Sunday, July 13, 2014

Where did you go, true happiness?

Happiness that is pure, comes directly from within and doesn’t depend on anything. Where is that? I have lost track of it. But now as I think, perhaps I have never experienced i. Even as a child, I derived joy from buying sweet cigarettes or riding bikes. That’s how I grew up; always dependent on something for happiness.

“If you are among the top three rankers in class, you will a cricket set” was what motivated me to wake up at 4 am on cold winter mornings and mug up long answers. I got the cricket set, danced in the new found ecstasy, then tossed the cricket set in the store room and focused on the next give-and-take deal that my parents had come up with. And this game continues till today. Getting into engineering to get a job, slogging through MBA to get a hike in salary, working late nights in office to get a promotion, getting promotion to pay the education loan and then planning for marriage and a house. You know how the story goes. And when this journey of running after that elusive happiness which is never fully attained, comes to an end, we say “that’s how life is, my son!”

I’m 27. And I am fed up of this game where I am always tied in invisible fetters. I can’t believe that this is all that there is to life. I can’t believe that the intelligence that created the incomprehensible universes and everything in it, has nothing more profound than this. Was the enlightenment thing just a hoax? Since I have never really experienced pure joy (which I assume wouldn’t depend on anything), I imagine the best version I can come up with: I am lying on green grass in soothing sunlight on a mountain. I can see colorful birds soaring in the sky. My beautiful hut is nearby where I have ample food and water. Above all, I am completely satisfied in the present moment, wanting nothing, simply acknowledging the gifts given to me by nature. I feel gratitude and true joy in my heart.

This might have been the reality few thousands of years ago but not today. And the people of those times would be puzzled to see that despite having so many things for a happy life, we are anything but happy.  So what is happening? Let’s see. 

1.       1. We are born in a world where almost everything has a price.
There is a giant machinery in place that feeds on money and thus you have to earn money even for basic necessities. Today, people spend their entire lives ensuring food, shelter and clothing for themselves (home loans and so on). Not hard to imagine that if water has a price today, the increasingly rare unpolluted air can have a price in future too, considering the pollution levels.

2.       2. The business world promotes consumerism for its profit motive.  
 Long ago, mobile phones were important because they served a valuable purpose. Today, most companies have crossed the line of working for that need and have instead become profit making machines and their agenda is to sell. Period. Why do you think Samsung comes up with an upgrade every two months?

This has another side to it. The present technology we have is imperfect. The cars and ACs we use cause pollution. Thus, greater their consumption, greater is the damage to the environment (a consequence of which is global warming).

But even after that, it works in the opposite direction. According to a TED speaker Barry Schwartz, more the choices we have, greater is the dissatisfaction we experience. Strange?

3.     3. The reference point to measure how happy we are, is situated outside of us. It is continuously            changing and not in our control.
“If only I had a black BMW like that one”, “If only I became as famous as Sachin”, “I have to have that new smart phone”. This is what the marketing arm of business feeds on. Comparison to others is our default setting, thanks to our senses and our minds. And since everyone else is doing the same, it gives us authority. Nobody is even aware that there could exist a better, more controlled state of mind.
Some great men such as Buddha tried to teach us “Peace comes from within, don’t seek it without” or “let go of desires” but it seems too philosophical. Plus nobody trusts anything anymore.

Seeing all this, my heart feels heavy and intuitively tells me that there is little hope to save the planet given our increasing selfish attitudes which could culminate in environmental disaster or a mindless nuclear war between countries.  
But in the core of my being, I also see a ray of hope; the existence of an alternate version of world where everyone shifts from mindless ownership of material things to actually finding true happiness. And that happens when each one of us deliberately work to change our default mode from selfishness to generosity.