“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning “
This quote from Tuesdays With Morrie, single-handedly identifies why most of us are unhappy even though we constantly strive to find happiness. Look, happiness is a very subjective term and everyone has their own way of it. There is no general rule for it. But one common thing which governs the happiness of all is “our loved ones”. When I was growing up ( I still am… haha), I wanted to become famous, be the life of the college, have lots of money and be rich. I used to envision myself in that life and think wow.. this is amazing if all of this happens how happy I would be, how exciting my life will be. But as I have grown into an adult, I have realized that nothing materialist can give us everlasting happiness and satisfaction. Sure, we can get moments of happiness when we buy our first car or buy a new home, but sooner than later, the excitement fades away. And this happens very quickly.
Let me explain, I am a mechanical engineer who has been very passionate about cars. From childhood, I was very fascinated with Porches and used to long for a ride in Porsche Boxster. Now early last year, one of my friend bought a Porsche Boxster and needed my help to bring the car from dealership to his home. The dealership was 3 hours from his home so we had a plenty of drive which was even exciting. We drove to the dealership in his old car and I was the one who was going to bring back his Porsche Boxster. When I sat in the car for the first time and held the steering wheel, I got this sudden rush, the excitement — it was an amazing feeling. But all of this excitement, the adrenaline rush, the goosebumpy feeling dried up within one hour of our drive back. Mind you, I have been longing to drive that car since childhood and within one hour, as that fantasy turned into reality, all my excitement went away. I agree, driving a Porsche Boxster did give me moments of excitement, happiness but today, driving a Porsche is just like another car for me. Today it doesn’t augment my happiness in any way.
I have always believed that prime goal of our lives is to be happy and peaceful. We all strive for that. This is our natural state and we all want to be in that state all the time. Let me give you an analogy and people with chemistry background will understand this a bit more easily. All the elements in the periodic table, want to achieve 8 electrons in their outermost shell (2 in the case of helium) because it makes them stable. All the elements are very reactive until they achieve this state. They lose electrons, they share electrons or accept electrons to achieve this state. And they do this via forming BONDS ( either covalent bonds or ionic bond) with other elements. And it’s this bond which makes a compound which enables usage of chemical elements. Now consider elements of the periodic table as humans. All of us want to achieve a stable, happy and peaceful state of mind. But instead of working towards building healthy relationships and strengthening our BONDS, we seek happiness in “wrong things” like money, fame or power. And when we do achieve those “wrong things” we still feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied. This happens time and again until we go back to basics: Meaningful human connections.
Being in close relationships is an age old ancient wisdom, but why is it so hard for us to understand this concept? It’s because we humans have a tendency to find shortcuts or quick fixes to our problems. And relationships are messy and need a lot of patience. A mobile phone doesn’t expect anything from us. Neither does the television and nor does superficial relationships. But building strong meaningful relationships and maintaining them is a 24 x 7 effort intensive activity and need lot of compromises. But even with those efforts, strong, meaningful, healthy relationships give us a sense of purpose to our existence, a sense of fulfillment and sense of being. No one can be lonely and be happy. Humans aren’t born to be lonely, we are born to be loved.
“The most important thing in this world is to learn how to give out love and let it come in”.
In Feb of 2014, I was jaundiced and after an MRI scan, I was diagnosed with a mass on the pancreatic head. From the scans, doctors hinted that it may be a type of pancreatic cancer which is incurable and I may not have more than six months to live. But later, after a wait of four long days where I was uncertain if I was going to live or not, the test results for endoscopy came back negative for cancer. It was just a benign piece of pancreatic mass, which was removed with surgery, and today I am as healthy as a horse. But when I ponder back onto that time where I was uncertain of my existence, there wasn’t anything materialistic I was worried about. Almost everything: fear of failure, pride or egos fell during that time, leaving only behind what’s truly mattered to me. And what truly mattered to me was, I wanted my family and my friends whom I have shared my life with, be close to me. Their presence gave me the moments of happiness (which could have been my last) and strength to pass through a rough time in my life.
We need to start paying attention to our relationships rather than our mobile devices; we need to keep refueling our relationships rather than just our fancy cars; we need to listen to the people who care about us rather than just listening to news on the television; we need to devote time to “right things” rather than chasing the wrong ones; and most importantly, we need to be into our relationships wholeheartedly rather than being shallow about it. We have been on the easy path for quite a while, let us just choose a difficult yet fulfilling path from now on and that will make all the difference.
“Death ends a life not a relationship”
The quotes above are from the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, which has made a such a significant contribution to my life. That’s the only book I have ever read twice but at two very different times of my life. One time I was the happiest and other time I wasn’t so. In both times, I completely resonated with the message of the book: True fulfillment can only be achieved with good meaningful relationships. It seems the way I want to lead my life. The effect of “times” didn’t and will not change this fact one bit.