This post, like the previous one, might leave more questions than answers. Perhaps this is in keeping with my current state.
They say he only knows the taste of water who has traveled through the desert for it. If you are thirsty, water tastes sweeter than honey. But if you have a ready supply of drinking water, there is no excitement in the, now simple act of drinking it.
This seems to go for everything. There was a time when my father strictly restricted eating chocolates, watching movies and even TV. I craved for these things. Getting to experience them in some rare moments would make me excited and happy beyond all bounds. Now, when I have easy access to all of them, none of them feel as desirable. These are but a few examples of so many other things in life that loose there sheen once they become an easy and everyday experience.
So can the same be said of happiness? We all look for lasting happiness, I wrote an eBook on the topic. But is it possible to have everlasting happiness? If one has a ready supply of happiness, if one can be happy all the time, won’t happiness become boring, mundane and, consequently(and ironically), make the person unhappy?
If the only constant in this world is change, wouldn’t continuous happiness be an anomaly?
The happily ever after
Most of us, at some point in our lives, create a dream of a perfect life. It is the best that can happen, it is the point beyond which nothing would be needed. There would be no wants and nothing more to achieve. This dream, when realized, would keep us happy for ever, it would get us the kind of ‘happily ever after’ we come across in the stories.
But can there be a happily ever after? My experience says that a situation that I get to experience continuously, no matter how desirable in the beginning, does not keep me happy for ever. All situations become boring after sometime. When it did, it seems it was not the situation that gave me happiness, it was probably the challenge or the novelty of it.
Challenge is exciting and fun, when it makes me do something I have never done before, when it requires me to go up a level, when uncertainty of success is involved. Doing such a thing makes me feel alive. Probably, it is also the growth experience that this challenge provides. It is the process of my expansion, brought about by this situation, that gives me happiness.
Sometimes, happiness seems to come from an activity I love, like watching movies. Or it may come by being with some people I like, friends, family. But if I get to do this activity continuously or I get to be with these people all the time, the situation becomes routine and unremarkable.
I am tempted to say that trying new things and people gets me happiness but then trying new things and people all the time can become routine itself and become less desirable.
The discontinuity of happiness
Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -Carl Jung
Jung seems right to me here, happiness would lose meaning without sadness. Happiness, it seems, can only be had in bits and pieces, it comes only in highs and lows. The greater the elation you feel on the highs, the greater the sadness and misery at the lows.
I don’t completely see his point about how to face this reality though. If, as Jung says, you decide to face things with equanimity, you can avoid big miseries, but wouldn’t you also loose the highs you feel? Wouldn’t equanimity be boring? What would you rather have? – big highs at the cost of big lows, or an equanimous feeling? Or would you have something in between – where you probably stay somewhat grounded but allow some space for experiencing the highs and lows?
An acquaintance of my wife’s, told her that his wife, who is a classical singer, doesn’t like talking after she has sung for a while. She goes into a sort of a depression. This happens to many of the other singers that this guy has seen over the years(courtesy his wife) who, after going through the high elation of being one with a song, realize that it is gone now. They understand that there is no point in holding on to it for it cannot be continuously had. They cannot sing for ever, they will have to come back to it later. It leaves behind a vacuum that is filled with a lot of sadness.
This is the reason he thinks why many artists resort to drinking heavily or even drugs, they try to recreate that bliss through artificial means.
It seems the misery is the price for the high you get, and the level of the lows you can bear will decide the level of the highs you can have.
So what do you feel about it? Can happiness be continuous? If it cannot, what attitude would you prefer to have towards it – would you accept the big lows to experience the highs? Or would you prefer equanimity?
Until next time…