If only I could own a quaint home with a white picket fence and have a brand new car in the driveway, I’d be happy forever. How many of us have similar wishes? Maybe the dream is for a mansion on the hill or a penthouse abode in Manhattan and a fleet of luxury vehicles at our disposal.
Perhaps owning the ideal home and vehicle creates happiness for some of us. As we know, such a scenario is the exception rather than the rule. There are certain religious and national leaders who reside in grand estates, own magnificent yachts, and fly in their own jet aircraft, yet they ache for more. There are those who reside in magnificent skyscrapers who hunger for ever more wealth, fame, and power. They are not truly happy. They spread unhappiness in their wake.
We also know of people who live in dire poverty, sifting through garbage heaps searching for scraps they might sell in exchange for a meager meal and rags for clothing. Such people certainly are not guaranteed happiness.
Some folks believe that if only they could convert other people to their own ideology, religion, philosophy, or political views, then they and hopefully the world would be happy. This is the thinking behind much of the strife and unhappiness we read about in our history books. Obviously this is not the path to authentic happiness and joy.
Clearly wealth alone nor convincing others to adopt particular ways of believing will not give us the fulfillment and happiness that we seek.
What about the aspects we hear and read about from self appointed experts and armchair psychologists? They often point out that good physical health, a trusted circle of friends, the spouse of their dreams, a fulfilling career, and owning a pet will ensure that we will be happy. However, we know of some people who possess all of these things who are profoundly unhappy.
Isn’t happiness something other than finding security in stuff and beliefs? Isn’t happiness the state of mental peace?
Last fall, I became interested in luxury fountain pens. It happened by accident when YouTube’s algorithm suggested a video review of a very fancy pen. The idea of a fountain pen review seemed very anachronistic and amusing, so I watched it. The presenter was enamored with the entry level “Rolls Royce type” of pens. It only cost $300. Then there was the ink, he pooh poohed mere cartridges and said that he prefers a pump mechanism so he can use a particular shade of grey ink that also costs a fortune.
The pen was only the beginning. There was a special brand of paper tablet one must acquire because of bleed through and other assorted problems that fountain pens reveal about mere regular paper. Such expensive, fine writing instruments require special care and cleaning, so the owner must have provisions and time to properly maintain the pen.
All of this was quite intriguing and struck me as something I should have. I became obsessed with finding the perfect fountain pen that would fit my budget. I looked and searched the web for more pen reviews and skimmed through eBay for bargains.
One day, in the midst of yet another eBay search, I stopped and observed my thought processes. This new fascination with expensive fountain pens had disturbed my mental peace. Did I think that owning a beautiful fountain pen would make me feel satisfied and happy? Perhaps it would for awhile, until I became bored with it and wanted an even better pen later on.
That’s when I decided not to go down that rabbit hole. I closed the eBay page, drove over to Walgreen’s and purchased a $5 Zebra “disposable” fountain pen. I’m very happy with its performance. The fact that maintaining it is cheap is a bonus.
It’s odd that we humans don’t often realize that when we yield to desire or develop attachments to viewpoints that the result is mental unrest. We live in a sea of advertising messages, religious crusades, and political campaigns that promise us happiness and everlasting joy. However, once we submit to the promises, a strong desire of attachment occurs. That is when mental peace is lost.
We realize that the political newcomer, the awesome religion, or the new fountain pen does not bring about everlasting happiness. We begin to search again. Where do we look? Do we look in the city, in the wilderness, in the sky, or under a rock?
Each person is different and has unique ways of seeing the world and how she/he fits into it. Never ending happiness is found within each person, within each psyche, within the thought processes of the mind.
If one is sincere in the search for happiness and joy it’s important to carefully and honestly investigate the nature of our own minds. This is a very personal process. Nobody has the magic book or technology to do this for us if we want to do it right.
Happiness is never a “done deal”. It’s not the euphoria of a conversion event. Happiness is an ongoing process. Happiness can come about by living your own life in an ethical manner and being true to yourself.
There is one passage from the Dhammapada that is a seed for further contemplation. “We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”