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By Julia Pitsouli

Among all ideals, happiness usually is the most elusive; that is why so many people keep running after it! The reason why it manages to slip away is not because it is fast, but because we can’t really see it. Even though it lies before our very eyes. Suffering from a strange form of presbyopia, we can only realize it was there when it’s gone. In reality, most of the people who think they are unhappy are just suffering from presbyopia. All of us however, – to a varying degree – are having trouble recognizing happiness. We mistake it for something else. We are like those who think they see a familiar face on the street, run after him/her, and end up saying «Oops, sorry», when they find out it was a complete stranger. Just like that, we are usually running after things that don’t matter, thinking we are after happiness. After all, happiness is the common denominator of our life’s set of factors. No matter how much we try to analyze our everyday life, our choices and our activities, our final goal is happiness.

Epicurus’s encouragement

Setting happiness as a goal, we form relationships. We want money, diplomas, marriage, children and a luxurious life, expecting to be happy. If however, someone was to tell us that one of the above would be the source of our unhappiness we wouldn’t be seeking for it. That is exactly the part where most people get it wrong. They have identified the means with the end. Let’s take money for example; it is one kind of means. Powerful, yes; but, still, just one kind of means. It is not happiness per se, and no one can guarantee that money will bring happiness. The same applies to fame, power, career, love and everything else we perceive as prerequisites to a «happy life». Epicurus mentions that «many people want to be rich and famous, assuming that by doing so, they will be happy». This assumption hasn’t changed since the ancient times. Throughout the history of the world, there exist people who are rich, famous, and unbelievably unhappy. Even though most people identify happiness with materialism, this isn’t the case. For Epicurus, happiness and pleasure are the results of the absence of pain and that is why he was teaching his students that: «A happy life is not the outcome of constantly entertaining thy self, but it is clear thinking that keeps away frustration and pain from thy soul. If, for example, you desire to become rich, don’t try to gain more, but try to reduce what you desire. Poor is not he who has little, but he, who craves more».

The father of happiness

Life has proved to all of us, that there are people who maintain a low profile, are simple and poor, and in spite of that, they are happy; the same way that there are people who are good looking, rich and famous and completely miserable,- and vise versa, of course. However, among our own personal memories, there are also moments when we were outdoors, in nature, listened to some nice music or with someone very dear to us and all of a sudden, we were filled with happiness. Simple as that. You see, happiness is progressing silently. It doesn’t posess the Dionysian element of excitement, nor the mortal element of an ephemeral joy. It is something internal, peaceful and constant. A deep emotion of fulfillment. That is why happy people are very giving. That is how you can recognize them; as well as, from a smile of affirmation towards life and its deeper meaning. Just like Buddha’s smile. Remember the last scene in Bertolucci’s film: monsters, an army of them, fires and angry waves were threatening him, while he was looking at all this, with a smile of serenity on his face, and a glow in his eyes; Happy, in spite of all the monsters and attacks that were surrounding him, because he was able to look beyond. His glance was focused on True Reality, away from the world of forms and change; that was the source of his serenity, reminding us that happiness lies within us. It is always «there»; and as a result we don’t have to chase it, we just need to get in touch with it. However, because we can’t see it, we are constantly looking for it. In fact, many people think it is also a matter of luck. Of good luck. It is true; the only difference is that luck is not something coincidental, something that «just happens» without us getting involved. The exact opposite. We are the constructors of our good luck.In the ancient Hymn of Orpheus, which is dedicated to Luck, the name of her son is revealed: Eu-boulos, the good will; The right choice; that is what determines the game of happiness, after all.