Had an interesting conversation with some students today that got me thinking. In discussing something, a couple of my students (9th grade boys) began saying that if they were like Jay-Z or Kobe Bryant, that they would be happy. Given my natural tendency toward argument, I immediately put all else aside and pursued the discussion. Essentially, they were arguing that they if they had three things, they knew they would be happy. Those three things? Money, fame, and women. They said if they had all of those, they would be happy. Naturally, I tried to argue against this, but to no avail. I pointed to Deion Sanders’ book, “Power, Money, and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life” (which is on my bookshelf) as an example of someone who had all of those things and still wasn’t happy. They were absolutely adamant that they were right and I was wrong. While both perturbed and disappointed at the time, the conversation got me thinking. I wondered, first, what happiness actually consists of. Without actually coming to an answer, I moved on to another question: am I happy? If so, what is it that makes me happy? I came to this conclusion:I am happy because I am both content and grateful for my lot in life.I concluded that, in my opinion, happiness is a mindset of contentment and thanksgiving for the situation in which I find myself. Happiness is just a matter of loving whatever life throws at me – it’s a choice I make. It would be very easy for me to say, “If I had X, then I would be happy.” But there are so many examples (like Deion’s) that point the other direction. They all indicate that happiness comes from something else that isn’t material. Some say it’s from religion, some say it’s just a matter of finding our purpose, and some say it’s just a matter of doing away with materialism. Me? All I know is that I don’t need money, fame, and lots of women. I have a job that, while not making me a lot of money, brings me great joy. Though I am not famous and powerful, I am known by my family and my good friends, who are the only ones who I really need attention from anyway. And I certainly don’t need a lot of women to make me happy, because I found one woman whose love I am privileged to share at profoundly deep levels.
So do I know what happiness is? Maybe, maybe not. But do I know I’m happy? Absolutely. It’s impossible not to be happy if I love my life.
That said, you tell me:
What is happiness? What does it mean to be happy?