Lateral thinking: Don’t look for the Missing Tile!
By R.S. Karunaratne
“There are no outside causes of happiness or unhappiness; these things are just excuses. By and by we come to realise that it is something inside us that goes on changing, that has nothing to do with outside circumstances”
Do you feel happy when you have a lot of money? If so, those listed in the Pandora Papers must be the happiest people on earth. They think money can buy everything, but it is a myth. In Arne Garborg’s words, “You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; knowledge, but not wisdom; glitter, but not beauty; fun, but not joy; acquaintance, but not genuine friends; servants, but not faithfulness; leisure, but not peace.
You can have the husk of everything for money, but not the kernel.” As writer Isabel Moore says, life is a one-way street. No matter how many detours you take, none of them leads back. Once you know and accept that life becomes much simpler because then you know you must do the best you can with what you have and what you are and what you have become.
Enthusiasm is the main ingredient of happiness. You may have experienced that enthusiastic people can turn a boring drive into an adventure, extra work into opportunity and strangers into friends. In fact, without enthusiasm you cannot achieve anything worthwhile. Happy people always say, “We can do it” when others shout, “No, we can’t.”
We are born with wide-eyed enthusiastic wonder. An infant will be delighted at the jingle of keys or the scurrying of a beetle. Unfortunately, this childlike wonder vanishes when you grow up. With enthusiasm you can rediscover the enthusiasm of your childhood. The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from the Greek and means ‘God within.’ God refers to an abiding sense of love. Enthusiastic people are usually happy because they love what they do, regardless of monetary benefits.
An enthusiastic MLT (Medical Laboratory Technician) will not get tired of scientifically testing others people’s blood, urine and stool. If your job does not give you any happiness, the best course of action is to leave it. If you are unable to do so, take an interest in what you do. Elizabeth Layton, a 68-year-old woman was so depressed that she could not live happily. A friend advised her to start drawing.
Although she had no formal training in art, she started drawing the pictures of animals and people. After some time, art critics said she was a genius. If you live each minute wholeheartedly, you will not miss pleasures in the fragrance of a backyard garden, the watercolour picture of a landscape or the enchanting beauty of life that puts a sparkle in your eyes, a tilt in your steps and smooth the wrinkles from your soul.
We do everything possible to achieve that elusive state of happiness. The simple truth is that if you wait for happiness, it will never come. We become happy thanks to our parents, spouses, children and friends. If they are unhappy souls, you will never enjoy happiness. An unhappy person will never enjoy happiness. If you stretch the point, an unhappy husband usually has an unhappy wife. Similarly, unhappy parents have unhappy children.
Work for happiness
I was not fortunate to be born into a happy family, but I revelled in my angst. However, one day I realised that I should struggle to make myself happy. Most people may not believe that they have to work for happiness. They usually think that happiness comes as a result of good things that happen to them.
But the truth is that happiness is largely under our control. It is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited. Quite early in life, most people identify the stumbling blocks to happiness. You become unhappy when you compare yourself with others. You may come across some of your classmates who are very much above your social status. Some of them may be leading lawyers, consultants, architects, or accountants, but you are still a writer with no stable income.
If you peep into their lives, you will note that they are not happy as they pretend to be. As a writer your income may be low, but you have a large readership. You will note that simple men and women with a limited income lead happier lives than some of the millionaires. Almost all of us have images of how life should be lived. We think of living in a mansion with all the creature comforts, but how many of us can realise such ambitions? Be content with your job, income, reputation and family life. True contentment leads to happiness. If you walk into a remote village, you will meet people living difficult lives, but they never complain.
Missing tile syndrome
Most of the time, we are worried about something missing in our lives. Psychologists call it ‘missing tile syndrome.’ When you look at the tiled floor, you note that one tile is missing. Whenever you return home, you see the blank space and begin to worry about the missing tile. You talk about it with your family members and friends. Once you have determined what your missing tile is, explore whether acquiring it will make you happy. You can either eternally worry about the missing tile or completely forget about it. You have so many other things to think of other than the missing tile.
You may have born poor or rich, but there is a little correlation between the circumstances of people’s lives and their happiness. A moment’s reflection will make this quite obvious. If you look around, you will see people born into rich families are not leading happy lives. However, those who have weathered many storms in life live quite happily. Be grateful to your parents for looking after you with their limited resources.
Gratitude is the hallmark of happy people. Some children who always complain about their food and clothes become unhappy adults. Happy people do not complain. Wealth and fame may give you a temporary boost to your ego, but real happiness lies in your pursuits in studying the subjects you love and finding a proper job. The more passions you have, the more happiness you are likely to experience. Writers, musicians and dancers are some of the happiest people living today. Finally, you need a religious faith or a philosophy of life to lead a happy life. There is a truism that encompasses all faiths and philosophies: you have to think positively. A positive thinker is blessed with happiness.