One of the oldest problems of humanity seems to be centered around the question of how to be happy.
This is certainly understandable: So many things stand in our way, so many challenges await us in life, so many things are not as they should be. Wherever we look, there is misery, tragedy, injustice, illness, death, pain, suffering, etc.
We are born in pain, build a life, succeed more or less with what we are trying to do in life, cannot possibly achieve everything, have to make compromises, nothing is working out as planned, and even if it does for a brief moment, we are growing older, losing friends and family, facing a future of death and diminishing faculties, till we ourselves are dead. Whatever awaits us beyond death hinges on faith, which in most cases is wishful thinking. We cannot know what follows death, and for all we know, it will follow similar trajectories of life but be happier – or be so different from what we have known that we cannot even comprehend it. Most likely though, life itself is special, and especially depressing.
This is one way to see things. All of it is true. Is it helpful? Yes! Accept the negative for what it is: the reality of living in an imperfect world. Our task is to make meaning in meaninglessness, make sense in senselessness, to be happy even if we could not possibly be happy.
Happiness is not a goal you can reach once everything is working out as intended. It is the attitude you bring to an unpredictable world, and to the people around you. It is the light you nurture inside, the feeling you need to maintain to accept life for what it is, and to make it bearable.
Happiness is the realization that in spite of everything, this is how it is, and you can either be miserable or happy. In the face of extreme adversity, humans have made a great invention: Gallows Humor. Discover the absurdity in life, the impossibility to have it all, and the realization that in the larger scheme of things, we matter far less than we like to think, and our little lives are significant only to us and the people around us in our time and space.
There is levity in this, and mental space to see our life as a gift – as a window on a specific point in time and space. The mark we leave may be big or small, but at least we are given the chance to make it, to live it, to see what it’s all about. The very insignificance of everything highlights, ironically, the significance for us to ourselves.
Happiness, then, is a combination of acceptance, humility, absurdist amusement, and the celebration of the little things in life that do bring us pleasure, and of the people we meet on our voyage.
How can we be happy? By deciding to simply be happy, come what may. Que será, será.