My friend Jonathan wondered aloud if Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have found happiness. Outwardly, they seem to be pleased with themselves. They are the masters of millions of people because they are the most powerful men in their respective nations. Although they have reached the pinnacle of success in their regions, they thirst for ever more power and influence. Do they believe that happiness is found in lording over others?
I responded by positing that the two dictators had unhappy childhoods and believed that they could only achieve happiness through power and wealth. Their apparent goals were to gain power through any possible means. They had given up on achieving happiness through traditional ways, but consciously decided to exploit others for enjoyment and personal pleasure. They erred in equating pleasure with happiness. Certainly, material things can bring about happy feelings, but that particular emotional response is temporary. Like people addicted to drugs, they feel giddy and high for awhile, then crash and feel numb. The dictators appear to need more “hits” of power and control to feel high again.
Jonathan added that their enjoyment is selfish in the worst way because other people suffer and are killed in the pursuit of power. True happiness comes about by sharing joy and increasing the well-being of others. The best leaders are authentic benefactors. At best, greed and hoarding bring about temporary pleasure. Instead of fostering the well-being of the world, Putin and Kim endanger us all.
Jonathan added, that as the dictators tighten their grasps on power because they know that others are jealous and want to steal the dictators’ power. Instead of happiness, they experience paranoia and fear. The worst cases could result in the Hitlerian demise of their own countries. That is, if they fall, they’ll take their countries down with them. That would be the polar opposite of happiness.
“A great man does not seek applause or place; he seeks for truth; he seeks the road to happiness, and what he ascertains, he gives to others.”–attorney, orator, and writer, Robert Green Ingersoll
Jonathan and I agree that happiness is one of the most pondered and discussed concepts of all time–only outdone by sex, death, and taxes. Success, even if you’re Putin or Kim, is not the keystone of happiness. We both believe that happiness is a process that comes about through love. We’re not talking about the unicorns and rainbows type of superficial glee. Happiness is not found in platitudes and denial.
After much discussion, my friend and I concluded that authentic happiness is an inner quality or state of mental balance. That mental state is peace of mind. Regardless of how much or how little we acquire, we can foster happiness. If you own everything–pleasures, possessions, and world dominating power–but lack true peace of mind, happiness will be out of your grasp. When we become hungry for ever increasing happiness, we are no longer happy. We will never be happy if we continuously search for the meaning of happiness. The search for the meaning of life is not the way to happiness. Happiness is a quality that has always been within–all one needs to do is allow it to shine through.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”