By NAVEED GILANI
Aristotle in his treatise on a perfect life uses the term eudemonia (of course, a Greek word) as the ultimate end for which we do all that we do. This term loosely means ‘happiness’. It’s more accurate translation would be ‘human flourishing’ but for the purposes of this piece I will stick to the former. So, this is it, my highbrow justification from the teachings of the Greek philosophers that for a perfect life we need to conquer happiness, however elusive it may seem. According to the same thesis, we are naturally fitted to zoom into it but sadly we, unwittingly, don’t. And why do we not? Because we erroneously pursue other mundane goals, like stock market, material possessions, keeping up with the Joneses, and on and on.
Over twenty years ago, in a job interview I was asked of the happiest moment in my life. I had to think of it for a few seconds and then rattled out my happiest moment, it was actually an event rather than a moment. The follow up questions was to tell the saddest moment in my life. I thought for a bit and concluded that I couldn’t think of any. To this day I do not know the reason for having been asked that question in a job interview but soon afterwards I realized the significance of happiness. I did get the job for which I was interviewed and ironically the trials and tribulation of that same job taught me this lesson that I am preaching herein: happiness, means to a perfect life.
Bertrand Russell in his 1930 book, ‘The Conquest of Happiness’ writes; “A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.” He further says, “Altogether it will be found that a quiet life is characteristic of great men, and that their pleasures have not been of the sort that would look exciting to the outward eye.” Hmmmm………..
I, being an ordinary mortal, have always looked for my joy in not so quiet a life, though presently I do go for quiet. Maybe I am finally pushing to join the comity of ‘great men’. Though, from time to time I do succumb to my wife trying to hold me back from becoming ‘great’. Not for much longer.
That pivotal job interview also made me realize that God almighty had been so kind that I could not name a sad moment in life, what to talk of the saddest. I also realized that, luckily for me, happiness came easily. I want to continue with easy and I find appreciating the beauty of everything around me as easy. I can easily see the beauty in people around me each day of my life. The beauty of our planet; I have seen a miniscule part and for the rest, national geographic does a great job.
Don Vito Corleone (remember Godfather) opened his eyes for the last time to see his son, Michael, he smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, “Life is so beautiful.”
It was a sunny Sunday morning, while the women were at church, Don had dressed in his gardening uniform, tended his beloved garden where the beans in their rows grew little white flowers on top; strong green stalks of scallion fenced everything in. In the lower part of the garden were the square wooden frames he had built, the sticks cross-tied with thick white string. Over these frames crawled the tomato vines. He loved tending his garden; he loved the sight of it early in the morning. It brought back his childhood in Sicily sixty years ago, brought it back without sorrow.
“If I can die saying, “Life is so beautiful,” then nothing else is important. If I can believe in myself that much, nothing else matters” – Mario Puzzo, the author of Godfather.
One of my many ‘life is so beautiful’ moments was back in 1997 when I was visiting my brother in San Francisco. Like any first timer to the city I visited the golden gate bridge lookout point and here I paint the panoramic word picture of what I saw; clear deep blue sky with sparse tufts of clouds, wonderfully calm and beautiful; the air crisp and clean at 68 degrees, delightfully petting my cheeks and dabbing my nose; visibility in miles beyond the bridge and into the mountains in the back; the light blue bay water stretching to the ocean growing deeper and bluer as it touched the sky way out in the horizon; and finally the raison d’etre for the lookout point, the golden gate bridge, in its expressive red seemingly received its final coat of red oxide just then. That red in the immense blue of the sky and the ocean speckled with a little green and brown from the land around was heavenly.
‘Life is so beautiful, indeed’!
And here is the key; appreciate life’s beauties to unlock the path to happiness.
I recently read the book ‘Once Around’ by Judy and Ward LeHardy, a friend of my father-in-law, who, after retiring from the army, went around the world in a sail boat. The part of his sail through the Pacific Ocean introduced me to the beauties of some of the small islands and atolls which I never thought of adding to my bucket list. Now, French Polynesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, the great barrier reef, are all in there.
Who knows when I will get to see them but I will be a happy man if I can whisper like Don Corleone, “Life is so beautiful”