We shouldn’t assume we know what happiness is, or how it can be acquired.
Most of us do assume. Most of us spin our way through the years, sliding inevitably toward the end of life, certain we already know what happiness means and what is the path to it. A handful of contradictory associations roll around our minds, moving in and out of focus as the years pass and circumstances change.
We think that happiness is being respected. We think it is finding a true love and being united to that person. We think it is amassing enough money that fear and insecurity cannot touch us. We think it is being beautiful, strong, desirable, an ideal specimen. We think it is being smart and having a quick answer to all the usual questions about how the world should work. We think it is having likeminded friends who can commiserate with us about the evil and powerful “them” who would eradicate our kind if they could get away with it.
We devote our lives to chasing those things, one goal after another and then back around the circle again. The people around us do likewise.
The smartest person is the one who pauses early on to make sure that the goal in focus is really the right one.
Without that, we are leaving it to luck whether we ever will find happiness. We may even be leaving it up to luck whether we will even recognize happiness, having found it. Have you ever looked back on a time in your life with affection or longing? Sometimes we have happiness in our hands and we don’t even realize it in the moment.
That being the case, setting our sights on acquiring an understanding of happiness could be one of the most important things we ever do.