What does it take to be happy?

What does it take to be happy?  Is happiness the goal of life?  why are so many people miserable in the world?  Are animals happy?  Why do we think happiness is something we deserve in life, and that we are somehow less of a person if we’re not happy?

The question of how to be happy is a modern question.  Sometime in the past few hundred years, happiness came to become a measure of success in life.  One of the foundations of the United States of America is, Life, Liberty, and the _Pursuit of Happiness_”.  There is not a guarentee of happiness, but rather, that we have the right to PURSUE happiness.

And so, here you are, and here I am.  Let’s talk about the pursuit of happiness, the chase, the ever-seeking of the ever-elusive goal, the life-quest.

Happiness comes in many forms in life.  There is a pure happiness, one that has all the qualities of Sainthood: unselfishness, love of all people, animals, plants and things, a peace beyond measure, an otherworldly glow surrounding the person.  This can be an attainable goal, should one choose to dig deep into the depth of the soul, go through the trials and tribulations of seeking to discover, experientially, one’s own true nature.

There is also a form of happiness which is on the surface, more of a shell of happiness surrounding an unhappy core.  This form of happiness can express itself in a myriad of ways.  Acquisition of bigger and better things can bring a nice glow to the face, a spring in the step, some pride and satisfaction, but the life-cycle of such happiness is short-lived and fleeting.  This can hold true not just for acquisition of items, but also many forms of love are of this nature.  the often-glorified intense relationship that has mountaintop highs and devastating lows strikes me as quite manic-depressive in its nature… a love and a happiness that would burn itself out in a few weeks, months or years… certainly not the type of happiness that a lifetime can be built with.

This second type of happiness, which is the more familiar form, as it is the style of happiness that most of us, including myself, are more familiar with, also comes in the form of fantasizing.

Images form in the brain, which contain the perfect archetype of a person, place or thing that will provide happiness.  There is the lottery ticket, the road-to-riches which rarely works but fun to fantasize about.  There is the perfect woman or man, or at least the mental image of it, which can actually cause great unhappiness, but images of a life together with that perfect man or woman, or the perfect house, or the perfect society, or the perfect friends that can keep us going during a rough patch,  and give us hope for the future, are sometimes utilized as an escape from the present-day reality that faces us, a mental vacation from the present moment.


What is the present moment?  Where and when is “NOW”?
“NOW” is elusive, escaping analysis at every turn.  One moment now is here, and then now is here again, but the previous now is gone, the next now not yet here.

The past stretches backwards through all eternity, and the future is lying in wait, possibilities and potentialities which branch out in infinite variety and “could-be”‘s.
Strictly speaking, one never “lives in the past” or “lives in the future”.  One is always living in the present.  Your body is here now – the air you breathe is the air in front of you at this moment, getting sucked into your lungs, and then out again.  So, everything lives in the moment, in the now.

The brain also works in the now.  The synapses are firing at this very moment.  The senses are sensing right at this very moment.  The nerves are feeling right at this very moment.  You are digesting your food, your various biochemicals are pumping out in all their variety, providing a sense of calm, or a sense of anxiety, or a sense of sadness or happiness.  So, physically, one is here now.



But, what of the mind?   What are you thinking about?  What images are forming inside of your mind’s eye?  What mental verbal thoughts are occurring?  What is going on in that inner chatterbox, that inner musician, that inner artist?  Is a song playing in your head?  Are images of past happiness, future happiness, past sorrow, or future horror flashing before the mind’s eye?

Can you control the images in your mind?

The images flash forth in your mind, bubbling up from who-knows-where, maybe of their own accord, maybe inspired by something happening in the outside world.  But these images are on-going.  Someone does something you do not like, and maybe you instantly conjure up a picture of this person in the most horrible light.  “Oh, he meant to hurt me: he knew what he was doing!” Very creative thing, the mind.  Comes up with all sorts of fantasies.

But it’s an image: a fantasy.  Speculation is a fantasy.  Instead of dealing with what is actually happening, we make decisions about things and people and situations based upon an image in the mind, which can cause great unhappiness.


There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming, intrinsically.  Daydreaming is a lot of fun, and again, a mental vacation is nice from tiem to time.  But it is not a substitute for an everlasting happiness.  Daydreaming, mind you, goes beyond the bored schoolchild sitting in a classroom, wishing she were somewhere else.


Except for a few brief moments of lucidity, most of us live in a world that resembles reality, but it is not reality.  The now is filtered through our mind’s eye, and weighed and measured through our memories.  There are many colors of glasses besides rose-colored.  Some of us wear magnifying glasses all of the time, and blow little things out of proportion, reacting to a now that’s one-part now to ninety-nine parts mental.

Some of us wear gray-colored glasses, seeing the now as dismal and prone to death and destruction and worst-case scenarios.

But in any of these cases, it is not now that rules one’s experience of existance, but an image of the now that’s been poorly copied and brings a distorted image of reality to life, causing unhappiness.

Most of the time, we’re thinking of what we need to do next, or about things that have already happened, and daydreaming our way through life.



Happiness is appreciated what’s right in front of you.  Happiness is experiencing “now”.  Happiness is not only absorbing yourself in the moment but also appreciating the “distractions” which add to the color and spice to daily existence.  Happiness is gratitude to even having existence, to BEING rather than complaining.  Happiness is both solitude and company.  Happiness is both sleep and awake.  Happiness is both having and not having.  Happiness is not either/or: it is both/and.

Consider the lillies of the field




[typewritten Oct 16, 2002. I found the papers in a box today full of old writings and put them online, March 30, 2015.  I stand by every word 12 years later, as if I had written them just now.  I’m surprised that I wrote about this subject before because I don’t remember ever writing this, but I did, on some beautiful 8 1/2 x 14 fancy typewriter paper, 11 years and 6.5 months ago. -Kenneth Udut]

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