- I don’t know what it means to be happy.
- Despite this, I am in the pursuit of happiness.
I’m never really certain about what would make me happy, but almost always clear about what makes me unhappy in the moment.
As a consequence, I either find myself wishing away the things that make me unhappy, or I use Mimetic Desire - society’s definition of success - as a substitute to defining what happiness means to me and pursuing it.
Since introspection is not helpful, I turn to the philosophy of Vedanta to find the meaning of all this. I’ll try to summarize what I understand so far.
- Everything is “Maya” - false - and that includes me the individual, and my experience of this world.
- Since our experiences (including thoughts) can be boiled down to sensory perceptions, there is nothing to prove that the world is real and exists outside our sensory experience.
- We are not the origin of our thoughts. In fact, we have no idea where thoughts come from and we have no control over them.
- Despite this we have a strong opinion that “we” exist, that “we” have willpower, that “we” control our thoughts and actions and can change our environment in ways that are useful for us. This is delusion.
In other words, Vedanta says: don’t worry about it.
Instead Vedanta says that the highest goal is self-realization, becoming one with awareness - the consciousness, Brahman, that underpins all this Maya. Also, if we are truly convinced all is Maya, there is little in this world that we could desire. The lack of desire is given a name: Vairagya.
To me this sounds like renunciation and, honestly, is scary. As deluded as I am in the Vedantic sense, I continue to desire worldly happiness conditioned on worldly things.
Having said that, I understand that the pursuit of happiness is going to be a Sisyphean task, and I accept it. I accept my unhappiness and I accept that I am shaped by what society advertises as happiness.
I accept that I have thoughts today and I can dive into them knowing that the outcome is not in my control and, more importantly, is irrelevant. I just have thoughts today, and I give in to them.
And that is the thought for today.