Daily Prompt: Call me Ishmael – The Art of Happiness

– “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.”

This is the opening line of The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, a book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.  While I cannot say this is my favorite book, I can say it is the one that has influenced me the most.

At one point in my life I was turning to self help books to try and make sense of who I was and the purpose of it all. I looked for logical and practical approaches rather than spiritual ones but  eventually decided to read the Dalai Lama’s book.

At the time I was feeling a lot of conflict towards people I worked with, complaining about them to others and generally feeling resentful towards them.  I felt resentful because they were making my life miserable, because they were ‘stupid’, incompetent’ or whatever other faults I heaped on them.

I didn’t like being like that, feeling like that, so I started looking within, trying to figure out what was wrong with me that made me think and feel about people that way.

Eventually the simple statement of this book was my turning point. My initial reaction was, how can that be?  How can people that are knowingly hurting others be looking for happiness? But I pushed myself to contemplate this possibility, no matter how hard it was to understand it for the most extreme cases (such as war, torture and so on) but somehow I could pass that barrier and grasp the meaning of the statement.

I began looking at the people around me in a different way, accepting that the motivation for their actions was based on their search for happiness. I realized I did not have to understand the how, only the why and that they were doing the best they could or knew how.  Just like I was.

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4 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Call me Ishmael – The Art of Happiness

  1. I had been told this same thing by a minister at church. He said that we should have compassion for others, even our enemies, because they are just trying to be happy. I struggle with this as well. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It helps me accept this teaching in my life.
    May you be happy and well.

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