Sunday, August 15, 2010

what makes humans happy?

Sarah Wilson's column today really struck a chord with me, as it always does. She chatted with The Happiness Project's Gretchen Rubin and asked her to share one, foolproof trick to instilling ourselves with true happiness. You can head over to Sarah's blog to find out what that is but, needless to say, it's within everybody's reach. What I have learned is that happiness is not a lofty ideal that you can only discover after abandoning your family and friends to rummage desperately through Ubud or India... It's waiting patiently at your door, ready to be let inside your heart, if only you open yourself to the possibility.

The lovely Sarah has issued a challenge - she will give away three issues of Gretchen's book to readers who share what they think makes humans happy. I would love to read the book (it is released in Australia this month) so I thought I would partake, just for fun.

What makes humans happy? Well, I can only speak for myself, of course. I am no expert. But these past few days have been an ordeal... trying to stay happy, while my best friend lies in a hospital bed, feels wrong. I have struggled, I really have.

Surprisingly enough, what transformed my outlook around was her. She is happy. My best friend, who has two broken legs, the love of her life stuck on the other side of the city awaiting numerous operations after his legs were shattered in the accident, the prospect of not being able to see him for weeks, at least, and months of rehab and recovery in front of her. She is putting on a brave face, but she is truly able to see the magic in what I could only conceive as an awful, terribly unfair situation.... They will walk again. Somebody is watching over us, she reminded me, smiling brightly. Somebody, up there, loves us. Which made me take a deep breath and realise that what I could only perceive as a nightmare was, actually, a miracle.

So, back to the question... What makes humans happy, in my short-lived experience, is that age-old, emancipating consciousness that we are lucky. I hope this doesn't sound too morbid for what should be an uplifting post, but, just think about it - isn't it a miracle that we are alive today? Our lives are kind of thrilling, when you think of it like that. That being alive itself is the miracle, not the achievements and the experiences and the people whose lives we have touched. Just being.

And that's when those other things come into play. When we think of our lives as precious, beautiful gifts we are incredibly fortunate to be given, it is impossible to mindlessly fritter them away. Why wait until tomorrow, or the next day, to do what we want to do today? Why follow pointless rules? Why allow ourselves to succumb to fear? Everything futile and meaningless falls away when we realise that we are responsible for our own destiny and our own happiness. I don't mean responsible just in the sense that we are in control, but also in the sense that we have a duty to all those people who are nowhere near as lucky as us (and no matter how dire the situation, there is always someone... in fact, several billion someones), to live in a way that fulfills our potential for happiness. Capiche?

Of course, it's impossible to maintain this mindset, all the time. Life often gets in the way. Our best friends are victims in horrific car accidents. We lose our jobs. Our hair doesn't sit right. Everything just seems hopeless. So that's when we need to be still. Close our eyes. Take a deep breath. And remind ourselves that we may not be perfect. Bad things may happen to us and the people we love. But... we're alive. We have today, and the potential of tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, to change everything. Maybe not the physical things, but definitely our perception of ourselves and the world around us. Which, if you think about it, is everything. I don't know about you, but this reminder makes me happy... and, since I am human, I thought it be one, of many, answers to this never-ending question, which we all share.

"Here, too, a brand new day is beginning. It could be a day like all the others, or it could be a day remarkable enough in many ways to remain in the memory. In either case, for now, for most people, it is a blank sheet of paper."
— Haruki Murakami (After Dark)


Corrine/Frock And Roll said...

Have I told you lately that I love your blog, Laura?! Because I do. I really, REALLY do, and your take on happiness aligns perfectly with mine: happiness may not be attainable 24/7 (due to some of the events/occurrences that you listed), but living with a goal of cultivating happiness and choosing happiness is very attainable indeed! My high school history teacher once said to me: ''do you know what the secret to life is? Be HAPPY. Have FUN. There it is. That's it!'' It's always stuck with me, and I've tried to live my life accordingly! :)

Laura Valerie said...

Oh Corrine, you really are the sweetest! Thank you SO much. Your high school history teacher sounds great... isn't it funny that somebody can say something so small yet it stays with us forever?