Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why is Happiness a Mirage for Many?

"Happiness is ridding oneself of power and calmly becoming empty, and suddenly happiness appears. It is not something you grasp but  receive as a gift" These are the words quoted by a journalist of the Catholic Peace Weekly at the beginning of his interview of the Jesuit  chairman of the board of trustees of Sogang University. The title of the article was "By remaining in the presence of the Lord, happiness will come to us."

Today those who are happy are rare, says the Jesuit. As a teacher living with students and as a priest ministering to Catholics, he feels there are few persons who are  really happy. Constantly in competition and seeking to possess, they strive to become what they think they should  be. Absorbed with getting all the specifications necessary for a  well paying job in a good company they realize the happiness was a mirage.

Actually, to achieve happiness is much easier than making money or getting educational accreditation or enjoying power, All you have to do, he says, is adopt a welcoming, non-grasping attitude. He introduces us to a poem that tells us about a child who is told that if he is able to grasp 3 petals falling from a cherry tree before they touch the ground, he will be happy. The child at first  could not do it. When he tried to grasp for the petals, his moving hands stirred the wind around the petals and blew them away. The child of the poem learned that all that was necessary to catch the petals was to stretch his open hands out in front and let the petals fall onto the hands.

Indirectly, it is the search for truth that brings happiness. The only effort required is to rest in God. If we are in a restful state the Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth. When we understand what truth is we become happy, and can directly experience what happiness is. The journalist asks the priest what is the formula for finding  happiness. He laughs on hearing the question. Looking to find happiness, he says, would be going in search of a second-hand, unreal happiness. Happiness does not come with the possession of something but rather with the reception of something by first emptying ourselves, and keeping our eyes wide open.

Those who do not have an anchor cast deep into the meaning of human existence will be like a flame before the wind or a castle built on sand. To have recourse to the origin of existence,  prayer and self discipline is necessary. For those who believe they have no time, are too busy, and find life too difficult for much prayer and self-discipline, he recommends an hour a day of quiet time in prayer. In this digital age we cannot go back, he admits, to a more leisurely time, but this lack of leisure time is one of the reasons that happiness eludes us.