Sorry about the late update but I have been away on leave and nowhere near the Internet. As a matter of fact the following article was written on a borrowed laptop in one of my favourite countries, which is France...
I’m currently writing this article in Val d’Isere, a ski resort in France which, at this time of the year and with the current weather condition which is mainly snowing, is quite breathtakingly beautiful. Of course it is cold, but the air is crisp and fresh. Moreover, this little snow-covered town that looks like something straight out of a Christmas card has now gone eco-friendly. It is one of the reasons why I’m here - to get away from my home town of tropical humidity, polluted air and the road congestions and give my lungs and my limbs some much needed break.
After all, a change they say is as good as a rest. And I’m the type of person who prefers to have my holiday time up to my ears with activities, however challenging and exhausting (like skiing down the mountains), than sitting around doing nothing under the pretext of relaxing, which I hasten to say, my recipe for getting stressed and cranky.
Indeed, it is hard to feel down or harassed when one is surrounded with the most amazing mountain ranges, especially when it costs one practically an arm and a leg just to get here, and then the other arm and leg to really take advantage of all those groomed pistes and ski lifts. After all, to experience this type of getaway needs careful planning, and carries a lot of anticipation, not to mention some much needed luck that the weather will be favourable.
So when a married couple sitting at a table adjacent to mine during lunch time spent most of their ski break engaging in continuous bickering and arguments with each other (while their teenage daughter seemed quietly resigned to their parental dynamics), I wondered to myself what is it that constitutes human happiness and whether (if I recall my conversation with Happiness expert, the Dalai Lama) happiness is really the aim of everybody’s life.
I surmised that the said couple would most likely have been married for at least fifteen years judging by their daughters’ age. Perhaps their marriage is on the slippery slope towards a sour divorce (which would not be surprising considering the amount of contempt they seemed to have for one another) with only their love for their children for the time being keeping them together though barely preventing them from strangling each other’s throats.
However, it might also be that they take particular delight in putting the other down and trying to outdo each other in meanness. That perhaps it is this constant arguing and quarrelling that is actually cementing their relationship. After all, I’ve seen many married couples who cannot even bring themselves to speak to each other during dinner in restaurants, preferring instead to pointedly ignore the other in some kind of emotional torture, boredom or just plain nothing to say to one another.
In which case, no amount of beautiful surrounding or the most delightful and exotic place could affect their state of being or fill them with joy. It is as if they have taken with them on holiday, along with their winter jackets and woolly hats, their daily emotional and mental baggage. No doubt they could have had the same sorts of arguments sitting at home in front of the television, though minus the complaints about how expensive everything was.
Instead of feeling blessed that they were able to afford a holiday in such a nice place (like I do, simply because I come from a city that has a short supply of clean mountain air, pleasant streets and delicious baguettes that come straight from the oven), they bring their misery and sense of lacking everywhere they go and most likely infect those unfortunate enough to be in their proximity.
That happiness is not a possession or an emotion I think most of us know by now through experience. Desire for possessions (whether things, experiences, people) are momentary, as are our emotions, which by their very nature, transient and changeable, often without any clear reason. The wise say that happiness is a state of mind manifested in our attitude and in how we view the world. It is not in the things that happen to us but in the meaning we find in those things and how it makes us feel about ourselves.
We can be surrounded with so much beauty and blessed with abundance and good health and still be dogged with constant dissatisfaction and our own homemade misery.
And yet strangely enough, when witnessing disasters, like the earthquake that struck Haiti, underlying the sadness and the tragedy, many of us discover stirrings within our breasts that are seldom felt.
Feelings that manifest themselves in the desire to share, to help, to give and to show our solidarity in whatever ways we could and in gestures that perhaps have more meaning to ourselves than those whom
Perhaps this then, is the true meaning of happiness – not in the amazing things that we do, but whether we do it with compassion. Not in fine possessions, but the value they have when we share them with
others. Nor in the brilliance of our minds, but in the quality and clarity of our thoughts.
(Desi Anwar: first published in The Jakarta Globe)