“And they lived happily ever after.” – this sentence most irritating haunted me for a good portion of my early life, and even today carries a feeling of hopelessness. ‘First of all’, said the young me, ‘if they really did live happy and long lives together, then I want to hear all about it! Why stop the narrative in the most interesting moment? There would be so much to learn from people who know how to make their happiness last. Second, no, they did not live happy forever! There must have been many sad or even tragic events in their futures,’ which is exactly why the author had chosen to cut it short with this shapely, critically-acclaimed lie of a sentence.
Even if I had it all – all the material possessions I ever wanted, a happy and healthy family, a great education, knowledge or understanding of our universe, I would not dare to call myself happy for one simple reason – it would make me feel awfully ashamed. In the current state of affairs, one person’s happiness is determined by another’s misery. How could I ever live happily knowing that there are millions of people starving, being killed, raped or mugged because of my ever increasing “needs”. I do not need five cars, two fridges and seven bathrooms, but there are people who need food, water or a place to call home. You will now think: ‘But this is the way it is and we are trying our best to change that, by sending help to poor parts of the planet.” or “You can’t change nature/the world!” I agree that it is currently the natural way things are, but you cannot possibly call it normal. There is nothing normal about people shooting each other on the streets nor is a stolen princess, religion, oil, territory or influence a reasonable motive to take away a life. The only rational purpose of killing another human being would be to protect yourself from them in the case they threaten to cause harm. This fact is, of course, being used by our military and political leaders, who put innocent people on a battlefields, where they suddenly find themselves surrounded by people threatening to kill them. We are also very far from doing our best in order to bring positive change to our civilization. Sending food, providing medical care and establishing educational institutions to the Third World only covers up the stench of death. We need to address the very roots of their misery, which as I believe would in many cases bring us straight back to our doorstep.
All happiness is a chance encounter and at every moment presents itself to you like a beggar by the roadside. – André Gide
We cannot be free of misery in all its entirety for as long as we are subject to pain and death. There is no “happily ever after” but instead a series of “happilies every now and then” followed by long periods of indifference, sadness, grief and suffering. Instead of striving for the currently unreachable ideals, we should be working our brains out to achieve a state in which there are more “happilies“, where they last longer, and above all, where there is less pain and death.
I dare not call myself happy. I would be ashamed of being a hypocrite.