Friday, April 02, 2010

Is happiness a relative phenomenon?

The visitor hasn't visited me for a while now but she was kind enough to forward this article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/opinion/30brooks.html?src=me&ref=homepage) to me by mail. I had been thinking of something along the very lines recently and this article just endorsed my opinion on the definition of happiness. This particular line from the article caught my attention. I quote -

'The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important'.

I had written a post on a story -(http://hiphopgmom.blogspot.com/2010/03/happy-womens-day.html ) that Dr. Mahalik narrated during a seminar in our college. the gist of the story is that women are happy when man's will is not imposed on them and they are allowed to deal with life's situation in their own way and as they deem fit and appropriate. I happened to refer to the story while talking to a friend. what she told me set me thinking.

"My husband had always allowed me to do things just as I wished and he had absolute trust in my discretionary powers. I wanted my name to be included as middle names for my sons and he heartily welcomed the idea. Whenever we had visitors at home he'd arrange for extra domestic help and never expect me to compromise on my time or schedule. We were never hard up for money and our children were above average and gave us no cause for concern. Yet, I was not happy. I wanted him to give me more of his time but thatwas one thing he could not spare. He had a busy scedule and was always helping someone or the other during his free time. So while the story makes a lot of sense it is not applicable to all. Individual needs vary and happiness is a relative term''. She said.

What is it that makes the world a happy place? Money and material things that money is able to buy do not give happiness. The pleasure felt when one progresses materialistically in life does not last long. I remember an incidence that took place within a month of my joining college. We had an examination and since an invigilator was absent I was asked to substitute. A week later I was paid Rs. 6/- as remuneration and this came as a surprise because I was not even aware that invigilation duty fetched extra remuneration. I remember thinking to myself that I would go home by share auto that day instead of the usual mini bus. I suddenly felt rich. I do not recollect whether I really took an auto rickshaw to get home. But I do recall the happiness I felt on getting an extra remuneration of Rs. 6/- and on being able to afford a return trip by share auto. Such joy is not felt now when I commute by my own car. There are several entrance exams held on Sundays for which we are sometimes given a remuneration of upto Rs. 350/- per sitting. But the Rs. 6/- that I first received stands apart and is very special. So perhaps money fetches happiness only if it is obtained when its need is acutely felt.

With my children settled I should be reasonably happy because I do not have to worry about them. And in fact I am happy for them as well as for myself. But moments of depression do set in when I wonder if I was wrong in aiming high for them. Would it have been better if they lived at an accessible distance rather than aim for the skies? My mother in law was happy to have a son take up a job with Tata Steel and with the family being able to continue to avail TISCO's quarter and medical facility every one was overjoyed. So even with only the basic requirements being taken care of one can be truly happy. But then that brings on another question equally relevant. If one did not aim high how would one progress? Would not lack of ambition cause dissatisfaction and be cause for unhappiness of a different kind?

What then is the solution? A fine balance perhaps. Improving of inter - personal relationships as the article points out and building up mutual trust with those around us may be the answer. Training the mind to look for happiness even in adverse conditions is not easy. However it is not impossible either. Bad as your lot may be, there are many who are worse. A look at them -not with disdain but with concern - is enough to make one realize that even under the circumstances one can find reason to be happy if only one tried.

Happiness unfortunately is not available in super markets and five star hotels. It is just a state of the mind. Unhappiness is the result of a wrong perception of the circumstances. It is here that I admire an aquaintance of mine. She works as a ward girl in a hospital and when her neighbor's daughter got married she gifted 10,000 rupees to her. She borrowed the amount from her provident fund account and repaid it with interest. On the other hand I've heard the wives of high ranking officer's who may never have traveled by public transport in town or by economic class while flying, actually taking home apples and dry fruits that foreign donors send for a government run orphanage for tribal children. They are the one's who are after the accountant ad finance officer's to find out when their arrears would be released and behave as if their lives depended on the money that was due. To my mind the ward girl who I see returning from a night shift when I go for my morning walk spreads more joy than others who have access to a luxurious life.

Let us then try to look for happiness in little things and remember that a society needs happy men and women rather than a wealthy but dissatisfied lot.

22 comments:

Deepa said...

Dear HHG,
Links are not accessible !
Nice post as usual.

Hip Grandma said...

Deepa: I could not link the usual way but I've tried to do so again. it seems to work now. You must read the first link. Very interesting.

preetischronicle said...

love reading your posts, they always strike a chord somewhere.

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG,

A great post that makes you think !

I have always felt that happiness based on material quantifiable goodies is a function of time. We are fooled into defining that as happiness.

Real happiness, must come from a freedom not based on ego. And a realization that you do not exist in isolation, but in a world, where your happiness has beneficial spinoffs for those close to you, and their hapiness, immeasurably augments yours.

And so someone who just got a huge raise that allowed him/her to buy a new extra car, will be short term happy, till his colleague buys a third car. While a working lady, who decided to reduce her material needs, who gave up her job, to attend to some special needs of her child, will experience real happiness, when she sees the child graduate and go out into the world...

I think these were values we learnt in our younger days. . Its just that we didnt publish these conclusions:-)

Hip Grandma said...

preetischronicle:Thank you. BTW did you do my tag?

Ugich: i always look forward to your comment since we seem to think alike in so many ways. Belonging to same age group may be the reason.be it as it may I feel pained when I note the priorities of so many around me.

tys said...

well, iam going to disagree with you again...mainly becoz of this obsession with happiness..the truth is happiness is never a continous state of mind..thats probably the very reason why its so unexpected, excilarating and great...this want for happiness is the surest way of never attaining it...its like women/men seeking love...they are destined never to find it since its the seeking that excites them...

i dont agree that theres no happiness in 5 star hotels and wealth...i also dont agree that happiness is only found among poor..i think we all have the ability to be happy and we are ..in moments...in fleeting moments in the most unexpected ways..its when we try to replicate it or try capturing it or be obsessed with it that we change happiness into some sort of quest and we destroy all chances of recognizing it..

happiness is...it just is...like rite now iam so happy that iam going to get another blasting from you.

Usha said...

Very inspiring examples as always.

I think most of us fail to see happiness in the small things that happen to us by laying down a condition that we will be happy only if a, b and c happened. In looking for these, we lose out on our simple joys.

Usha said...

Very inspiring examples as always.

I think most of us fail to see happiness in the small things that happen to us by laying down a condition that we will be happy only if a, b and c happened. In looking for these, we lose out on our simple joys.

Hip Grandma said...

Tys:When was it when i ever blasted you? BTW do you still stand up to read my comments?If you re-read my post -the heading says that happiness is relative. i think i'll request Madhu to blast you on my behalf.

Usha: Happiness per se is elusive. The mind has to look for happiness in little things.The moment it becomes conditional unhappiness sets in.

Uma said...

HHG, very apt examples! I've always wondered if it isn't so. In a way, it also links to the value that we associate with things. When we have plenty, we don't really realise the value of what we have and hence the happiness is only proportionate to that and vice versa.
Yes, happiness is indeed a relative phenomenon (and seldom a relative ;-) *Purely Pun Intended* :D )

Arundhati said...

My first time here. Thought provoking post. Only an hour back I was reading my college year book in which almost a decade ago I had written against the '10 years from now' column - "I'll be happy". And I am :) I don't know why. I just am. One mustn't question or analyze happiness I think. There will be ups and downs, we must recognise that, but on the whole all it takes to be happy is love and relationships.

Hip Grandma said...

Welcome here. yes it is an individual's approach to life that decides whether one wants to be happy or unhappy. If in spite of having the best that life has to offer one chooses to be unhappy then - well- I can only say 'so be it'. But it is unfortunate that such people spread misery wherever they go.

Hip Grandma said...

Arundhati: the previous response was meant for you. i am very glad to note that you are indeed a very happy person. May you continue to be so always.

Hip Grandma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diya said...

I love reading your posts... They are so thought provoking...

I think happiness is just one of the rarest of the states of mind :) Enjoy it without any questions asked...

Hip Grandma said...

Diya: welcome here.I am indeed happy to welcome you and as you say let me enjoy being happy without questioning!

Vinodhini said...

Hi, came across this post today. And I have to say it was a thought provoking and interesting post. Really enjoyed reading it. Especially since I've been thinking about this happiness issue myself lately. One quote I found a few days back is,

“You need to learn to be happy by nature, because you’ll seldom have the chance to be happy by circumstance.”-Lavetta Sue Wegman.

And likewise the post also had points that reaffirms this quote. I think it also really depends on how we define everything and what our priorities are. We should also remember to count our blessings :). Great post!

Hip Grandma said...

Vinodini:welcome here and that was a wonderful quote. If each one among us counted our blessings instead of cribbing the worl would be a happier place.

preetika said...

came to ur blog for the 1st time...

You've written on something which strikes a chord somewhere in my heart:)

I abs agree that happiness is relative. Like my mom usually tells me that in her days, they used to go for a movie maybe once a month or eat out rarely. But, whenever she used to go out for a movie or for eating out, the happiness and excitement used to be undescribable! That childlike excitement is what is missing today, in many youngsters... maybe even in me. And it's so sad!Boredom sets in so fast and nothing seems new or exciting!

To be happy actually needs a lot of work, and most of it has got to do with training the mind! Sometimes, when I get upset about something, I just think the amount I have been given by God and that really helps. It's always hard but one can always try!

lovely read and I'll be back for more...:)

Hip Grandma said...

preetika:welcome here. I belong to your mom's group. As a child we'd get to go for a movie only after proper verification as to whether it was worth being watched by children. And when we did go for one,OMG what excitement! True there is no anticipation or appreciation. Everything is taken for granted.

dolly said...

came to your blog for the first time..my daughter introduced me to it...i do relate to it and it is as if those words are tumbling out of my mouth. i always seem to be on a high...probably 'cause even the tiniest thing (unfurling of a new leaf,pitter-patter of the rain on my corrugated roof-top,the birds spraying themselves with water in the bird-bath) all elevate me to a different, new world. This what i feel is true happiness...also like i always quote to my girls...I cribbed that i had no shoes till i met a man who had no feet....shd be the maxim in one's life. will surely get back for more....Dolly

Hip Grandma said...

dolly:It feels good to be read by people like you. people who find joy in simple things. the world need the likes of you. Please don't lose your capacity to be happy. and the adage you quote is wonderful, isn't it?