On the Folly of Happiness

Happiness is a skill.

I credit the French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard for introducing me to this idea—and the last several weeks for drumming it into my skull.

The clichés have it right: happiness isn’t a goal to be pursued—it’s more of a task that has to be performed. It involves the exercise of several subtle, yet distinct skills, skills such as knowing what to remember, knowing what to forget, knowing what to pay attention to, knowing what to ignore, knowing when to persevere and knowing when to let go.

And, it’s easiest to get this (the fact that happiness is a skill rather than a state) during the moments of life when one has to literally struggle for one’s happiness; when, perhaps, for the very first time, happiness becomes possible only because of deliberate and sustained effort; when, perhaps for a very long time, the easy consolations of grace are nowhere to be found.

In those moments, and perhaps only in those moments, happiness becomes a choice: an exercise in courage, a demonstration of defiance, a testament to the folly and beauty of the human spirit.

There are countless more reasons to be unhappy than there are to be happy. Which is why if happiness still exists in the world, it’s because people make it so.


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