There are standard survival priorities; protection, shelter, then water and food. There is no point snuggling up in a camp with food and drink galore if you are going to be eaten by an army of ants or mauled by a bear. We each put having somewhere safe to spend the night high up on the list of important things to sort out. This applies to the mega rich moguls who are fearful of being kidnapped to the homeless people. Nothing is worse than trying to go to sleep with the fear of someone setting fire to you with your alcoholic breath or beating you up for some perverse few minutes of entertainment. The second consideration for your hideout is whether it provides shelter from the wind and rain. Once that is resolved you think more about something to stop your tummy rumbling. What prey has this got to do with happiness one may wonder? Well, happiness is rooted in the basics of life, before extending out to less vital things.
A flower embodies happiness. The need to be rooted. The potential to bloom. It is made of many parts. It can be incomplete - missing a petal or two. It gives, nectar. It radiates making itself seen. Beauty and fragility.
Hours and hours can be whiled away discussing the complex subject of happiness, presumptions are made, and myths are banded about. Some have a perception that those that live in the corners of the globe that “suffer” long cold winters are prone to a much greater degree of depression and suicides. That is not the case. The weather is a petal but not the whole flower.
Things will lift our mood. Bugbears can lower it. Our present mood may not always affect how we feel in general, but I defy anyone who can wait about in the freezing cold for a non-existent bus and not feel miserable. So too is there a huge difference between returning to a comfy chair next to a log fire rather than a cold damp swine box of a room. Noises outside that make you glad of being tucked up instead of noises outside that are aggravating and induce fear and worry. Not too hot, not too cold and away from threats can make us happy in the moment.
Roses have thorns, happiness has exceptions. No matter what line of thought you try there is always at least one person that throws up something that put a spanner in the works. Not everyone needs vast wealth, not everyone needs a partner to stave off loneliness, not everyone cares about how they look or how large or skinny they are. Not everyone needs to be successful, not everyone needs a permanent home. Plus, what makes one person happy is another’s worst nightmare. You can be happy making do or happy overcoming challenges.
I say we need to be rooted but what about a travelling community. Ok they have roots to their kin and usually travel in groups. Rooted to one another. But a true drifter can wander from one place to the next never dwelling long enough to bind to the soil. Thus, we may contend that it all depends on what type of plant we are. Some need to settle, others can harvest what they need floating along like algae. In every aspect of happiness, you are likely to encounter those that smash your beliefs, challenging what you hold to be true. Those facing eviction feel the worst nightmare is coming about, but others shrug it off as a minor inconvenience and an opportunity to explore elsewhere. Some, not many, select homelessness for its freedom.
We build the stalk, attempt to furnish the flower head, decorate it wildly then have extra to give. We may choose a place to live, establish a home, get a job, form a relationship, breed, then look for more advanced forms of enlightenment. Some have nectar to spare and have an opportunity to give to others, philanthropise, enjoying the internal reward of kindness.
The levels of happiness are relative. Some are content with a film to watch, a pie in the oven and a pack of beers in the fridge. Others want to experience fine dining and ‘glamourous’ events.
What is more common to all is what is summed up in the most apt saying of all; “variety is the spice of life”. We find change when we go on holiday for a break. It is great to go away and nice to return home too. To get out of a stuffy room and get some fresh air. To go from hungry to full. To be tired, to get some good sleep and wake refreshed. To read for a bit, then go for a walk and explore. Meeting up with decent folk and chatting animatedly followed by a musical rave. Try idling away an hour or so, just sitting, watching the landscape allowing yourself to think and ratify your thoughts free from anything distracting. However, sitting at home day after day bludgeons the soul and scrapes away at our morale. It comes down to the ratio of time alone and time with others. Change can be had by simply making the effort to get out and about just for the sake of it. Sometimes for nothing more than to have something to talk about.
Variety can be found in many areas of our life. We can change what we wear or decide upon a new pastime, something fresh something new. People have gone camping and found eight different ways to cook a potato. It is rare to find happiness in doing the exact same thing over and over for extended periods. Having said that we might find some things that we do frequently that we do not get bored by. You may have an exercise regime where you can see some progress. It can be the same activity but aspects of it differ. Maybe the scenery changes or the people or we challenge ourselves more. One need not justify our repetitive behaviour to those that have lives full of repetition themselves. Why are you going there, again? What is that, the fourth, fifth time, they proclaim. You too have a routine, is a common retort.
There can be a never-ending search for more. It is the search and seeking with the plotting and planning that brings the happiness rather than a wish to be contented with what you have already.
Busy, busy, busy, or just sufficiently occupied with time spare to deviate at will. A schedule that marks out days rather than blots the landscape. It is so easy to find yourself with too much to read, examine and digest, maybe feeling obliged to respond to heaps of it as well. Some call it ‘information overload’, burdened with keeping up with what is supposed to be a fun and pleasurable interaction. We are sold an illusion. You look at other people and get the impression that keeping abreast with everything is essential. You realise that vital it isn’t and only wish we came to this conclusion earlier. You are not really missing out on much at all.
Can we make changes in our lives to bring about as much happiness as possible? I presume it is possible. You may hunt down a soulmate, someone who you are predominantly at ease with and warts in their character that are excusable. Then there are those that do not find it at all fun getting up early in the morning. Knowing that you do have to get up early can make it hard to get to sleep. So, they engineer their programme to avoid early departures. You can’t blame them if they can get away with it.
We can be instructed by the wise to be grateful for what we have. Some people take great pleasure in telling us how content they are with their small weekly wage. Many have given up well paid jobs to create more freedom in their lives and never looked back. Good for them. Our situations vary so much though. There is no simple formula for inciting happiness in everyone’s current position. Some of us do manage to change aspects of day to day living, but others have responsibilities placed on them. Not all by choice. Some have children to look after as well as older parents that want daily assistance too. Stuck in the middle, longing for a permanent respite from all the obligations. Then many discover that when the children do finally leave home, a void appears. A feeling of purpose, a reason for being, is linked to happiness.
You can be a solitary happy flower in a sea scape of dry sandy desert. We know however that celibacy and pure individualism is not hereditary. Any discourse, discussion, debate and general interaction with others tends to be very uplifting.
We can feel good about ourselves when we do something to a high standard rather than leaving after bodging a job. If you’re happy I’m happy. No nagging spouse, no griping child, no disaffected complaining customers.
A quick glance in the mirror can let us reflect on the yearning for the looks of youth. Do we feel that the increase in our stature is a fine compensation for all those wrinkles? It all seems so different when in constant debilitating pain, debt or grief. Many people will have little to complain about, they have the basics in place; a nice home a reasonable income and a family all in good health. Then they may start seeking something more, higher forms of fulfilment. They may wish to bolster their self-esteem, toy with charity work, or seek what they regard as some form of spiritual enlightenment.
How much change and variety in our existence do we need to keep smiling? The mature ones have in their own way and to their own extent, explored their world and found what fits their preferred lifestyle. Change can be subtle. Rather than grand adventures, a new flavour tea or a new handcraft to while away the time. Less impulsive randomness, but nevertheless plenty of variation. Some can become reticent to any changes in their locality. They become accustomed to the way things are and prefer it to remain so. Younger people can find a passion to see things advance. They latch on to a cause with great enthusiasm and aren’t sobered by the realisation that it takes time to change peoples’ mindset. Evolution in a society predominantly occurs at a glacial pace. The eagerness can be a help, but they never stop to think if they are going about it in the right way.
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