An Essay on Happiness

Happiness is cheaper when we were kids. That’s what I thought while waiting for my food to be served last night in a restaurant nearby my apartment building. On the left of my table is a clear glass from ceiling to the floor, looking to other restaurant which has a revolving chair. A boy perhaps eight or ten was happily playing with the chair, pushing the table in front of him to get the chair revolves faster. Well, I thought he will be bored in five or ten minutes, but I was wrong. Until I was finished with my food and leaving the restaurant, this boy was still playing with the chair like he was in an amusement park.

I doubt I have seen an adult looking as happy as this boy in the last one month, even in the last one year. That’s how I formulate the saying, “happiness is cheaper when we were kids”. I remember myself as a kid being happy every time I ate at McDonalds, I couldn’t remember which part makes me happy, the food or the happy meal’s toy. Other things that makes me happy as child was buying a Lego and assemble it right away when I got home, I collected many series as a child but my favourite was Star Wars. Growing up to adulthood, I lose the touch of happiness I had as a child. Of course it is logical for an adult to stop playing Lego and eating McDonald every week, but I found few things bring the same happiness and joy I used to have.

I love travel photography and the sensation of seeing new landscapes and culture makes me feel alive, perhaps this is one thing that brings me true happiness in life. But heck, traveling cost a lot of money compared eating at McDonald for weeks. Another hobby of mine is collecting watches, and not just a watch but an automatic Swiss watch. You might noticed I have two Omega, one Jaeger Le-coultre, and one Tag Heuer. With the price of one watch I could complete a series of Lego. You see, as we grown up we don’t stop playing, but our toys just get more expensive.

Certainly people have different definition and standard of happiness, so let’s agree to disagree with the details but to agree on the big picture. What is happiness anyway? Acccording to Wikipedia, happiness is a mental or emotional state of well being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. So what important is for us to feel good, and the way for us to feel good is by doing something that brings contentment (think of accomplishment) and joy (I think of eating ice cream on a sunny day). I believe long-term happiness comes form doing goodness for the greater society and achieving our goals in particular stage of life, while short term happiness comes from many things such as buying goods, doing our hobby, eating favourite foods, etc.

What I’m trying to focus on in this post in long-term happiness, the kind of happiness we would have when we wake up in the next five years. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I couldn’t agree more with him, because oneself couldn’t possibly be happy unless he is the truest state of his life. Play pretending is hard to maintain and lead to desperation, but when a person is being true to himself and to the society, his action is a reflection of this thinking and life would be in harmony instead of confusion of self. Dalai Lama said the similar thing that, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Doing good makes us feels good, and the reverse is true. It has been human nature to feel guilty doing bad and immoral things, and doing good increases self esteem which then makes us feel good.

And why would we want to be happy? Audrey Hepburn says, “the most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” If you dig enough thinking on your brain right now and ask yourself what you want in life, you’d find most people answer “to be happy”. I might add “to change the world in a better way”, but really in your deathbed that’s all that matters, a happy and meaningful life. But happiness is not something we pursue as an end goal because happiness is the process, the way we do this activity called life. To me, happiness is not arriving at a travel destination but enjoying the bus ride and landscapes along the way. Albert Camus once said, “you will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Perhaps he wanted to say, just go with life doing what you want to do that will make the world a better place.

Life is a series of hills and valley, happiness is just the same thing. We don’t know what a hill is if there is not valley, we don’t know what pain is if there is no pleasure. To know what happiness is, we have to also know the opposite, un-happiness. “You can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes”. -Lauren Oliver

And the last paragraph I write is dedicated to our fellow human-being whose happiness might exceed the normal society, our friends in mental hospital. Because they might live a life happier than sane people. There was once a doctor observing a mentally ill patient, when asked if the doctor should cure this patient, the doctor answers he shouldn’t. Because the imaginary life the patient’s live in is better than her reality, and she is happier that way, so why should the doctor cure her mental illness and bring her back to her miserable life? Perhaps this is what Mark Twain trying to say with, “sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

And for the rest of us, the smart-ass, intelligent people who read a lot and think himself smarter than the rest, here’s the last quote:

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” -Ernest Hemingway

Good day folks!



About Journeyman

A global macro analyst with over four years experience in the financial market, the author began his career as an equity analyst before transitioning to macro research focusing on Emerging Markets at a well-known independent research firm. He read voraciously, spending most of his free time following The Economist magazine and reading topics on finance and self-improvement. When off duty, he works part-time for Getty Images, taking pictures from all over the globe. To date, he has over 1200 pictures over 35 countries being sold through the company.
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