Each morning, the Chill app on my iPhone shares a spiritual quote. Today's was from American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864):
"Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it."
That's largely been my experience throughout life. Happiness has been a byproduct of the journey, often invisible until looking in the rearview mirror, when memory regards some experience or period as a time of happiness. Ironically, often those experiences I now think of as "happy" were times of learning and uncertainty, when I lacked self-confidence and felt anxious.
In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying,
“What is the purpose of life? After much consideration, I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness."
The idea of finding happiness is embedded in American culture, although embodied in a way the Dalai Lama probably didn't intend. Too many pursue happiness as a destination, as Hawthorne described, and can't find it. Materialism and status do not lead there.
If the purpose of life is happiness, yet it cannot be pursued directly, how do we find it? Adding to the paradox, I think we find happiness by choosing it.
When I worked at Texas Instruments, one of TI's aphorisms was Bloom where you're planted. Applying this idea, by being grateful for each day and its simple gifts, by accepting where we're planted, we choose happiness.
String enough of these days together and you have a happy life.
Written March 16, 2021