Monday, June 6, 2011

Happiness- Relative and Absolute.


"If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over head, and a place to sleep, then you are richer than 75% in the world.  If you have money in the bank, your wallet and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy."

I come across a picture with these lines on facebook. To many, the figures provide a sense of comfort, a sense of assurance of their supposedly better life. On the face of it, there seems to be nothing wrong with being happy about how blessed our lives are, compared to the less fortunate ones. I wonder if happiness is really so elusive that people stoop to these levels of comparison. Let’s answer this question – “Are the above numbers truly necessary to be happy?” I don’t think so because these statistics weren’t available a century ago and people still were happy.

Next comes the much more important and vulnerable aspect of being happy this way: It is relative i.e. it springs in relation to something/someone external. If my happiness feeds off the misery of others, I’d rather be unhappy than be happy in this degenerate way. Why? It is unethical and inhumane. Even otherwise, putting the ethical considerations aside, this kind of happiness is not permanent. The moment my being in the top 8% of the world’s wealthy changes to say the top 20%, I am less happy. If my happiness springs out of something so external, something not in our hands, I am left very vulnerable. The relative kind is temporary and doesn’t stand the test of time.

It is only logical to seek happiness from within – the absolute kind. This is precisely what the existentialist proposes. A step further, seeking happiness from within and requiring the very minimum to be happy is what is embodied in the strict life of a Brahmin. Please don’t take the word in the narrow context of our caste hierarchy. What is referred to here is the philosophical concept of a Brahmin. All the constraints/guidelines are not mere superstitions, but logically thought out solutions. The question has always been about how little does a man need to be happy.  It is very easy to happy when all is hunky dory. It is only when the trial of time tests us do we understand the import of the restrictions – the recent tsunami in Japan and its wreckage being a case in hand.