What Makes a Happy Life?

What am I doing at this hour when everyone in this wide magical world is deeply drowning in their own dreams? I am at this present wide awake and fresh. I am the creepy crawlies waiting for dawn before hitting the sack. Sigh! Life is hard. Life is extremely depressing sometimes. What makes a happy life? My mind starts wandering in search for meanings…

According to an Eastern tale, a king who failed to find happiness sought the advice of his courtiers. The wise ones advised him to wear the shirt of happy man. So, soldiers were sent all over the country to fetch a happy man’s shirt. Though the men met many people who had shirts, none of these people were happy. The story concludes that, finally when they managed to find a happy man, it turned out that he had no shirt. The tale, of course is not meant to be taken literally; yet the sagacity it implies is significant.

It is distressing to decide what makes a happy life, for we cannot agree on a definition of happiness that is acceptable to all. One man’s idea of a happy life will be entirely different from another man’s and what a third man considers to be a happy life may be acceptable neither to the first nor to the second. The attempt to cinch what a happy life is reminds me of the five blind men who tried to find the shape of an elephant.

The truth is that, as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, happiness is a state of the mind which depends solely on the individual concerned. Miley Cyrus may find certain conditions conducive to a happy life, while the same conditions may fail to make Justin Timberlake happy. Well, that is just an example. Where lies the difference? Obviously in the mental state of the two: the former found happiness because she was able to feel contented with those conditions; the latter failed to find expectations, that is, he was discontented. Since material conditions alone do not produce happiness unless the individual concerned is contented with those predicaments, it seems fairly reasonable to assume that both are equally indispensable to make a life happy.

Before we try to establish what makes a happy life, we have to be quite definite what sort of happiness we aim to achieve. For example, there is the sort of happiness aimed by those who free themselves from all worldly entanglements. Such people believe that desire for wealth and material pleasures is the root of all discontent; they hold that as long as one runs after wealth and material pleasures one cannot achieve happiness in life. Theoretically it stands that so long as there are unfulfilled desires and thwarted ambitions there will be down in the mouth and hence unhappiness. The average man will find little happiness in a life in which he has nothing that he can call his own. Besides, when you have nothing to strive for, is life worth living? So, as far as the bulk of humanity is concerned, the “happiness” derived from a complete absence of wealth and material joie de vivre is no happiness at all!

When we try to find out what material conditions and joie de vivre can create the complacency that results in blissfulness, we will be forced to admit that there can be no common standard to decide this. Some may consider gold as the first of these moira, others there may be who differ. Again, granted gold or wealth is one of the conditions for happiness, we will find it difficult to answer how much of it is needed to make a happy life. This will apply to all the other factors that one can think of. Health, social position, security in life, fame and education – all or some of these may be enumerated as factors essential to a happy life. How much of each of these is needed to make a life happy and to what extent happiness is achieved? For all these, there cannot be one universal measure. So it is futile to attempt to a single answer to the question: what makes a happy life?

Since all the material factors that contribute to a happy life may fail to produce blissfulness if the individual concerned is not contented with what he has it may appear that this feeling of complacency is the most decisive factor in the making of a happy life! The story of the meeting of Alexander the Great, with the Greek philosopher Diogenes, brings out the conflict of the two views on happiness. The philosopher wanted to show the foolishness of the Great Conqueror’s soaring ambition. “After you have conquered Athens,” asked the philosopher, “what then?

I will conquer Persia

And after Persia?

I will conquer Egypt

And after Egypt?

I will conquer the world!

And after you have conquered the world?

I will take it easy and enjoy myself.

Then why?” asked the philosopher, “can’t you take it easy and enjoy yourself now?

Wisdom lies in choosing a sensible mean between the two. It is cowardice to run away from life and live like a hermit. At the same time, to run ceaselessly panting after that pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow that always evades you is to fill your cup with tears and sorrow. One should take life easily and at a leisurely stride. As the ‘Lotus Eaters’ asked, “Why should life all labour be?” Such an attitude may enable one to achieve a certain measure of happiness – all that is needed is that mental capacity to feel contented with one’s lot in life, whatever it be. It may be asked in the face of the harsh realities of life, when insurmountable obstacles choke one’s ambitions, when one’s cherished hopes and desires burst like bubbles as if by the pin-pricks of a malignant fate, is it humanly possible to feel contented and wrap oneself in happy thoughts? Well, your guess is as good as mine; all I am certain is that: NOTHING CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE HAPPY UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW TO FEEL HAPPY!


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