We experience joy (n). We are joyous and joyful (adj). We act joyfully and joyously (adv). We enjoy and rejoice (v).
Our lives are marked by sadness (n). We sadly (adv) sadden (v) into sad (adj) feelings.
But to happily (adv) greet our happy (adj) world in the hopes of finding happiness (n), what do we do?
What is the action that instills happiness?
Self-help bookshelves and an internet of blogs and podcasts roll back and forth across the happy landscape, and yet for so many of us, happy is an elusive creature.
It is all well and good to say that the first step to happiness is choosing to be happy, but I have yet to see any evidence that this is the only step in the process. What comes next?
Even within our political and social doctrine, our language is vague.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
No one can rob you of your life! No one can rob you of your liberty! Good luck with the last one.
Happy is such an elusive concept that our language completely fails us by refusing to give us a verb explaining how to reach this state of Nirvana.
We grieve. We love. We anger. We frustrate.
We elate. We bore. We amuse. We abash.
We envy. We lust. We frighten.
In conferring with colleagues, it seems French and Spanish suffer the same fate.
Are humans so determined to be miserable that we are willing to idealize happiness but never expect it will happen? Talk about your negative feedback loop.
If you have yet to find happiness in your life, perhaps you can take solace in the idea that no one in human history truly expected you would.
For an end-state of such wondrous simplicity, the achievement of happiness seems monumentally difficult, which makes me wonder…
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
—Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
What if the absence of a verb for happy is not a failing of language, but rather is a clue to a failing within ourselves? Perhaps Yoda was right.
What if happiness is not a state to be achieved, but rather is a ground state waiting to be rediscovered like some great monument buried by centuries of sand?
Perhaps happy is who we are, and for whatever reasons, we as individuals and as communities have simply buried our happiness under the detritus of our lives and society’s expectations.
Perhaps the first step to achieving happiness is not deciding to be happy. Rather, it is deciding not to be everything else.
At the outset, this may seem like an insane challenge, but at the very least, everything else (the non-happiness stuff) is something we understand. It is something tangible in our lives. It is something we can tackle one step at a time to reveal the beautiful mosaic of happiness beneath.
I don’t know about you, but I find greater hope in
“Life, Liberty and the recovery of Happiness.”