I’ve been chewing on the idea of happiness for a long while now, and I’ve noticed something; it seems like it’s far easier to get a grasp on what happiness is not than what it is. We are told that happiness is Stuff or Self-Sacrifice or Falling In Love, that happiness is basically anything our society can turn into a product or an escape, yet all of those ideals are demonstrably lacking. I think that half the reason that people get involved in alternative religions is due to a dissatisfaction with society’s ideas about happiness.
But what actually is happiness, and how do we find it? That’s a lot tougher, mostly because happiness is a pretty individual thing; that which brings me happiness may bring you boredom, or vice versa. But I think I have a pretty solid idea, so I wanted to post it here and get some feedback on how my ideas resonate with all of you. Happiness, I believe, can be broken down into two broad categories:
1) Happiness through self-definition.
2) Happiness through connection to others.
These two define the inward and outward paths that souls take in their evolution, first one of movement inward to the creation of a individual self, then outward toward connection to others and, ultimately, Unity. I believe that just about everything that can truly make us happy can fit into these two broad categories or into both to some extent. Let’s look at a few examples and also at how each can be distorted by our misunderstandings about what happiness truly is.
Love: The ultimate in the second category, but can be twisted into possessiveness, which distorts connection through the desire to deny others the “special” connection you have, or self-sacrifice, which denies self-definition.
Success: A form of self-definition, namely the achieving of goals, which can be distorted into greed (lack of self-definition leading to the judging of worth based upon possessions) and power-hunger (connection overridden by a desire for control)
Spirituality: Can fit into both categories. Distorted versions run the gamut from self-righteousness (lack of self-definition compensated for by surety gained by being “right” or “chosen”) to herd mentality (massive overemphasis on connection at the expense of self-definition, thus the “church” is always right and never questioned) to escapism (ascetics and mystics divorcing themselves from society, thus throwing everything into self-definition and ignoring connection).
I think the key to true happiness is finding the balance point between self-definition and connection to others. Once again we see the seeming-contradiction in human nature, the “divine dichotomy” as Neale Donald Walsch calls it. We must define ourselves as individuals before we can become part of a group, we must have groups in order to define ourselves as individuals.
I would love to hear other’s take on this.