What is happiness? Does happiness really exist? Have we felt it before? Do we actually know what it means to be happy? Is happiness a distinct feeling that can be described and explained? For a long time, I have asked myself these very questions. From the little research I did before writing this, I realized that there are so many explanations and views as to the concept of happiness. There was one view going on and on about how happiness was already inherently in the soul, and that we didn’t have to look too far to find it. I find this view rather boring. I found something more interesting on a certain website though. There, happiness was explained through the context of Buddhism.
According to the article, what we refer to as happiness is really just the absence of suffering. In Buddhism, unease or suffering can be roughly translated as “dukka”. It goes further to say happiness, as we conceive it, doesn’t really exist, at least not in the same way suffering does. Suffering in the Buddhist context doesn’t mean great pain or despair. From a Buddhist perspective, it refers not so much to outright catastrophe as to the persistent, low-intensity feelings of dissatisfaction or yearning that human beings feel most of the time. Happiness is what is left when you take away unhappiness. Since the problem we have is the presence of unease in our moments and not the absence of anything, happiness itself doesn’t really exist. It’s no different than darkness, which itself is nothing at all; only a way of describing an absence of light. Light is real, darkness is just a concept.
Now, I find the views expressed in this article very interesting. I have always felt I would eventually study Buddhism, because I think it is not such a bad way to live. However, until then, I think I have slightly different opinions. I think happiness does exist in some form, and the explanation that it simply is the absence of suffering or pain is rather too thin and simplistic. If we can all agree that we know what pain feels like, why should we deny the total existence of its opposite? I do not buy the idea of happiness simply being the inexistence of pain or suffering. Personally, I believe there is an emotional state of equilibrium most of us are at any given time. It is probably different for everyone. On either side of this state of equilibrium lies our “happiness” or “sadness”. The absence of pain or suffering is not happiness for me, but being on that state of equilibrium in which you are neither happy nor sad. Then, something happens which tips the scale to either side.
While I can’t precisely define what happiness means, I would just say it is one of the sides of our “emotional state of equilibrium”, and sadness is obviously the other. Therefore, if we choose to call it happiness, well, that’s fine. I suppose there are many different reasons that could make different people “happy.” The only thing is that, they are so ephemeral that it is gone before we are really able to capture the feeling. For example, the euphoric moments after finally getting that girl to go out with you, or getting an A in your exam, or winning the lottery. Undoubtedly, either of these examples would make anyone happy. From these examples, we can’t say happiness was from the absence of a particular thing, can we? Maybe we could say it was the absence of failure, but isn’t that stretching it a bit far? Why must we be negative about it? Why can’t we just be positive and say it was the presence of a particular thing, victory or success? Anyway, what do I know? I have probably been ignorantly rambling on from the beginning. Opinions and thoughts are welcome
Yusuf is a weird young man with sometimes crazy ambitions, he is a crazy good music lover, a Law graduate and aspiring Diplomat. ff on twitter @Monknumerouno