Posted on June 24, 2020
Our Responsibility to be Happy
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s our duty to society to be happy. At face value it seems self-centred and indulgent to seek happiness when there’s so much suffering in the world. It seems like a ‘blow you Jack, I’m alright!’ type attitude. However, the more I think about it and watch life going on around me, the more I believe that if we could make it our priority to be happy then the world would be a much better place.
During a recent visit to a supermarket a woman barged into me with the force of a rhino (I’ll refrain from commenting on her size!). Slightly winded and taken by surprise I found myself apologising – as you do! (For some reason the British have this strange habit of apologising for things they haven’t done. There is a wonderful book called Watching the English by Kate Fox which investigates English behaviour – and the author spent an afternoon bumping into people and discovered that over 80% apologised to her for bumping into them!)
I obviously didn’t apologise loud enough – or perhaps the woman was deaf as well as bloody rude – and I found myself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse. “Don’t F…..g say sorry then” she yelled as she shoved her trolley into mine, grazing my knuckles in the process. Stupidly, despite her obnoxious behaviour, I began to explain that I had apologised even though she had in fact bumped into me but she stormed off, leaving me mumbling to myself like a crazy lady.
No longer in the mood for shopping, due to indignant outrage, I picked up a few more things and headed for the checkout. No points for guessing who was at the checkout next to mine. Yes, the charging rhino who was now venting her anger at the poor man at the till.
She was clearly not a happy bunny and I felt sorry for whoever was waiting for her at home.
Observation tells me that unhappy people tend to be self-focussed, rude, difficult and antagonistic. I’m not talking about sad unhappy but miserable unhappy. Miserable people make it their mission in life to make everyone else’s lives on par with their own. Happy people on the other hand tend to be more tolerant, flexible and generally nicer people. Happiness is infectious. Being around happy people makes you feel good despite your own problems.
So, how do we seek happiness and fulfil our planetary duties?
A new car…that would make me very happy! A month in the Caribbean…how could I be miserable sunning myself on a beach there? Obviously it is my responsibility to be happy so Lastminute.com here I come!!
But do these things really make me happy? Momentarily, yes. Then I revert to my baseline level of happiness. The level that is me. The level that, whatever the problem or pleasure, I revert to in everyday life. Once I’ve overcome the awe of sitting on a Caribbean beach for a few days I get a bit bored and think how nice it would be if I could wander around an art gallery and get out of the heat!
My daughter has travelled a lot and worked as a volunteer in small villages in Uganda and Cambodia and she tells me that the people there seemed happy with life. Despite having very little, they were happier than many that she meets at home. (Home as in England – not home, home…we’re not generally a miserable bunch). They were always willing to share their evening meal, which consisted of a few floating bits in a watery broth. They had more than their fair share of problems, as you can imagine, but their baseline level of happiness was higher than many who have acquired an abundance of material goods.
“Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by eternal events” The Art of Happiness, HH Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.
The key is not to confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure comes and goes but the aim is to achieve a higher baseline level of happiness. We clearly need the basics of a roof over our head, food in our stomachs and clothes to wear but does all the extra bits really make us happy? It’s all about our attitude to life and we can do a lot to change our expectations in order to achieve greater joy.
I truly believe it’s our priority in life – our contribution to the planet, if you like – to seek happiness. It’s neither self-indulgent nor selfish. Hard work it may be, to express more love and affection and smile at everyone; sometimes nearly impossible to show compassion when you’re angry and frustrated but the more it’s practised the easier it becomes (so all the books say!). Over time, less things irritate and annoy – and this raises the baseline level of happiness. .