Quick, when was the last time you were happy? An hour ago? The other day? I last felt like I could die without regrets about three days ago, in the evening, while my husband and I were having our pre-dinner beer. No particular reason for it, just one of those moments when everything is just right. And I’m convinced the most precious aspect of these moments is, erm, their momentariness.
How many billions of words have been written about happiness and the importance of, often making it seem it’s some sort of perpetual bliss we should all strive for? How many hours of people talking? And that’s just the modern media-rich age. Here’s a quick example of how difficult it is to nail down the very definition of happiness. As if there could be a recipe for attaining it, you just need a good enough definition. And thousands of days of positive psychology research.
Me, I’ve come up with my own definition for practical purposes. If something makes me feel like I could die at the precise moment it happens and I would die, well, happy, then that’s happiness. Example: that evening I mentioned. I was satisfied with how my day had gone, the kid was quietly drawing in the other room and my husband had received an offer for a design gig he would love doing. Result: happiness.
Sometimes I don’t even need good news to have such a precious moment, a little bit of peace and quiet is enough, although I do have to consciously make myself aware of these moments to be able to appreciate them for what they are, moments of happiness. That’s in case you’ve got the wrong impression I’ve figured out the secret to happiness. I haven’t because I don’t think there is a secret. I think we’re all overthinking it.
Scientifically, the UN’s happiness index is evidence enough that Jeremy Bentham was right in theorising about the benefits of the greatest happiness for the great number of people in a group. But does that make every individual happy? No. So here were are hunting for happiness and quite probably missing it when it bumps into us. I guess sometimes it sticks. And I don’t want it sticking.
Think about it: if you had nothing to worry about in your own life or the world, would you want to do anything? Anything at all? Can you imagine a life without challenges? A life without things to annoy you and spring you into action? it’s a good thing such a life is impossible even for the wealthiest, most intelligent, most successful, most loved people. It’s good, because once you’ve achieved everything there’s nothing to do any more.
Once you’ve achieved everything, once you’ve, in a way, owned Maslow’s pyramid, life would suddenly and unpleasantly lose meaning because, well, there would be nothing for you to look forward to, work for, hope for, and be angry about. All that’s left is to lay down and die. So, let’s not find complete happiness, shall we? Let’s have these moments of pure joy when we feel on top of the world and enjoy them while they last, then commit them to memory. Let’s have things to be angry about and things we care about but make us sad. Happiness as a non-fleeting state of being is seriously overrated.
P.S. Pictured above is one of my moments of pure unadulterated happiness: seeing the inside of a cockpit for the first time. It was a 30-year-old dream come true. It turned out a lot of people have had the same dream.