Monday, August 24, 2009

On Happiness: A Letter To Someone From the Past and Present

(In which learning the difference makes the difference.)
August 23, 2009
8:05 PM

I want to share with you one of the best lessons, er, or should I say, the only good lesson I got from a professor of American Literature way back my second year in the university. She once asked us the definition of happiness, which we tried to answer using the different shades of the word’s meaning. Then, as if to augment our agony, she asked again “What is the difference between satisfaction and contentment?” A classmate answered, “Well, they both suggest happiness.” to which the professor replied, “Yes, they do. They are similar in the sense that they both suggest happiness. However, it’s the duration of happiness that sets them apart.”

Then silence fell over the class. And she continued.

“Being satisfied with something, or someone, gives you pleasure from happiness that is ephemeral and volatile. Satisfaction suggests conditions, and if those conditions are no longer met, you cease to be satisfied and you cease to be happy. Your happiness, therefore, is short-lived and ends upon the change of conditions. Contentment, on the other hand, suggests happiness that is long-term. When you are contented, there are no but’s, no maybe’s, no if’s. You can stick with someone or something and never get tired of it. You don’t need any conditions. So if you want to be happy, you need to be contented.”

You told me once, that you’ve always wanted me to be happy. And whatever you’re doing now is a manifestation of your pure and unconditional love for me. Thank you very much. But dear, I don’t need another mother. You can do better than that.

But despite everything, I want you to know that you are very much appreciated and loved. I’m not the silly kid you used to know. At least not as silly as I used to be. You see, I am thinking now. But please do not forget that I am also feeling.

No matter how much we try to categorize things, I believe these present feelings and intentions will be hard, if not impossible, to classify under a specific term. I don’t really care much about it. What’s more important now is, sadly, the ephemeral factor of this relationship - however you want to call this relationship.

I’m starting to understand, but not fully. All I know is, from what you said, you are offering me pure love that I either overlook or do not see at all. You might be right. But I guess it is not wrong to think that your pure love is equal to charity. (Thank you for your generosity.)

Or maybe, what you’re really trying to teach me is that you can only give me the satisfaction from the knowledge and feeling that I am not alone – for now. That you are just nurturing and taking care of me until I am strong enough to be free from your benevolent guidance. My dear, how lame and corny can you be! Your litany of reasons and justifications and excuses make me feel like I’m a bird learning to fly. How literary! But you’re right. For now, I am dependent of your presence. So dear, let’s keep it simple. Drop the nonsense lines and unwelcomed names. I see that it’s not happiness you’re giving, but the realization of the truth that it is contentment I need which is not in you.

Dear, please do not let your pure love drag me to the quicksand of doom. Instead, let it guide me towards complete healing. You can leave anytime but now, nor tomorrow. It is again the question of duration. Until then, please stay and bear with me.

For our happiness,
The Seeker Girl