Want More Happiness?

It takes courage to let our enthusiasm shine through, and courage to respond with wonder in our expressions of appreciation for the simple and natural magnificence of it all. And this seems to be at the crux of recruiting happiness; curiosity, courage and appreciation.
09/17/2014 03:57 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Watching Relativity Media and Peter Chelsom's new film, Hector and the Search for Happiness, naturally draws a response to ponder how happiness is brought about in one's own life, when, where, with whom it's been most abundant and how to attain more of it. Of course the paradox is that we lose sight of happiness the moment we try to grasp it -- mistaking the finger for the moon. Yet it's always readily accessible to us if and when we're able to open new eyes and see the world with a fresh, raw enthusiasm that's often described as childlike or unfortunately, "childish." So it takes courage to let our enthusiasm shine through, and courage to respond with wonder in our expressions of appreciation for the simple and natural magnificence of it all. And this seems to be at the crux of recruiting happiness; curiosity, courage and appreciation -- the mechanisms by which the spirit of adventure and happiness is re-engaged.

This film comes along at a time when our technological connectivity is reshaping the face of depression as we continuously project our identities and engage, by default, more often with and as these personality projections, or avatars, than with one another as actual sentient beings. And so the uneven terrain traversed though authentic connection that yields unexpected surprise, becomes homogenized and predictable, eliminating the variability that any recipe -- whether it be friendship, love, or even a chocolate cake -- demands in order to be rich with texture, newness and depth. That bridling of spontaneity crucifies happiness for the convenience of expediency and the comfort of certainty.

And this film hilariously demonstrates that. Hector is a psychiatrist who, when realizing his own world has been depleted of exuberance and life force, sets out to travel the world in search of what makes people happy in an effort to renew his own joy. He finds many ingredients that lend themselves to formulating happiness; surprise, elation, adventure, loneliness, the feeling of usefulness, appreciation, being appreciated, melancholy, relief, celebration, fear, anxiety, interconnection, laughter,and sometimes just a warm meal. Indeed, interweaving this entire range of experiences to constitute happiness is seemingly counterintuitive. And yet this juxtaposition of varietal experiences is exactly what the grand labyrinth offers up, helping us, or perhaps prompting us, to unpack the gift of life with renewed appreciation. As Jung writes, "There is no coming to consciousness without pain. The word happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." Just as a delicious cake contains salt, fulfillment requires discipline, and happiness encompasses pain.

I allowed myself to be emotionally available to the experience of this film, so I had a great time watching it. And this is a point the film beautifully conveys. Hector leaves his life in search of happiness and then, in the end, returns to the exact same life. Except, his internal world has changed, and so his entire experience of the external world takes on a new richness in texture, a new luster and sparkle. These qualities are only perceivable to us by first being conceivable by us, i.e., happiness, or awakening, is a personal responsibility of initiative. And perhaps in some way, to some degree, there's a moral obligation to it? Even Ayn Rand wrote, "Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values."

We can't change the world if we can't change ourselves, but if we can change ourselves just a little, then we can affect the world profoundly. I made a humble documentary film series exploring fundamental questions at the root of happiness and meaning in life, and with the m.o. to perpetuate joy and compassion. What I learned on that journey: a subtle paradigm shift in seeing the world anew, as often as possible -- and especially in response to challenge -- is a gift life beckons us to engage with enthusiasm and appreciation for its simple wonders. When we choose this methodology we permit ourselves to interpret even the mundane as glorious and profound. I invite you go see this film, Hector and the Search for Happiness, and Awakening World as well, and then share with others one of the ways you've discovered happiness.

There's a morphic resonance, a patterning that is continually renewing and emerging via our most frequented methodologies. If we can influence this unfolding of life through what we forge with repetition, why not collaborate on a modality of happiness? Our frequent states of being can grow into stages. Our habits form our character. And so, together, we can cultivate a culture of kindness. And since we only have one perpetual turn to play it all out, let's get the party started now and forever. Though if you ever feel late or not included, as I sometimes might, know this; the party is always now, and everyone is invited. May we respond to that beckoning, woven through the very fabric of life, with enough appreciation, enthusiasm, childlike curiosity, and courage to be, and so to inspire each other to be, more... happy.