Monday, July 12, 2010

The Paradox of Happiness

"The Paradox of Our Age"
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.
We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.
- His Holiness the 14th Dalia Lama


The paradox of our age by the Dalai Lama exemplifies the paradox of happiness we have become victim of – we have so much to be happy for: countless conveniences, freedom of expression, perpetual liberty and a declaration of human rights that protects our every endeavour and yet 1 in 3 people in North America are resorting to anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines to medicate their unhappiness.
In recent years the epidemic of unhappiness has created quite a niche market – hundreds of books adorn the shelves of bookstores with titles like “The Secret”, “You CAN Be Happy” and “The Secret to Happiness”, seminars, talk shows and retreats all capitalize on our need to be happy.

We live lives of relative luxury, never having to censor ourselves in fear of being beaten, tortured or killed; we never have to wonder if there will be enough food to feed our children or if tomorrow will be the day we get arrested for uttering something as benign as “Free Tibet” and despite all of this I have witnessed more people smiling, more joy and laughter in India than I have at home. We are besieged by the pursuit of money, status and reputation, raging an ongoing war with ourselves, relinquishing tranquillity and emotional fulfilment for monetary possessions and prominence. When I asked my students who are all political refugees, separated from their families, denied the basic human right of expression and living off a yearly salary roughly equivalent to the price of a macbook what their definition of happiness is they gave me a list of simple pleasures that would put every self-help book at Chapters to shame:

“Enjoy things. Be loved. Give compassion. Being free from suffering. Living with someone you love. Imagining good things. Being here. Relaxing. Meeting with friends. Good food. Listening to music. School holidays. Being young. Helping others. Remembering what you do have and not always dwelling on what you don’t. Go for walks. Look at mountains. Embrace the sun. Hold a puppy. Sharing ideas. Find love”.

And there you have it folks – the route to happiness is in you so put down the Prozac, put on some good tunes, and remember to smile.
-Maria Arseniuk

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