. By ‘word of the heavens’ I mean something that does not have an earthly place as it is not a plain emotion. Yet people are searching for it hoping that they will find it sooner or later. In the struggles of their situations some may give up the hope of finding happiness and be content with their predicament. This is a rather unusual state to be in because on one hand they have not found the state of mind that they are looking for and on the other they give up the search accepting what little they have and they find it! But there is a pathetic fallacy associated with the search for happiness and it is that one usually does not know to what extent happiness is possible and how to preserve it till the end; yet one wants it quite desperately.

From time to time it has been observed that we go through happy moments now and then. If they are outcomes of the dreadful word ‘success’ then you can be quite sure that it is subject to insecurity. Preservation of a success induced joyful state is by no means happiness. Happiness is a joyful state which is experienced for its own sake or when you are involved in an activity that you like without any intentions of benefiting from it in the future. Happiness from this angle never exists in the future. Attempts to discover happiness only leads to creating techniques that will have to be applied to be able to find it. But application is a process which has nothing to do with the end result, which in this case is happiness. There have been people who write about happiness; psychologists who research on the subject and find only their own perspectives of it. Whatever be the attempts to find the heavenly state and preserve it till kingdom come, you should be spared the vanity of associating it with success or priggish talks. It must be noted that one who experiences anxiety does not want to be unhappy but is desperately trying to find this heavenly state of mind. One who is anxious is not just tired but is terrified at the thought of consequences of not finishing the line or entering mainstream. He is anxious and not unhappy.

The only person who really is unhappy is one who is able to see that nothing in life can ever bring him happiness. If nothing can bring me happiness even from within then I would not want to keep searching for it as it is a waste of intrapersonal effort. If I am unhappy then I may consider not looking for happiness at all and this unhappy mind does away with itself. It has let go of my unreasonable search of that which I cannot describe. If I cannot describe it and have no idea of what it is then it does not exist in my being. If someone else finds it in common pursuits then I can be quite sure that that is not my concept of happiness because I cannot find it. Happiness is simply a myth.

38 comments:

Pkayen said...

This post is full of keen insights into the nature of happiness. But the conclusion seems extreme based on the various observations made. For example, you have given a possible description of happiness, "Happiness is a joyful state which is experienced for its own sake". Why is this impossible?

Can there be unhappiness if happiness is a myth?
Why do we seek happiness in the first place?

Unknown said...

When I said that happiness is a joyful state experienced for its own sake I meant that it is not sought after but discovered. Whereas to seek happiness as an idea is quite different as what is experienced then is the search and not the emotion/experience. Seeking happiness is actually confused with seeking the object that is perceived to give happiness.

Your question 'can there be unhappiness if happiness is a myth' is interesting. My answer based on the thoughts that I have expressed is 'no'. The reason is that if we misunderstand happiness we naturally misunderstand unhappiness. If this is the case then we may experience an emotion that is the opposite of pleasure.

I think we seek happiness in the first place because we want permanent pleasure. As permanent pleasure cannot be achieved on account of being biologically impossible we resort to the mind to give that permanent pleasure which is divorced from sensory pleasure. This mental experience is itself eventually determined by the body because what we call mind also derives energy from the body. Hence we seek happiness as a mental experience without understanding the reality of the body and mind.

Sublimation said...

Ajay, it is question of whether we are searching for happiness or letting it just happiness. I have posted in my blog 'In Pursuit of Happiness', an excerpt from which I am reproducing below-
"True happiness cannot be pursued. It just happens and is entirely subjective. So why look for definitions and other people’s views on it. It is that moment when all other thoughts come to a standstill and you are immersed totally in that moment of joy. It happens to different persons at different moments and these moments pass by. It is only when one has attained total internalisation and is at peace with himself does perpetual happiness occur. This is for each individual to experience and pass from one state to another to everlasting happiness ( as you may call it ), Ananda is the final stage of SatChitAnanda. This is what you will in find in Indian Philosopy. You can only pursue internalisation in a quest to understand your Self . Perpetual Happiness is the end.."

Unknown said...

True happiness cannot be pursued. As an idea its fallacy is what is pursued. What one calls happiness is actually a combination of peace and pleasure. But this state is not permanent the moment you move out of the secure zone. This secure zone is a transcendence that is made possible as long as you are cut off from transactions with the world. The moment you enter into a transaction instability arises.

Sublimation said...

Continuing what I said earlier and your response that true happiness cannot be pursued, and that this is a transcendence that is made possible as long as you are cut off from transactions with the world. The moment you enter into a transaction instability arises, would'nt you call that as the stage of Nirvana? that's what I meant when I said that perpetual happiness is the end. For me these moments of happiness are simple to experience as they happen without any conscious effort on my part.

Gaze into the eyes of a child
experience the pure innocence reflected there
Feel the smoothness of its cheeks,
and see the smile on its lips.

Watch the sun rising
while taking a walk on the beach,
With the sound
and the rhythm of the waves.

Experience the colours
of the Fall in all its glory,
And see the paintings
of Monet in the nearby gallery.

Marvel at the beauty
of Rebecca in the Salarjung Museum,
And speak
to the roses in the garden.

These are certain moments and they pass me by,
They remain etched in my memory, as I try
To understand what is my quest,
To perpetuate these moments, try my best.
For these are goals that move away,
Before I can rest and have my say,
And hope everyone finds happiness,
On his way.

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