How to Not find happiness – I

Searching for happiness

How to not find happiness?

The Awareness

The seeds of this blog were planted in my head when I first saw the movie – In Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. This is not a review blog, but there was something about the movie that created an uneasy feeling in my stomach that went on for years. It was two things actually.

First how does that movie anywhere relate to happiness? Is there one moment of happiness in tie movie except the place where it ends? And second, how did this movie become a blockbuster hit, racing in the charts and get ranked 8 out of 10 on IMDB? 

Please don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and it is a fantastic screenplay. My line of inquiry is along human nature. We as humans are all in pursuit of happiness and we all conform to it as a reality. I have never met a sane person who would dare say that he is looking for sadness or pain or failure. 

So If we are all in the same persuit, then why are we attracted to the movies, or characters or books that so wonderfully depict pain? 

This holds true even for comedy. The greatest comedians ever born – Charlie Chaplain, always  depicted in his silent screenplays the pain of joblessness and post war depression in the United States. Coming to the late nineties sitcom – Friends. Yes we all love Friends. There is the pain of estranged relationship between Ross and Rachel that kept the sitcom going season after season. 

Coming to books we know that Harry Potter never finds ever lasting happiness in the series. There were his moments with his friends, of course, but those moments don’t make a major contribution to the story. Do they? 

The story of Harry Potter  is a sad reflection on our lives. The story is interesting as long as there is pain, fear, danger, sadness or failure. The story ends when the protagonist finds happiness. 

So here is my question. Is something wrong with us? Seeking happiness in our personal lives and appreciating the pain in others’. It may seem like a norm, but I’m writing this blog to question the norm and explore the possibilities within us. 

Let me put forth the question in a different way. If we seek happiness always, then why are we invested in billion of dollars – movies, books, psychotherapy, new age gurus and drugs  that are selling pain pills wrapped up in a sugary coating of happiness? The internet is overflowing with self help videos of some next door loser who fought and fought through his limited means or disability to seek happiness. Is happiness that difficult to attain that it takes a lifetime of adventure and grind to find it? And if it does, then what’s the point? 

Coming back to my personal life and I know that you can correlate with it because I’m your next door regular Joe. There was a time when I thought that getting a job or making good money would be the high point and I did that. 

Then came the pursuit of a life partner.  Done. 

The ultimate low point came into my life when I started writing fiction just to find a few hours of solace from my good job and my great marriage. The characters in my book gave me more happiness than I could have got from any living person. I hope that my wife doesn’t read it, but yes it’s true. 

That was short lived too, because the book had to end some day. And then came the hard part – editing, cover design and selling the book. I was unhappy again. 

And that got me thinking – would I ever find happiness? Ever? 

This moment of epiphany led me down a path that we can all relate to. Self help books, life coaches and new age gurus. The worst were the health and yoga  specialists. They started teaching me a hundred different ways to breathe. Like I didn’t already know how to. 

I also took keen interest in the lives of those supper successful people like movie stars, CEO’s and others only to find that most of them were on doses of yoga, psychotherapy or alcohol and narcotics. I’m not judging the modes they were seeking to find happiness. Just trying to make a point that each one of them needed something as a support system. 

The list of support systems doesn’t end there. The best one is yet to be listed – Religion. For Americans, Richard Gere is the most famous Buddhist after Dalai Lama. Julia Roberts and Will Smith to Hinduism and Tom Cruise to Scientology. The list is very long, but can it be that these people found happiness after tagging themselves to a faith? And if that is so then why do we have   brazen accounts of failed marriages, substance abuse and sloppy lifestyles? 

From the most underdeveloped third world countries, where people have to walk miles for drinking water to the most developed nations like the USA where there are dozens of flavours of cheese and cereals in a supermarket. Unhappiness is on the rise. How do we know? 

Just look at the consumption of antidepressants in any developed nation. 

Hence comes the billion dollar question. Why are we always unhappy? Is this a problem? A disease? And why is everyone suffering from it? Fake Facebook and Instagram profiles aside, have we ever met real people who are truly happy? 

The answer was revealed to me in the strangest of ways. It was a June evening when I had to accompany a friend to his relatives’ place. It was some legal matter that I didn’t care to focus upon and hence I don’t remember. 

What I distinctly remember is a little girl, about five. Both of her hands covered in thick bandages, her face with signs of multiple injuries. Maybe a broken tooth and blood coagulation at the base of her nose. The last one was fresh and made her look like a little fighter who had just come victorious out of a violent match.  A clear case of child abuse.  I wondered who could do that to a kid?

What surprised me even more that friend didn’t seem alarmed at the child’s injuries, rather they were talking casually. He gave the child some chocolates which she smiled and took. I came to know from their conversation that her name was Vedna. What a strange name? It means pain. 

Somewhere in the middle of his conversation, my friend looked back at me, He must have seen the horror and intrigue on my face. 

“Go and fetch your Papa,” he said to the girl and came to sit by my side. 

“What happened to her?” I asked. 

“She can’t feel pain..” my friend replied with a sigh. “All those injuries, she did it to herself… We are lucky that she is even alive…. The thick bandages on her hand are there to prevent her from hurting herself.” 

It was a long discussion, but the above three lines should summarise it well. She had a rare condition called as Congenital Analgesia. Vedna treated her body parts like her toys. A ruptured nose if she was angry, a broken tooth if something was sticking in between. She was almost about to gouge her eyes just out of curiosity. 

When asked why, she said that she wanted to turn her vision inwards to see what was wrong with her. A noble thought, that could have devastating consequences. It was hard for any one in the family to fathom the magnitude of her problem in the first place. Pain comes so naturally to us that we know that something is wrong with Vedna. 

Could the same thing be true for happiness and sadness? Maybe I was looking in the wrong direction. I would chose to talk to a man of science over a thousand philosophers on any day. The secrets to happiness must lie within the realms of neuroscience. 

A few months of wait led me to a neurosurgeon. 

“I can operate on your frontal lobe. That would make you happy, but you won’t be very much alive,” he told me after a long and spirited discussion.  I also came to know about some cutting edge research about electrodes being surgically inserted into the brain to activate happiness. But how is that any different than a joint in between my lips? 

Working my way through gurus, doctors, pills scientific papers and Blogs , I realised that there is no way to an ever lasting happiness. At least none that we know for sure or have seen real people  around us finding it.  

You may think that this is a bad thing or a waste of your time, and keep on going to the next business  that is selling you happiness. The facts are too compelling to ignore. And I would like to exemplify. 

If you are unhealthy, you are unhappy. Once you have hit the gym, gotten your diet in order and endured the pain, you health gets better and you find yourself happier. But that isn’t permanent and there is something else that will make you unhappy. The cycle never ends. 

The seeds of the greatest achievements in your life will be founded in the acceptance of a simple truth that happiness is an unattainable state of mind. 

How? Read the next blog to know. 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply