A wise person asked me recently why I think we are here, as humans—alive, in this physical world. I was surprised that I had to think about my response. I was already so shaken by the conversation up to that point that I had to sift through mental “rubble” to find a response.

“To be happy” was the agreed-upon answer to that question. But life has me examining every particle and detail about my view of myself, relationships, and the world. “Happiness” and “why we’re here” are in a part of my self-concept that I have temporarily dismantled for cleaning and repair.

This is because, in my own experience, I’ve found it impossible to be happy all the time! If something is impossible, how can it be our reason for existence? But I’m willing to question anything. Maybe I have the wrong idea of what “happiness” is.

I’m certainly not “there” yet, wherever that is. (Intuition tells me it’s “here”!)

We all have our own perspectives, and none of us (or very, very few of us) see our inner and outer worlds with true clarity. It seems to me that when we can see with perfect clarity, then—and only then—can we say that we are truly happy.

Happiness is on a scale, though, like a ruler or a thermometer or anything else. All emotion is, as it were, on this scale, with happiness at or near the top.

I’m going to go out on a limb and define “happiness” as enjoyment of the present moment. In other words, in a happy moment we don’t drag our past into the present and we don’t preoccupy ourselves with an imagined future.

But, as I said, I don’t think it’s possible to be happy, by this definition, all the time.


We have all been harmed in life. Harm tends to cause negative emotion—particularly when we didn’t fully express the natural, normal, and healthy negative response to the harm when it happened. (Like when our parents made us stop crying when we were little.)

If we don’t express negative emotion, it remains within our being, where it lurks among the unconscious part of our mind that corresponds to the 95% of our brains that we don’t consciously use. This negative emotion then takes over the conscious 5% when activated—by either an inner or an outer stimulus that the mind/brain recognizes as similar to the conditions that produced the negative emotion the first time we felt it.

(The late spiritual giant OSHO invented “dynamic meditation” as a way for modern people to express this negative emotion because he recognized that traditional spiritual techniques won’t work if unexpressed negative emotion is in the way.)

We cannot be happy and feel negative emotion at the same time, according to the previous definition. Negative emotion is not “enjoyable,” in my experience. Releasing it sure is, though!

We also cannot entertain wrong thoughts and feel happy at the same time, except temporarily. An example of this temporary “happiness” would be the “happy” feeling some people get when their favorite football team makes a touchdown. These people do not feel “happy” when the other team makes a touchdown, according to my definition. In both cases, though, the person is in the present moment!

Maybe I don’t know what happiness is. Maybe happiness is just being in the present moment, whether it’s enjoyable or not—not trying to escape it to the remembered past or the imagined future, but just being fully present, here, now, no matter what! Maybe this is the “letting go” that frees us from our mental prison, like the one from which I’m writing right now.

“Man, what a great game!” I’ve heard this expression many times after someone has watched a football or baseball game with high drama, where there was much emotion, excitement, and even disappointment in the game. It can be a “great game” even if the favorite team loses.

Maybe I’m learning something here.

4 Responses to Happiness?

  1. BlueGem says:

    I agree with the idea that happiness is on a scale. It is therefore possible to experience happiness at varying levels. They say that habits form character. Hence, if one is habitually happy then he/she may be considered to live a happy life. Sure, unhappy days will arise but those are only there to help us to appreciate true happiness. In other words, we would not know what happiness is unless we experienced unhappiness. Just my two cents. I enjoy your writing. You’re a very deep thinker. Much respect to you sir 🙂

  2. venbaxter says:

    Thank you…ma’am. 😀

    Since writing this essay (in 2009), I’ve come to see happiness as a function of awareness: the more aware we are, the more deeply involved we are with the inner and outer worlds of experience, the more ALIVE we are.

    I think Kahlil Gibran wrote beautifully in THE PROPHET about the need to experience suffering in order to experience joy and appreciation. I don’t know if he used the word “happiness,” though…

  3. Kristin Metcalfe says:

    I think a purely happy life would be bound to miss the point. Do you grow and mature without pain? I appreciate pain, I think even in the moment, because I see the possibility and likelyhood of growth. Rejuvenation. I have to suppress the urge to congratulate someone who may be in the middle of a significant life trial. I can’t help but see hard times as opportunities for growth. I don’t mind not being happy for a season. But maybe hope is happiness. Or a degree of it. I’m not sure I’ve been hopeless for long enough to know life without it. I’m currently going through the biggest trial thus far and I’m excited to know what ways I will see growth when it is over. My emotions aren’t always in check but my mind is set on not being broken.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: