The Issue with Happiness

You know, there is one huge issue about being happy.

By practicing meditation, Buddhist monks learn how to create happiness from within. If you practice enough, they say, it is possible to become always content, always in a state of perpetual happiness — a state where nothing can hurt or bother us anymore.

Original photo source: "Road meditation" by Nickolai Kashirin 

When we combine this with personal goals in life, we get people with the ability to ignore bad things and highlight only positive ones. Every time something bad happens during the day, they will try to withdraw a moral lesson or concentrate on something good from the rest of the day, and they will be happy either by learning that lesson or by focusing on the positive things.

All that can be an issue — a big issue.

Western society is already overly optimistic — too optimistic, I would say. By living more or less fulfilled material or somewhat spiritual lives, they cannot be bothered to think about the misfortunes of people who are not within their social circle. When they do, instead of solving real world problems, they tend to teach people the same internal happiness techniques.

This is a huge issue. When the house is on fire, you do not say, “Yes, the house is on fire, but we can be happy, because the garage is still holding.” However, this is exactly what many people do in real life. Instead of calling for "firelighters" and putting the fire down, they just concentrate on those little positive things or their own personal problems, and, they feel content; they feel thankful and sometimes even happy.

I am not saying that happiness is not important, but other feelings are important, too: fear, worry, sadness, grief, anger and disgust. In their own way, each has its own purpose and influences our life as a person and as a part of society.

When I fear about the future and worry what will happen to you or other people, I will take some action. Even when the issue is bigger than us — like climate change, for instance — it is more likely that we are going to take some kind of action within our ability and sphere of influence. Maybe we can only recycle or buy one solar panel, but, if everyone would do that, we would fix the real issue by the sheer ability of big numbers.

On the other hand, if we have the tendency to ignore things and focus only on good things, it is more likely we will ignore all those feelings we have to experience in order to grow as persons.

Happiness is a big thing, and we tend to put it on a pedestal worth striving for, but, more likely, the truth is that we need a balance between all of our emotions, as they will save us in the long run as both individuals and as society.