I always understood the pursuit of happiness to mean an individual freedom to pursue their individual dreams and successes. Recently I realized that our successes, as defined by society as I see it, depend on triumph over another. Our accomplishments are great because we achieved them while others could not. With the awareness provided to me by my daily meditation practice, I’m wondering if it is possible to enjoy happiness that depends on standing on someone else’s shoulders. On the surface of my mind I’m able to feel happy and accomplished, but on a subtler level, I recognize the pain of those below me and feel a guilt for contributing to their suffering. On the flip side, I’ve suffered the agony of defeat and failure and that is certainly not joyful.
The trouble really starts when I charge myself with the responsibility of everyone else’s happiness. My ego inflates as I declare that I know the path for others to find happiness. I start telling people that what they’re doing is wrong and that they should listen to my advice. Simply, I tell people that they should stop listening to their inner voice. If someone is detached from their inner voice, there is no way they can be happy, so both parties lose with this strategy.
The balance is found by giving up control and responsibility for more than myself. I need to pursue a life where I can find happiness without pushing anyone else into misery, but I also need to support others to follow their inner voices. The joy of my life has come from discovering the best path for me. I hope others have the freedom to do the same and we can live together with peace and happiness. Time to meditate.
One thought on “Communal Happiness”
I was reading some Paul Farmer today and noticed that he closes a chapter of his recent book with a statement that seems to speak closely to the concerns in your first paragraph: “Remember that your own success will not come without real partnership. Do not think of it as coming at the cost of someone else’s success. As new challenges arise to the survival of all dwellers on this planet, your generation, more than any other, will need to embrace partnership.” He’s talking about global health collaborations here, but you arrive at a similar conclusion – that instead of trying to dictate the path for someone else, you follow your own path and support them as best you can. (Full chapter: http://bit.ly/1oPZWAU)