The Childish Pursuit of HappinessAnja van Kralingen
‘”Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
What a lovely piece of writing. It fills me with happiness just to read it.
And yes I am capable of these types of feelings of happiness, fleeting as they are, they are wonderful. Playing scrabble with my daughter, or my little one telling me he loves me, or my husband convincing me to go out for a quick coffee, even though we both have lots of work to do. It all makes me very happy. And it all adds meaning to my life. This is something to practice and aspire to, this type of happiness that is extracted from the smallest little things that happen to you on a daily basis.
There are thousands of quotes on happiness and loads of blogs, articles and books written on it. They all seem to say that being happy and making it a goal, is something we should all strive towards. I have very little to add to it, except to suggest that happiness as a goal is for children and fools.
Gosh, a bit harsh? Maybe, but hear me out.
A dangerous goal.
I think that making happiness a goal is childish, because it is ignoring the real. It is an ‘airy fairy’ goal, driven by the desire or need not to suffer. Nobody wants to suffer after all. And if you say that I am happy all the time, you live in a world where dilemmas and resistance do not affect you.
Now that can mean 2 things. Either you really don’t care and obstacles flow past you like water off a duck’s back, in which case you must be enlightened, or you repress it straight away, in which case I can guarantee you it will express itself as dis-ease in your physical body at some point.
And if you don’t react that way and get upset, you probably say to yourself: ‘Why do I get so upset about these things? Next year, or when I am 80, this stuff will be amusing memories.’ But you battle to get out of bed in the morning because your back is out, because deep down inside, you can’t control the reaction of anger and distress in relation to your problems.
When you are a child, you live in a fantasy world, filled with dragons and princesses and knights. And the knight always wins (or the cowboy or the policeman ‘ you get the idea). But when you grow up, you realise that sometimes the baddies win and there is no happy ending.
If you hold onto the dream of happiness, you will say that the baddies will be punished and righteousness will overcome and triumph. And you move through your dilemma holding onto this goal. Ok, this is an approach for sure, but is it a realistic or appropriate response?
What do you do then? How do process and accept these problems without sticking your head into the sand like an ostrich. Is it possible to go through all life’s obstacles with an approach that will make it bearable and meaningful without hoping that there is a happy ending at the end of the road?
What if there is a way to process upsets, work through them and move on without being paralysed in some way.
A possible solution.
What about the possibility of using humour? Humour is a conscious approach to view resistance or suffering. I am not talking about sarcasm, where you diminish yourself or the other person, but true humour which highlights the ridiculousness of your situation.
Usually what we do when we find ourselves in a dilemma, is that our ego becomes totally obsessed with the issue and all our thoughts exacerbate and inflate the issue and we get more and more upset.
I think humour is the key to a conscious approach to all the resistance life throws at us. So I propose a different goal, one which includes a good dose of consciousness. A conscious approach to dilemmas and obstacles, processed with humour.
Humour changes your perception of events and opens you up and allows you to breathe again. It puts the issue at arm’s length and creates a healthy dose of objectivity, by pointing out the ridiculous and incongruence’s of your situation. It allows the psyche to function normally again. With humour you can bring your situation into consciousness and digest it without it possessing you.
Humour is said to be inseparable from spiritual development. In fact, the French word spirituel means both spiritual and witty. The German word geist means spiritual and wit as well. If we say that someone has spirit, we imply that they are lively, not boring or serious. Don’t ever trust the spiritual guru or priest who does not have a sense of humour!
The Jewish holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote about the importance of humour to create meaning from suffering. This meaning was what gave them the spiritual strength to survive their ordeal.
Humour is also a defining character of intellect. You can’t be witty and poke fun at your situation unless you are intelligent.
The best medicine.
And just to give you some practical reasons for practicing humour, I would like to point out the real health benefits of laughter.
- It increases antibodies in saliva that combats upper respiratory infections.
- Secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from forming ulcers.
- Conditions the abdominal muscles.
- Relaxes muscles throughout the body.
- Aids in reducing symptoms of neuralgia and rheumatism.
- Changes perspective.
- Has positive benefits on mental functions.
- Reduces blood pressure and heart-rate.
- Helps the body fight infection.
- Releases endorphins which provide natural pain relief.
- Tightens stomach muscles.
- Helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues.
- AND, it makes you feel good!’.
So for the sake of your health, start practicing humour today!
And the final thought on the matter:
‘Angels fly because they take themselves lightly’