MY IDEA OF HAPPINESS
Outline: Absolute happiness is impossible – happiness does not depend on wealth; yet adequate money is essential – interest in one’s work makes for happiness – physical health is an important factor – domestic and emotional life is a rich source of happiness – happiness is best attained by not thinking of it.
From time immemorial happiness has been the eternal quest of human beings. Yet it has frequently proved to be an illusion, a mirage. It may be safely asserted that absolute happiness-freedom from pain, sorrow and disappointment is impossible in this world. Yet there is such a thing as happiness in the broad sense of the world.
Though all people seek happiness, they don’t seek the same thing, because their ideas of happiness are different. A rich man who goes about in an imported car and lives in a posh house is popularly supposed to be happy. As a matter of fact, the only thing certain about him is that he is comfortable whether he is happy or not depends on several other factors-on how he has acquired his wealth and how he uses it, on the state of his health and on his domestic and emotional life. In my opinion, to be happy one needn’t roll in wealth and luxury. Happiness is a state of mind and does not depend very much on material possessions and prestige symbols. Milton’s Satan has eloquently stated an essential factor of happiness.
‘The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a Heaven of Hell, Hell of Heaven.’
However, it is impossible to lead a full life in the modern world without adequate money and moderate comforts and amenities. Poverty is one of the greatest and commonest enemies of happiness. If a man has to devote all his time and energy to keep the pot boiling, his mind and spirit will starve, and he will be miserable. I believe that sufficient money-not vast wealth or luxury-is essential to happiness.
If the work from which you get adequate money happens to be congenial to you, it will largely contribute to your happiness. A large part of a man’s waking life is devoted to his work, and few things can be more soul-killing than to be compelled to do, day after day, the work one dislikes. On the other hand, if you are genuinely interested in your work, it will be a source, not only of income, but of perpetual delight.
It is platitude worth repeating that one must be physically healthy and fit in order to be happy. Many rich men fall a prey to disease because of vicious habits like excessive drinking which their health enables them to indulge in. in Samuel Butler’s Erezuhon, a book describing his ideal world, those who fall ill are sent to prison, while those who commit crimes are sent to hospital. The idea is that neglect of health is a real crime which deserves punishment, while crime in the usual sense is committed by those who need mental and moral education.
Finally, an important source of happiness is one’s domestic and emotional life. However rich, powerful and famous a man can be, he cannot be called happy, if he is lonely, or if he is not happy married. Few things can contribute more to happiness than love, friendship, the laughter of children, and peace and harmony at home.
Having described my ideas of happiness, I must sound a note of warning. Those who think too much of happiness or constantly pursue it are likely to miss it. On the contrary, happiness is likely to be attained by those who are so busy doing their work and duty that they have no time to think of it.