Saturday, January 1, 2011

On Happiness and Choice

Let me begin this entry by noting the serendipitous nature of how various quotes or sayings come together to speak to a larger theme in life. In this case, it is the role of choice in happiness and its meaning.  It began with a tweet I came across today (well, not exactly came across, but that's another story):

"wishing you more chances to chose(sp) happiness. You deserve it. We all do.:-)"

This tweet resonated with me for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that it made me think about what it meant to choose happiness and being deserving of happiness.  With that, another quote stood out
 to me in the midst of contemplation:

"...the secret of happiness lies in renouncing the right to be happy"

The abovementioned is from The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch.  Though he makes the quote in the context of religion,  it is very much salient to life as a whole.  No matter what anyone's definition of happiness is, it can be agreed that things happen in life that evoke feelings of happiness or unhappiness. In illustrating the act of renunciation as part of being happy, Lacsh indicates that happiness involves choice.  The same concept is more plainly stated in the aforementioned tweet.  Considering the fact that much-if not all-of human existence is about choices, no area of life is exempt from making decisions. The question then becomes, what exactly is meant by choosing happiness?

As suggested by both the tweet and the book quote, it is using your creative abilities to foster a state of happiness. The individual, in these instances, utilizes their free will in how they react to life circumstances. This, it can be argued, has led to a sense of entitlement among people to be happy. Another question then arises: how can "deserving to be happy" be defined?

The tweet and the quote inherently acknowledge that life happens.  They also allude to a significant aspect of reality-nothing in life is guaranteed.  As Thomas a Kempis notes: "But never to feel any dsturbance at all, nor to suffer any grief of heart or body does not belong to this present life..".  Therefore, it is in the letting go of the need for certainty in life and making use of the freedom that comes from it that we, as Lasch demonstrates, unlock "the secret of happiness".  It is also here where that happiness becomes "deserved".

In sum, we have a substantial part to play in our happiness.  It is fulfilled in our utilization of our free will and creative powers.  As we recognize uncertainty as intrinsic to human existance and adjust ourselves accordingly that we find and, in turn, deserve, happiness.

May we bear this in mind as we wish each other a "Happy New Year"

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