Motto: All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.
More than ten years ago I have read ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho. I remember the hero’s excitement about taking life into his own hands, in search for something important. The peace and comfort he got when finally finding it, together of course with the message that it was actually in the very place he left in search of adventure – his original home.
There is one question which comes back to my mind from time to time: could the hero have recognized the happiness in his own home, unless he left it behind for a while, and embarked in his travel around the world? I would suspect that probably he could have not. He needed to search for answers and calm down his restlessness before he could find his peace.
More recently, I have read one of the many wise thoughts of Robert Brault: "Sometimes we don't find the thing that will make us happy because we can't give up the thing that was supposed to."
I liked it so much that I shared it with some close friends. One of the receivers raised several questions in response to me: why do we think people should be happy at all? Isn’t the need for happiness somehow over-stated?
It was not the first time when I was confronted with somehow similar rhetorical questions (as the people asking usually do not actually expect me to answer ...). I have come in contact with such dilemas three times over the past year, coming from separate cultures and triggered by different contexts.
One person was purely wondering if we deserve to be happy in general. He seemed to feel that because of our imperfections, flaws, bad thoughts or purely lack of focus in the pursuit of happiness, we should be realistic and not expect that someone just gives themselves away to us (you know… to have and to hold… with or without proper documentation these days).
The other was more inclined to say that some people are just unable to be happy, no matter how hard others strive to make them happy. They are ‘programmed’ in such a manner that they are permanently unsatisfied with the world around them, or suspicious about people's intentions or at least this is how their life evolves in the world they live in.
Finally, a more complex but rather similar question popped up in connection to one of the youngest and dearest members of my family. The question was whether a kid should learn from a very young age how to act, with intent to correct his unhappiness. Whether he should strive to change things, make them different, so that he becomes happy with the results (or at least “happier”, by comparison)?
As all life’s great dilemmas, also this one should be answered under consideration of reasonable balance: yes, I believe people should strive to change whatever makes them unhappy, they should address the pain and the hardship with the aim to improve the situation. However at the same time they should be careful how far they go in the pursuit of their own well-being, take care not to hurt others, recognize responsibility and not give up on certain things to soon, just because they may be unhappy for a while. They should learn how to set ambitious yet achievable goals, learn to differentiate as early as possible between things they can and things they cannot change, when to act and when to accept.
Recently I have also learned (from here) that human abilities for issuing moral judgment regarding other people’s actions and feelings are based into a certain area of our brains, which is gradually forming while we are young, from childhood throughout as far as our teenage period. Therefore children’s ability to correlate happiness with moral criteria about how their actions affect others does not have to do only with education. It is also correlated with the physical development of their brain, which needs to reach a certain maturity before being able to issue sound moral judgments.
This being said, I wish parents good luck and a lot of patience while guiding their kids through nice moral dilemmas! Those steps are really important if they want them to grow being ready for a fulfilling and happy life.
And so… tonight I started to wonder again how come that some people grow up with so different expectation and even perception about happiness. We know now that childhood sets the frame for our physical and emotional readiness for life, for happiness and empathy, for integrity and success. We also know that during our adult life, experience is the one that keeps on shaping our behaviour. I believe it is safe to say that character is formed in our childhood and wisdom is gained throughout the entire life. Intelligence?... it has partially to do with genetic endowment, partially with access to education and partially with personality (as curiosity and intelligence are somehow similar to the egg-hen dilema...).
You may intelligently wonder by now what does this have to do with the idea of 'home'. Well... kind-of everything!
There is a common saying that home is where your heart is. I can add to that a large number of hints about what ‘home’ should ideally represent. One hint that you are home is when you feel that the place makes you happy and serene, comfortable and safe. In that place you can share your sorrows and find courage to confront your inner demons. You can re-charge your batteries and mend your wounds. You can dream happy dreams and start building your way towards achieving those dreams. You can have nightmares and wake up knowing they will go away. Home is where you can create special rules and games for shared living, happily mixing the right proportion of freedom and dependency which define that small (or big) circle called family.
There are many individuals in our world today that are living mostly driven by adrenaline rush – no matter from where they draw this energy (career focus, dependencies of different sorts, moneyteism, power fights, intrigues and gossiping, fierce competition, episodic love and so on). Wasting time, money, energy and innocence may seem painless and easy when you are young, as it still seems that all those are inexhaustible. They are not. And every individual needs to find his way home while still young enough to dream. Then start building the comfort associated with that chosen home, in order to prepare for the next phase of life – the one where the resources become obviously limited.
I sometimes wonder why I am so childishly determined to be happy. Even more, why I am so inclined to see myself as being already happy. Just because… a myriad of things happen around me and I am grateful to witness their happening (no matter if they are little or big things). Finally, I wonder why I am so determined to try anything in my power to make other people happy around me (or at least convince them that being happy may be good for them in the long run…).
One thing I have learned from the last three years of my live. Geography has gradually less to say about where home is, in our contemporary word. We have become more dynamic and the idea of home basically is given by other less material elements that keep a family together.
Once we find our way home, we can also accept that we can be comfortably happy, for as long as we are. And then some…
Have a nice Home!
Excellent essay, dear Gina! It has caused me anReplyDelete
access of nostalgia and has forced me to think about
the classic Blue Bird of Maeterlinck.
Home sweet home and to be so busy that you have no time to see why are you unhappy..this works. At my age if you stop being enthusiast for cause you feel your bones cracking, your teeth falling and you see the Sun going down.