Why You Should Run Away from Happiness

unhappy clown

Everyone wishes to be happy. But our effort to achieve happiness often reeks of desperation. Here’s a paradox that will blow your mind: the faster you run after happiness, the more it seems to vanish. Perhaps that might explain why so many people today are anxious, discontent, and altogether miserable.

Indeed, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Happiness is a woman. When you pursue her, she flees from you. But when you flee from her, she pursues you.” If Nietzsche’s correct, then seeking the happy life is a surefire way to be woebegone. On the other hand, if you abandon your quest for happiness, you’re far more likely to find yourself happy.

Well, if we’re not going to pursue happiness, then what else can we do with our life? Are there better things to pursue? Oh, there’s lots of things.

For example, heroes pursue, honor, courage, glory, and sacrifice to a higher cause.

Devoutly spiritual people seek to live a holy life.

Good-hearted people seek a life of benevolent service to others. Like the song says, “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.”

Mystics devote their energies to awakening, to self-realization and enlightenment.

There are certainly other possibilities. But in all cases, a good life is one in which happiness is not sought directly, but rather is a byproduct of living a virtuous life. Aristotle would agree that that virtue is conducive to happiness.

There are certainly other possibilities. But in all cases, a good life is one in which happiness is not sought directly, but rather is a byproduct of living a virtuous life. Aristotle would agree that that virtue is conducive to happiness.

But, in my humble opinion, as necessary as virtue is to a happy life, something more is needed if one is to feel fully vibrant and alive. To feel fully alive one must be on a quest, or journey.

The greatest quests are those in which we set out to fathom life’s ultimate questions, such as “Who am I” and “What is life all about?” Then life becomes a philosophical detective adventure.

But even something more is needed. Nietzsche said that the purpose of life involves self-overcoming. On one level that involves the struggle for moral and spiritual perfection. But for Nietzsche, self-overcoming goes beyond that, beyond the moral life. It involves a struggle to liberate oneself from… oneself!

The great Hassidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, said that “Everyday every person should leave Egypt.” He used the Jews’ exodus from Egypt in a metaphorical sense. He meant by “Egypt” a life of slavery, or bondage.

And so, what is your Egypt? What is your Mizraim, as they call it in Hebrew? To what are you a slave? Is it to food? Is it to certain dark moods, like depression, anger, or envy? Yes, misery can be addictive. Are you a slave to your fears? That’s a big one. Perhaps, you’re a slave to a certain way of life, one that you don’t believe in anymore and perhaps never believed in? Are you a slave to the Internet? To Facebook? Whatever it is, self-overcoming involves making an exodus from Egypt, from a life of self-imposed bondage.

Anyway, if you wish to have a truly fulfilling life, three things are required. Your life must be virtuous. Secondly, your life must be a journey, a mystery quest, in pursuit of answers to the deepest riddles of human existence. And, thirdly, you must everyday seek to conquer yourself, to transform yourself.

If you live your life as I recommend, you will never be bored, or discontent, or anxious about the morrow. Rather, your life will be a real adventure and, paradoxically enough, my friend, you will find that happiness has pursued you, and is knocking at your door!

 

Posted on August 1, 2015 in Blog, Rooftopo Mysterioso

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About the Author

Dr. Mark Dillof is director of the Louisville Mystical Academy. In addition to being the academy's chief instructor, he offers philosophical counseling, both in Louisville, KY and online throughout the world. To find out more about his books, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Dillof/e/B001K8VPK0

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