Happiness in a Cave | If happiness is a choice then why create anything?
Imagine a cave.
What if you went inside it and never came out?
By going into the cave you’d be leaving behind a world of notifications, wifi, art, and people.
You need your basic necessities to survive (shelter, food, and water)… but let’s say all of those things can be found inside the cave.
Could you make yourself happy in these conditions?
With much of what I read in Buddhism and Stoicism the answer is — yes.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” — Buddha
Basically the thinking is… happiness is internal therefore it can be achieved internally.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” — Marcus Aurelius
But no one seems to be asking the deeper philosophical question… if happiness is a choice, or a muscle (as I think is a more adept descriptor), then why not live in a cave and spend all of our waking minutes cultivating an inner state of happiness through the power of meditation?
Why bother to create? to write? to do?
If happiness has no basis in the external world then why give a darn about improving the external world?
I have spent months pondering this question and to be honest, I haven’t quite settled on an answer. Maybe you can help me.
But this is what I came up with so far…
1. Happiness is expressed in a smile. This is because as humans we have a DESIRE TO SHARE our internal state with the world. It can be as simple as a smile, but it can also be reflected in something we create. When I think about some of the happiest moments of my life (graduating from college, losing my virginity, getting my drivers license… not in that order) I wanted to rush and tell someone I loved. I wanted to share my excitement.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” — Buddha
2. Self-conscious is in its very nature insecure. We should BECOME MORE WORLD-CONSCIOUS. Our personal perspective is subjective. If I asked you from what lens do you see the world? You might instinctively say from your own two eyes, but that’s a child’s perspective. As we get older we see more from other people’s perspectives through the power of imagination and story. In some ways we can actually see more clearly. If a child is crying because he fell off a slide, I may understand his pain more than he does. He may even look to me for my reaction to make sense of what his reaction should be, but then when I drop the people’e elbow on him he may laugh and brush it off realizing that it was no big deal.
As we cultivate empathy we begin to feel other people’s suffering as our own, which should drive us into action. This should drive us out of the cave because now that I am no longer just “Anthony Galli” and I identity more closely with “humanity” then I should seek to end suffering in the world just as I would want to end it in myself. The world therefore becomes my cave and I must wrangle it into peace as I would my own mind.
“Compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things.” — Buddhist Proverb
3. SENSE OF DUTY. I was born in the external world and it has given me so much in my life. I have been given a beating heart, a loving family, and freedom. And as the ol saying goes, “for whom much is given much is required.” It would be selfish of me to not give back to this external world. Maybe my existence is pure randomness, but if it is not then for what other purpose could I have been created for then to create?
“Even as the Sun doth not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but shines forth and is welcomed by all: so thou also wait not for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do thy duty; nay, do good of thine own accord, and thou wilt be loved like the Sun.” — Epictetus
I hope this article will inspire you to cultivate your mind and inner happiness. Take control of it.
And then once you got your hair combed, makeup applied, and mind right that you will then strut out of your cave to help build a better world.
Thanks for reading! Anthony Galli writes about the great men and women who made history so that we may make history in our own time. Watch his series @ The Great Life.