Not inconsiderable moments of joy.
Stop using the word happiness. I prefer “joy.”
In a recent conversation, not knowing what other word to use, I recalled “happiness.”
Which is taboo.
Indefinable, elusive, insubstantial, fluctuating, persistent, volatile, unreachable.
What is happiness?
In the current sense we might say not being dead. That mixture of uplift, released sighs and perpetual smile of being here and now.
A sense that is concrete and present, yet ephemeral. When the virus is gone, who will we remember of that past “happiness“? Or will we seek a new happiness?
Perhaps it is a way of life? Does finding balance in the storm give happiness?
Or finding love? What if love brings suffering? Is that happiness too?
“The accomplished essence of all fulfillment” Google suggests to us.
In fact, said so, happiness does not exist. In fact, it terrifies us. Total fulfillment reminds us of ultimate death, the circle that closes.
Yet it exists if we disengage it from time.
Contentment in seconds can exist. Enjoying a food, absorbing the sunlight, being suddenly assaulted by a memory.
Moments, happy, even more if they belong to the memory. It’s hard to realize when it happens and when it happens it’s the happiness of realizing to be happy.
Of course, along with satisfaction there is satisfaction, nostalgia, yearning, warmth, a smile, melancholy, joy, perhaps joy.
But joy is a feeling to be placed in happiness.
Joy in happiness or joyful happiness, lasts very little.
Happiness is not necessarily linked to optimism and serenity. You can also be happy about something that ends.
Besides, it is extremely personal.
So does it exist? In my opinion, it does exist.
It’s not entirely describable, it’s not measurable, it’s not generalizable.
And joy is a part of happiness.
You don’t know when it comes, you don’t know if it’s repeatable, you can’t understand the mechanisms and so it’s not necessarily replicable.
Yet we think about it and seek it out.
I’ll start, some things that really give me explosive moments of happiness:
- Drinking a glass of chilled wine sitting silently at sunset on a hillside watching
- Putting the last color on a canvas, knowing it’s the last and not knowing why
- The sound of icy snow under my shoes as I walk
- The undertow of the sea at sunset or sunrise without being at sea
- In the car in silence listening to nostalgic music and humming without knowing the words
- The crunch of blown corn under my teeth while eating breakfast
- Eavesdropping on the pages of books
- Laughing uncontrollably for no reason
- Reading movie credits to the end
- Poke holes in the air bubbles of the packaging with my fingers
- Take a drawing and reduce it to confetti
- Close a horrible book and give it away immediately
- Wait for the coffee to come out of the coffeepot
- Own three pairs of shoes
- Have a series of t-shirts all the same so as not to complicate the choice
- Wear yellow
- Put the advertisement from my mailbox in that of the noisy neighbor (I know I know it is not done in fact I do not do it)
Happiness is not the absence of problems but the drive to face them.
Happiness is not getting to the end of the journey but the journey itself.
Happiness is transformation.
Happiness is enjoying small things as well as big things.
Happiness is not possession or obsession to possess, but understanding that there is no need of objects to be satisfied.
Happiness is serenely accepting all that you cannot control and trusting in change, whatever it may be.
Happiness is being as present as possible in the here and now.
Happiness is not unwavering optimism.
Nor is happiness the frantic pursuit of success.
Yes, there can be happiness in micro seconds, even if you don’t like it.
And if you don’t like it give her another name, even Ernest is fine.
I also have a definite sense of happiness, in fact I have two:
When I get paid for my work (believe me, pure happiness).
When I don’t get passed over by those who have more knowledge but less skills
Isn’t that happiness, you say?
Maybe satisfaction, maybe fulfillment, maybe enjoyment. But also happiness.
And if I haven’t convinced you then imagine a silent night, outside the city, in contact with nature. And suddenly you remember that the sky exists, something much bigger than you. Then remember Lucio Dalla‘s song, and tell me if you don’t feel a little happy.
What train of the night will you travel on
That you will pass
But as always in a hurry
You never stop…”
Don’t be afraid of happiness, says Lao Tzu.
And I would add don’t be afraid of uncertainty.
On the contrary, I would say that we should appreciate it, because only in this way all the events of life will be an opportunity to love the flow of time.
And I would also add that we should appreciate failures too, because we all fail and above all we don’t know in advance if a failure will be such or a different, indispensable success, a break with the past that catapults us into a better future.
Try to tell me what happiness is to you, I’ll be waiting.
And remember to nurture it week by week. One day at a time, one hour at a time.
With patience, perseverance, determination and relaxation.
The opposite of unhappiness is not happiness: it is a loving work towards ourselves and the rest of the world.
I believe there is a cumulative effect in this quest. Probably focusing on positive events, on balanced moments leaves less oxygen to negative feelings.
But without forcing and especially without spasmodically seeking perfection.
Oliver Burkeman in the international Festival of Ferrara said “The attempt to become completely secure and happy, often produces the opposite effect. If we could accept them, these unpleasant emotions would disappear”.
And he added: “There are many ways to be unhappy but there is only one way to be calm, and that is to stop running after happiness”.
So let’s not rush, let’s go with a quick but relaxed pace towards whatever makes us feel good.
Life is not perfect and perfection does not exist.
These years of pandemic perhaps have taught us a different step and above all we have had the precious gift of rethinking our lives.
We could declare ourselves happy with this opportunity couldn’t we?
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