#9 (2015) What The F*** Is Happiness?
Did you read about Mattieu Ricard? He’s the happiest man in the world. Why? Well when you read the article and then read about the people trying to ‘bottle’ his happiness you’ll understand what the big difference is.
He’s a monk in Nepal (perhaps not the happinest place in the world right now) but his corner of it seems tranquil enough. He sits in meadows, he meditates. He looks at the view. And he teaches miserable people how to meditate as they clamour to work out how to be happy whilst still keeping up with their modern lives.
The cavenous gap between him and the people who want his secret is money, industry, modern life. But instead of embracing it, they want to extract the essence of it and weave it into their pressurised, greedy lifestyles.
Money makes the world go round. It dictates the lives of everyone, except perhaps a monk meditating in a meadow. And no matter how much you might say money is not the thing that makes you happy, without it right now you would be miserable.
I can’t deny a bit more money would make me happier. I’m not struggling to eat enough to remain alive or pay my rent but I certainly turn down a lot of social opportunities, holidays are rare and I’m certainly worried about my retirement and whether I will spend the rest of my life living in unsuitable houseshares to get by. It’s a risk I took when I decided working for myself was far less miserable than a string of depressingly monotonous office jobs making big bucks for other people. But am I happier than if I’d stuck with the day job?
The happiness factor affects your mental wellbeing, which in my mind is far more important than the physical. If your head is in the right place, everything else will somehow follow. I have friends with terrible bad luck. But they are naturally happy, optimistic people. And so it just kind of rolls off them like water off a ducks back. I absorb it, and worry about it. And I hate that.
Adult life has sapped the creative enthusiasm I enjoyed up until my twenties and contrary to what you might see of my work on the internet, I struggle to be enthusiastic or creative a lot of the time. I don’t have enough happiness escapism. Maybe I should buy a caravan and every weekend go out into the country and just ‘be’.
So some more money would be good. But if I lived by a meadow, meditated every day and lived off the land, I wouldn’t need to worry about any of those materialistic things in the first place. I wouldn’t worry about whether my business was going to survive the next Conservative government, or if my Tesco Value diet was going to kill me before age 65. And I wouldn’t be doing all this social media rubbish that is eating away at my self esteem and personal downtime but is the cheap alternative to all those other things I just can’t afford right now.
If I believed in God, I would be seriously contemplating becoming a nun, but since I am content with the notion that when I die I will be eaten by worms and that is all there is, it seems like a bad place to start.
If money were no object, I would live on a big country estate that was self sufficient in every way and rescue battery hens. Because what could make anyone happier than saving the lives of animals facing certain death.
And it’s the realisation that this is what might be my key to happiness, that makes me less and less content with the life I currently lead. Because it means the answer is to give up everything and go out into the world without all the things we’re told we need.
But should I stop complaining and just make the best of it? Should I just suck it up and get on with it. After all, it could be worse. I could be terminally ill, or living in cardboard box. But then, there’s always someone worse off than you, no matter how crap your life is. I could be my housemate who lives one of the most miserable existences I’ve ever had shoved in my face at close proximity. But it’s all of his own making so I have no desire to help him. I just want to not be around him. Because being around him is just making me unhappy.
Maybe the key to happiness is not having to absorb all the negativity in the world. If I stopped watching the news, listening to the radio and ditched social media at least I wouldn’t be absorbing all the bad stuff that clouds our lives. But is that the responsible thing to do or is there happiness to be made from trying to change the world?
Or is the key simply to have a lot of positive friends and make the most of it?