The American Declaration of Independence of 4 July 1776 states:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“
(I won’t mention that this did not apply to blacks or women, who were obviously not created equal. It seems to have only applied to male WASPs, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.) Sorry, I did mention it. Oooops.
I could argue that none of these is a “Right”, but I am going to concentrate on the third, “The Pursuit Of Happiness.” This suggests that happiness is a goal to be pursued; an end to be reached; a destination to travel towards; an aim to be achieved.
It suggests that happiness is a future state that we can attain.
This is the same as saying “I will be happy when ………….”
In other words, I will be happy at some time in the future, when I have achieved whatever goals I have set myself; a new job; a new wife; a sum of money in the bank; a new car; a new, bigger home; a divorce; and so on.
But this is ridiculous.
Because the future does NOT exist.
Let’s consider the concepts of past, present and future. I am going to suggest that neither the past nor the future exists and that even if they do, we can NEVER experience either of them. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, bear with me.
The flow of time, that we all think we experience, is just the way the conscious mind deals with change.
We can consider the idea of NOW, that is, this present moment, in two ways. We can say that it’s that instant of time, in which the future flips and becomes the past. That means that the present moment is infinitely short, that it has no duration in time. It is just a point at which the future becomes the past. On this basis, there is no NOW. It is only the future becoming the past.
Or, we can look upon the present moment as eternal. The NOW moment is where we all live. Our lives are a continuous succession of NOW moments.
All we can ever experience is the present moment because there is nothing else. If anything interferes with our experiencing this NOW moment, then we are not truly alive.
The Past What is the past? Our only access to the past is through memory. Our only way of experiencing it, is through memories. But what are memories? They are tracks laid down in the nerves and their connections in the brain. But these tracks are there NOW. They may have been laid down in some previous NOW moment, but we can only access them in the present moment. Therefore our usual idea of the past as being at some time before NOW can only be experienced in the present moment; in the NOW.
The Future The only way we can think about, or plan, the so-called future, is in the present moment. If we make plans for some future date, we can only experience them when the so-called future becomes the present.
The Present The present is all there is. It is the only time when we can experience ANYTHING because there is nothing else but the present moment, the NOW moment. So, if we live in the past, or hope that things will change in the future, we are not experiencing the present moment. We are not alive.
So, we can say, that on the basis of these new ways of thinking about time, the past and the future do not exist.
To say: “I will be happy when…..” is ridiculous. You can only be happy NOW.
Happiness is not a destination – Happiness is the way, the journey.
We have to discover how to be happy in the present moment, whatever our current circumstances.
Yes, we can be happy, whatever our circumstances, whether we think they are good, bad or indifferent. (Note that these are judgements. More on judgements in another post)