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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Wellspring

Talking with a friend the other day, the subject of happiness occupied both our thoughts. My friend was deeply concerned about a loved one who it seems is in a dark place devoid of happiness. Our conversation led me to ask my friend what he thought was the source of happiness—what was the wellspring from which it flowed, and why was it absent for his loved one?

For many people, happiness appears to be something one must pursue through great challenge, even adversity. It is as if happiness were a much sought after, nearly mystical thing, something akin to a fountain of life that we search for but are destined never to find. For others, happiness is abundant, its riches lying about to be had for the taking.

These images suggest that happiness is either elusive or commonplace, neither of which have proven true in my experience. Ask someone you know if they are happy. There’s a good chance that even if the answer is affirmative it may lack a certain sense of deep conviction, as if some happiness was a kind of fool’s gold, glittering but of nominal value. Perhaps we hedge our bets, afraid to admit we are happy or unsure whether there is something better beyond what we feel at the moment.

On some level we may acknowledge that happiness lies within us—that we are agents of this feeling. But ask us how we arrive at this state of being and the answers may border on the trite. What makes us feel this emotion differs so widely that I suggest any common definition is difficult to construct. Yet most of us know it when we see it or feel it ourselves.

I’ve heard it described as a feeling of peace, of contentment, of oneness with the Universe. And yes, all of these are feelings that encompass happiness. But in the context of my friend’s loved one this only left me wanting to dig deeper.

Clearly a lack of contentment and peace is at the heart of depression, despair, and unhappiness. But I know from my own experience that one can be happy—and yet sad. This seeming contradiction is not that hard to understand. We are complex creatures, able to feel a wide range of emotions and it is entirely possible to be someone whose daily experience of life is positive, peaceful and affirming. At the same time events, things outside our ability to either control or alter can render a feeling of sadness, concern, or discontent in the moment.

It seems then that discovering our personal source of happiness is a tremendously important thing to do. It is from this source that we find our resilience, our ability to maintain our center in the storm of seething emotion that might otherwise overtake us. Some find it in their family, a loved one, work, a hobby, and some find it in their relationship to a higher self. Far be it from me to suggest where you should look. But it does strike me that whatever the source it is far better to look to something immutable rather than transient.

Change is constant. If the source of our happiness lies outside us—in another person or thing, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitability of loss. If we look to that higher being within us, we can never find ourselves cut off. That state of being, call it serenity if you will, is my own definition. I’d like to say I have achieved it—but that would not be telling the truth some of the time. Things irk me, I can be discontent—but neither of these mitigate happiness. I have only to look within to discover that wellspring inside me. I hope my friend can help his loved one to discover this, and I hope the same for you as well.

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