The Myth of Happiness

“Are you happy? If not consult Mr Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street.”

Hardcore Agatha Christie fans would hunt through the Tuesday Classifieds to assure themselves that the Dame’s famed characters do exist in flesh and blood. (Of course, conspiracy theorists as well.)

Parker Pyne

But, suppose you see a similar ad in the paper, what would you do? Would you be mildly intrigued and proceed to read about yesterday’s game? Would you pass it off as another scam and refuse to be its hapless victim? Or would you, out of curiosity, fuelled by a sudden diagnosis of unhappiness, pay a visit to Mr Pyne? Perhaps, for those going through extreme misery, this may offer a glimmer of hope.

Whatever the reason, you most likely wouldn’t mind knowing the biggest secret in the world – how to be happy.

Well, I’ll spare you the trouble of visiting Mr Pyne’s does-it-even-exist office. Happiness is a myth. (Somebody sue Disney!)

Ask yourself right now, “Am I happy?”

What’s that I hear? Sudden deadline? A junior at work got promoted? Cold soup? Stolen luxe pen? Failed exams? Terrible job interview? Cat died? Bad cold (me too)? Partner not available for you? Househelp didn’t turn up? Piled on five kilos? Kid sick? Parents’ divorce? Too much homework? Imperfection? Dishonesty? Honesty?

The list is obviously not exhaustive. There could be so many reasons to not be happy. In fact, we are so tuned to being worried or sad all the time, that the happiness we experience at times, is mostly temporary.

I know I have been babbling and it may have caused some unhappiness. Let me make it easier. I am going to draw a common everyday-life example. School.

So, term exams are nearing. Unless you are a happy-go-lucky, my-dad-owns-the-whole-of-New-York kind of person, you are most likely sweating your back off. On D-day, you are purely relieved that the exam is done with, but the cryptic answer to Question 7 A) keeps gnawing at the back of your head.

On the day of the results, you are over the moon that you (just) passed the exam! After a few foggy weeks of celebration, you are back in school, dreading the next slew of exams coming your way.

You see what happened? Your ‘happiness’ was limited to a few weeks. It feels like there is an invisible cycle pulling the threads on your happiness. In fact, there are two distinct features of happiness.

Happiness is the satisfaction of a desire:

Observe carefully. Most of the times you were happy was because something you had wanted, happened. You passed the exam. You lost those last few adamant kilos. You won the lottery! (Just kidding.)

In all the above, your desires could be easily identified – you wanted to pass the exam (understandably), you wanted a revenge body (what say, Eric?), you wanted free money.

Happiness is the absence of sadness:

We are hardly ever happy. We are more likely to be depressed, anxious or worried because of our ‘desires.’ When they are satiated, we are not depressed, anxious or worried.  This lack of sadness, we call it happiness.

And then, as the wheel moves, we have new things to worry about.

Does that mean there is no happiness?

Sunny, let me tell you one thing. Happiness is a myth – in the tangible sense. You will never get a treasure map with a big red X marking the location of happiness. But, who says you can’t find happiness within yourself?

Based on the two features of happiness (this is starting to sound like a boring thesis, isn’t it?), we can discern the legendary path to happiness.

How to be happy

Two simple words: Be content.

A content person is always happy. Because he desires nothing else.

When I was younger, my mum used to tell me this story of a clever court jester named Tenali. Once, the king asked him to find the happiest person in his kingdom. To do this, he constructed a beautiful house, made of the finest marble and embellished with the works of reputed artists. Lots of people wanted to buy the house and enquiries were made frequently. When it was completed, he put up a board on the gate, “For the most content subject.”


Whenever people declared themselves to be content to claim the house, Tenali thwarted them by saying, “If so, why do you want this house?” Out of frustration, the people would stomp away angrily or curse Tenali.

The King was very pleased (as usual) with Tenali’s work and asked him to take the house. He refused, citing the valuable lesson learnt during his experiment. Instead, he passed it on to a poor labourer who helped construct it but never asked.

But my problems are very serious. How can I be happy?

I understand. Sometimes, life is simply trying. Sometimes, a loved one’s illness or death is enough to jolt us out of our usual tracks and waste ourselves away towards despair.

Sometimes, it is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry and lighten ourselves. You don’t have to be happy always. Sadness, occasionally, stems from love. It helps heal wounds that bleed your very conscience. Sadness is good too.

The beauty of sadness is, it makes happiness taste much sweeter. And just like happiness, abject sorrow will also not last forever. The sun shall rise and dispel the dark. And once again, your heart will be filled with love.

And you will be happy again.




Daily Prompt: Bliss







8 thoughts on “The Myth of Happiness

Add yours

  1. Well -written.A mature observation that true happiness stems only from within. Happiness that depends on external factors is always fleeting in nature. As a wise man has stated,

    Happiness = No of desires fulfilled
    No of desires
    So zero desires = infinite happiness.

    Keep soaring dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s crazy how true this post is. So many people think that to be happy is a feeling that is tangible. They forget that to be happy is something that must start from within. If you look for happiness from the outside, you will never be content, like you said. But if it is something that comes from inside you then it is something that becomes a part of you.
    This is similar to an old post of mine-

    Liked by 1 person

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