The Road to Happiness

There are many junctures in life where we face stumbling blocks. When we aspire for something but fail, when we love someone and lose them, when we desire something which is denied to us, when someone we love has shattered our hearts, when an opportunity we chase escapes our grasp.

Sadness is an inevitable reaction when things do not work out the way that we had planned. It can be crippling, it is one of the most painful emotions known to man. No one is immune from its clutches, and no amount of money or material possession in the world can shield us against it.

The ability to experience emotions is a barometer of a person’s humanity. The human heart has the capacity to experience a range of emotions, the stirring of the heart in reaction to an incident which had touched us, is what makes us human. Our hearts respond with gladness and is lifted whenever some happiness enters our lives, the same way that it reels with pain whenever some bitterness taints our lives.

What is our fix for such sadness? It is common, even socially encouraged, for us to drown our sorrows by listening to music, going out for a good time, going for a holiday or splurging on a shopping trip. Whenever some personal disaster occurs, it is common for us to look to our close ones to confide in or to have a shoulder to cry on, and hope for that person to fix whatever is broken in our hearts. And there are other means, altogether more unhealthy, that we use to release all the built up stress of unhappiness. We reach out for a cigarette, drown our sorrows in food and drink, become excessive in our behaviour, pick up an obsessive new hobby, immerse ourselves in work and even indulge in forbidden pleasures.

We experiment with all these solutions in order to fix us, and sometimes we come out on the other side feeling as if our wounds have been salved. But the sadness only disappears temporarily. A quick fix is, by nature, a temporary solution. It is akin to using chewing gum instead of nails to mend broken furniture. The fix is cursory and unstable, and if put under pressure again, the whole thing comes undone and collapses in a miserable heap. This is the cycle that many of us face. We experience a period of distress, solve it by trying to glue our hearts together with some superficial comfort, and when the temporary adhesive wears off, our hearts fall apart again at the easiest of provocations. Our core remains empty and even if the sadness is forgotten for now, remnants of it still haunt our hearts, ready to emerge at the next tragedy.

We look for people and things to fix us, but we do not apply the one permanent fix which can cure us, and fill the misery and numbness in our hearts with contentment and joy.

CHASING THE WRONG DREAMS?

Have we ever wondered whether the reasons our dreams don’t come true is because we may be chasing the wrong dreams, and that the chase is backed up by the wrong guidelines? Whenever we aspire towards something, and whenever we achieve something in life, we feel as if a fundamental need has been fulfilled. We overlook the basic truth that nothing in this world is perfect and that nothing lasts forever.

Human beings by nature are flawed, and in turn, create flawed environments. No one lives eternally and nothing exists infinitely. We turn to find love in the wrong places and seek happiness from the wrong sources. We set certain benchmarks to satisfy our emotional needs, not realizing that these benchmarks themselves are flawed and temporary in nature. We form attachments to our dunia and the people in it. The goals which compel us towards achieving what we perceive as a successful life are in themselves hollow and fleeting.

Consequently, we find temporary happiness in our lives in the form of jobs, children, possessions, spouses – only we don’t realize they are temporary. We think them as the be all and end all, and if not achieved, a major component of our lives would have collapsed or have no meaning. Hence, we view each failure, each obstacle, each failed relationship, as catastrophic. We over react and accord these events more emphasis and importance than they deserve.

How can we peg our happiness onto people who in themselves are imperfect and have their own sadness and problems? When we do that, we are anchoring ourselves onto people who themselves are impermanent and erratic. Children grow up, personalities and feelings of spouses change over time, any job situation is dynamic, possessions get stolen or decay, the strong can become weak and the weak can become strong. Even our own temperaments alter over time in response to all the situations we face. Nothing is permanent, everything around us is in a constant state of flux.

And the reality is that, everybody that we form attachments to will sooner or later depart from us, whether voluntarily or through death.

If we keep chasing these temporary dreams and fixing ourselves on temporary situations in the false hope that they will give us permanent happiness, the inevitable result is that our dreams and our hearts will be broken again and again every time there is a change in circumstances. The cycle of sadness will continue.

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