A few meaningful quotes about happiness to start our day with:
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer
“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?” Charles Schulz
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” Denis Waitley
“You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.” Eric Hoffer
“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” George Sand
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns 🙂
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” John Barrymore
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Gandhi
“Love is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” Robert Heinlein
I have about a few dozen things to do today. So much on my to do list, it is starting to look like a blur of things I want to color over with permanent markers. Something is nagging me to write my blog post despite the bullet points I am covering with my coffee cup that are screaming for attention. So here I am, drinking my second coffee of the day, looking at the snowy mountains in the distance, and ignoring my growing snake of a list for the sake of finishing this piece.
Here’s why. When you think of something for a long time, turn it around, upside down, look at it from all angles, stand on a chair and observe it from the top, lie down on the floor and look at its underbelly, it means that that thing that you are thinking about is a) important to you, and b) bothering you. So the natural thing to do is write about it-if you are an aspiring writer. At least that’s what I usually do, and that’s what I’m doing now.
I read a blog http://toughguide.blogspot.com/2010/01/5-mistakes-smart-people-make.html yesterday and it got me thinking again about priorities, aspirations, the enigmatic notion of happiness, love’s contribution to our lives, success, legacies we leave, and how it all fits on that great big canvas called life.
We are given a mostly blank expanse when we start off, dotted with a few givens (as my math teacher used to say-he loved the word ‘givens’), and givens cannot usually change. Well, gender is a given but a sex change operation can potentially fix that if you are so inclined. Most givens cannot change. The year you were born, for example. That is an unalterable fact. Yet many of us have problems with that. We have a fixation about age, chronological and mental. My advice is that you should never ever let that given deter you from doing what you have to do, what you think you are entitled to and don’t ever apologize for being too young or too old. Age is irrelevant in the pursuit of what matters in life. Yet our social norms put so much weight on what is allowed at a certain age, and what isn’t. My answer is: “Bollocks”. I don’t think people should feel bad about a given. Color, race, religion (especially if you are born into a religious environment), gender, sexual orientation, nationality, family we are born into, education we are given, social class we happen to belong to, are all givens-at least until we can start assuming who we are as adults and often striving to evolve and change what is changeable about what we have to start with.
What we do with what we are given is our choice-within limits we either accept or that we put for ourselves. This is where the fun of life begins-defying these limits. This is where things go from static and pre-ordained into “the sky is the limit” for people who seek the seemingly impossible and who don’t accept constraints and ceilings imposed by society. I would like you to consider the example of President Obama for instance, or India’s Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, or Kocheril Raman Narayanan, India’s first Dalit, or “untouchable,” president, Rosa Parks, Neslon Mandela, Helen Keller, among many other examples of people transcending their givens and their seemingly unalterable societal norms to shape a life for themselves that defies expectations and what’s possible-inspiring millions.
One important thing is often overlooked when we look at these examples, but which usually makes a big difference in one’s life trajectory. That little thing is luck.
Luck is a chance encounter, a stranger you meet that changes your life forever, for the better and sometimes for the worse, that interview you go to, that plane you miss, that trip you take, that phone call you don’t answer, that look you exchange, that email you write, that rainstorm that gets you and a fellow human sheltering in the same place and discovering what magic means, that lottery ticket of life that you win without knowing you were in the running for it in the first place. Luck. Some people call it chance, some call it serendipity, but sometimes, out of nowhere, things happen to alter the course of one’s life without warning. Sometimes this leads to a perpetual state of well-being we often call happiness.
How does that fit with the free-will and the decisions we make to shape our lives? I think it has a lot to do with it. Opportunity rarely knocks twice. Our good fortune will be the one that will compel us to notice it and act when it knocks that one time. We open the door to our souls to receive whatever it is we were meant to experience. Some of us are oblivious to the little signs and twists in our fate that we unfortunately miss, neglect, and move on. We are none the wiser as we never know what we have missed sometimes. We are in a state of ignorant bliss or blissful ignorance. We exist, go through the moves, yet miss out on experiencing and soaking up the essence of our lives.
Success vs happiness. What is it that is most important to us. Can success mean happiness, or when we are happy, it is inevitable that we become successful, at least succeeding in living our lives to the utmost? The old man in the photo is one that came up behind me and startled me when I was taking photos in a Beirut street one night a month ago. He was laughing, so glad to have made me jump, and when I gave him a look of “have you lost it, grandpa?” he flashed a colorful sweet smile at me, asking me to not forget to think of something happy everyday and to smile whenever I can. His words were:”Don’t ever forget to smile, it will make you happy, every day. Promise.” I did, still numb from being startled out of my wits by his impossibly loud “boo” in my ear.
What is it that makes people confuse success and happiness? If I am happy, why should I worry whether I am successful or not, if success is seen as a means for happiness and not an end in itself? I see couples and families who have very little, yet who have such complicity, serenity, love, happiness, laughter – enough to package and flood the market. Are they the exception? I don’t think so. I think as long as we are making the most of what we’ve got, aiming for a life of seizing opportunities, to better ourselves and our loved ones -never at their expense – then we are using the beautiful colors and the brushstrokes that will make our life canvas the best that it can be for as long a time as we are given. What we have is the hand we were dealt, and it is ultimately our decision to either fold, bet, or bluff. As for me, I’m in. I see you, and I raise you.
Have a good midweek-Mittwoch as we say in some parts of Europe.