On Being Happy

      18 Comments on On Being Happy

There is a misconception that runs rampant, particularly among the under-50 set, that happiness is something to be gained.  Gotten.  Achieved.  Won.  That happiness is a goal to go after, and that one’s happiness can be sourced from another person, or a possession, or an “if only I had __________, I would be happy” type of thing.

Which is rather like chasing one’s tail:

There was an old wise cat and a small kitten in an alleyway. The old cat saw the kitten chasing its tail and asked, “Why are you chasing your tail?”

To it the kitten replied, “I’ve been attending cat philosophy school and I have learned that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and that happiness is located in my tail.  Therefore, I am chasing it: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness forever.”

Laughing, the wise old cat replied, “My son, I wasn’t lucky enough to go to cat philosophy school, but as I’ve gone through life, I too have realized that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and indeed that it is located in my tail. The difference I’ve found though is that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business and live my life, it just seems to follow after me wherever I go.”

I may not have a tail, but this tale hits home for me.

I believe happiness is an ember that glows inside every person, and everyone’s radiance is unique.  Surrounding yourself with people who fan that ember into flame can make the glow more powerful, yes.

I purchased this painting over the weekend. It speaks to the happy inside of me. I cannot look at it without smiling.

I purchased this painting over the weekend. It speaks to the happy inside of me. I cannot look at it without smiling.

Participating in activities that rejuvenate your inner spark can make your happiness shine.  True.

But the light and the heat that shines and warms is internal.

Alternately, if fire is not your thing, think of happiness like a wave.  Not the kind that breaks at the beach. Those waves are ultimately the result of water being blown about by the wind.  Rather, happiness is like an internal ocean wave.  The ones that are deep in the water. The ones that move and swell and recede *internally* and are so huge they can be seen from outer space.  Happiness is like that.  It comes from within, it is powerful, and it is not subject to the whims of the blowing wind.

Basically, whether yours is born of fire or water, happiness is an element of every life. And it comes from within.

Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.

~ Henry van Dyke

I have a child-size edition of the 1914 book Just Being Happy, that is filled with pieces of wisdom such as the above.  Thoughts and quotes, short and sweet, that were originally compiled for an edition intended for young people.  I fear that if such a book were created today it would read something along the lines of, “My iPad makes me happy” -OR- “Getting __________ is what happiness is all about.”

The great lesson to be learned is that happiness is within us. No passing amusement, no companionship, no material possession can permanently satisfy.  We must depend upon our own resources for amusement and pleasure.  We must make or mar our own tranquility.  To teach them this is the preparation for life which we can give our children.

~ Anonymous

Happiness does not come from things.

The forward to this tiny tome speaks to the inalienable rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The editors stated, "...this [book] is bound up in the hope that it may serve as a companion to those who love life and still pursue the blue bird of Happiness."

The forward to this tiny tome speaks to the inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I don’t believe that happiness can be chased and caught.

It does not come from possessions.

It cannot be bought, sold, or bartered.

Happiness cannot be outsourced.  It is not something that can be ‘fixed’ by the tech guys in New Delhi (2 years of happiness guaranteed, yours today for only $329.99!) any more than it can be ordered from de Boer.

Happiness does not come from another person.  You can share your happiness with someone else, and your individual fires can breathe one another in until the flames are all-consuming.  In those moments it can seem like something outside of yourself is the source of your happiness.  Especially at the beginning of a relationship.  (NRE, anyone?)  It’s an understandable mistake, but it’s one that all too often has negative consequences.  Because you cannot look to another person to “make” you happy.  Believing that someone else is responsible for ensuring your own happiness – or worse, believing that one person and only one person (a person other than yourself) is the one and only source of your happiness – will keep you in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction.  Because that belief falsely puts the responsibility for your own happiness on somebody else’s shoulders. When in actuality, you are responsible for your own happiness.

If you are happy, it is largely to your own credit.  If you are miserable, it is chiefly your own fault.

~ William Dewitt Hyde

You have to find your happiness inside yourself.  It’s there.  It’s always there.  Sometimes we misplace it, or we forget where it originates from, but it’s there.

Happiness is rarely absent.  It is we that know not its presence.

~ Maurice Maeterlinck

When you find your happy, no matter how tiny the ember, do everything in your power to fan it into a flame.

It’s the only way to glow.


18 thoughts on “On Being Happy

  1. Jayne

    That was a great reminder of where to focus – my focus has been like those sprinklers with moving bars that spray. You reminded me of my old book I think it’s called The Road to Happyland – with Aesop’s Tales type of stories.

      1. Jayne

        I like that… does he have 2 left feet? I actually looked and found the book. ”How to Find Happyland” Publisher: G. P Putnam’s Sons, New York & London, 1926 Illustrator: Florence E Storer (I don’t know how to put an image in this window or I would have)

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Thus, the ‘self’ in self-esteem. 😉

      You’re right. Confidence, like Happiness, comes from within. I believe every element that defines one’s character is internally sourced.

  2. wildoats1962

    Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, it says nothing about catching it. There is the freedom to make decisions, and the freedom from decision making. Being happy is a decision only you can make.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      It’s the pursuit that is a constitutional right, and I realize that within the context of the era in which it was written, “pursuit of happiness” translated to “work in whatever field you choose.” The idea being that one’s destiny was to be decided by one’s self, and it was primarily occupation-focused.

      But there are a good number of people today – and according to the forward in my little book, the same was true 100 years ago – who believe happiness is something to be chased and caught, rather than something to be developed from the inside out.

      The P. F. Volland Company writes:

      To have life and liberty without happiness is to live an incomplete and unsatisfied life. Not that we ever attain complete happiness in this world–the pleasure comes in the pursuit, not in the attainment! . . . One reason why we never overtake Happiness is because it is always fleeing from us. Only when we attain our ideal do we attain complete happiness, and as our ideals constantly recede, so Happiness in its complete fulfillment forever escapes us.

      Chasing Dreams = Pursuing Happiness

      ^THAT, I get.

      But the idea that happiness comes from external forces, rather than being an intrinsic part of our makeup? Well, let’s just say the advertising business wouldn’t be as successful as it is today if people recognized that nothing outside themselves has the power to “make” them happy. 😉

  3. wildoats1962

    Addictions are rooted in that “If I only …” mindset and advertisers play into that. One wonders if a truly happy person would be very creative. Artistry usually reveals inner conflict. Invention comes from a desire to do or to have something. Those would indicate a state of less than total satiation. Total satiation would probably only exist in death, specifically Heaven. That sounds rare.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I met a lot of artists this weekend. I don’t think any of them were particularly conflicted.

      There is an art to being happy, I think. Total satiation is not, to my way of thinking, true happiness. But being content in the midst of chaos, that is the mark of a happy person. Struggle, try to achieve something you want, express yourself, etc., but go through the hurts with a positive outlook, a happy heart.

      Necessity is the mother of invention. You don’t have to be miserable to create something new.

      The “if only…” ~ It’s unrealistic to believe that you can only be happy if/when *everything* is going your way. How would you even recognize happiness if that was the case? Life is about contrasts. There is no joy without sorrow. Opposing emotions act as a foil. Opposite sides of the same coin.

      1. wildoats1962

        The Greeks had the axiom, everything in moderation, nothing to excess. Both Stoics and Epicureans held that you pay for pleasure with pain. You only truly enjoy water when you are thirsty. The more extreme the thirst, the more extreme the pleasure. So complete satiation might instead involve going to Hell first, then Heaven. Prolonged happiness would be a more Epicurean outlook. I prefer the optimism of that, but I see plenty of Stoics that are attempting to complain their way to a least pain approach.

        I need to do so more thinking about the motivations for creativity. But I think negative motivators dominate.

        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          Perhaps it depends upon the purpose of the creation, and whether it is for aesthetics or something else. Creating a painting of a seascape is a bit different than creating a weapon of mass destruction. Perhaps it is a difference of expression versus… What? Not sure, but it bears further scrutiny.

          I know a few people who are trying to complain their way to what they want. Not sure if it’s a ‘least pain’ approach, exactly. It’s definitely painful to my eardrums. 😉

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