Tag Archives: Philosophy

Being Happy

“If you want to be happy, be” – Tolstoy

Tolstoy made it so simple, the very idea of choosing to be happy. I’ve always wondered if one can simply choose to be happy, and then one automatically is. Is it just a subconscious boundary we have to leap over, or is it more than a mental block one has to overcome?

Think: A family of eight, living together in a ramshackle house with only one room and rationed meals. Being confined in such a small space with seven other humans, all with needs and moods of their own. Can a member of the family be happy, just by deciding “Oh, I am happy, even with such harsh living conditions”?

And allow me to throw you another scenario: A daughter of a tycoon, born with a diamond encrusted golden spoon in her mouth,but who still chooses to throw a tantrum over the fact that Papa got her the Ferrari in a different shade of colour from the one she had told him. She has all she could ever need, and possibly even want, yet she chooses to be unhappy.

The contrast between these two scenarios is great, in my opinion. However, it only raises the question whether material wealth is enough to guarantee happiness. Yes, I am aware of the proverb “Money can’t buy happiness”. But I question you, would you rather be crying on a bicycle or in a Mercedes? *wink wink*

I once read a story that goes;

There was once a little girl who found a fairy stuck on a branch. She helped the fairy to free herself and in return for her help, the fairy allowed her one wish. She thought hard, with a crease in her forehead, about what her wish should be. Upon deciding what she wanted, she whispered her wish into the fairy’s ear. With a smile, the fairy granted her wish and disappeared.

The girl lived for many, many years and people often remarked on her seemingly eternal youth and longevity. She lived to an old age, and upon her deathbed, she was asked on what was her wish to the fairy she met when she was a little girl. With a smile and her last breath, she rasped that her wish was “I want to be happy”

After reading that story, I came upon a realisation that the secret to longevity isn’t necessarily in our daily dietary intake, nor is it in a particular exercise regime we follow. The secret to longevity, and a
fulfilling life at that, is simply to be happy. Personally, I’ve always felt that there is no point to living a long life if one is morose and never content with what one has achieved and acquired through the years.

Perhaps I am just being naive as to believe that being happy would miraculously solve all my woes and worries. However, the way I see it, neither would frowning help to pay the rent/mortgage. Being happy will not be your saviour, being happy simply helps make everything feel better. It helps my sanity, trying to keep an upbeat mood while solving any problem I have rather than moping about it, unless moping would help.

With that said, I choose to agree with Tolstoy, that if you want to be happy.. then be.



I’ve always been unsure of what Tolstoy actually meant when he created that quote (if you can call it a “quote” ~ the first time around I guess it was just a pithy phrase, which became a quote once people started repeating it with a knowing smile and putting it in Oxford Books of Quotations and analysing what it means and similar shizz).

So… yup. Did he mean “If you want to be happy, be happy”? Or was it more like “If you want to be happy, just be…..”? Y’know? Be? As in the “Be-in”/ hippie sense. Or the one from the other quote (who said that?) about humans being human beings not human doings. That’s how I prefer to look at it. If you want to be happy, just get on with the job of being a human on Earth….. and you’ll find, soon enough, that there’s something to be happy about.

Getting back to the main thrust (giggity) of Kira’s argument, I used to have a theory that everyone in the world is somehow allocated (by God?) an equal quotient of happiness. If your life sucks in some ways, it’s probably blessed in other ways. If you’re rich and pampered, you’re in danger of eating/drinking/carousing/whatever yourself to an early grave. If you’re a starving child in a poor country, heck, at least the sun is probably shining where you are.

But I’ve had to revise that earlier thought quite considerably. I mean, for an extreme example, what about the children born into the North Korean concentration camp system? That is most surely a life of unrelenting misery. Or closer to home, those born with the most debilitating diseases. No, it is definitely an unfair world, in which some are born with severe disadvantages and some with huge advantages, not just in health or wealth, but in the potential for happiness too.

On the other hand, can happiness be a state of mind? Of course it can! Doing fulfilling things, things I love, is going to make me happier than sitting around moping about all the things I can’t do. Being satisfied with my life is probably a more healthy mental state than being envious or unsettled.

So, what’s to stop us, then? I daresay most people can find things to be fulfilled by, things to satisfy us and make us happy.

But. And it’s a big but. Isn’t there also something to be said for hunger? For ambition. For the state of dissatisfaction that prompts one to get up and change things. This, too, is healthy. It may not be happiness, but hey, happiness gets boring after a while! Let’s try a concrete example: your boss is being a prick, but your salary is OK. So? Well, you’ve got several choices. One is to be happy. That’s right. Just sit back and say “my life isn’t too bad, and I won’t let my boss trouble me”. But then… yup, you guessed it, there’s an alternative, isn’t there? Go look for another job. Or, if it’s more your thang, poison your boss and get promoted.

So what about Tolstoy’s pithy little phrase? Was it right?

Hmmm, I think it was. If you want to be happy, be. And if being happy isn’t enough, go and do.


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