The world is a marvellous teacher for producing things that shake us out of our stupor when we are taking things for granted and feeling comfortable with everything. Society is stirred up time and time again by catastrophic events, either natural or manmade, and the degree of shock is dependent to a great degree on the extent to which our own world appears to have been violated or threatened.
Day in, day out there are news reports of people in various parts of the world blowing other people up and committing all manner of atrocities. These tragedies are often only mentioned in passing – until one of them is close to home, in the country where we live, for instance.
Isn’t it much the same in our individual lives? People are suffering everywhere but if news comes to us that a close friend or relative has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it can affect us deeply. And, if we are honest, our emotions are unsettled not only because of any compassion we may feel but also because the normality of our little world has changed. The one who has always been there may not be around for much longer; and the closer they are to us, the stronger the emotional reaction is likely to be.
There are millions of examples you and I could no doubt think of where we would say that change, vulnerability and impermanence threaten human happiness. But in fact we would be wrong. The reason we would be wrong is that the threat to our happiness doesn’t lie in the things that are going to change. The cause is the way we see those them, or rather our failure to see things as they really are.
The key to happiness is largely a matter of perception and we have to correct our traditional view of reality. Our natural desire for happiness can only be met by achieving a stable state of consciousness and we do that by re-training the mind. Sometimes it takes a major crisis to spur us into doing something about that – but maybe it is better not to wait for a big event and just get on with it now.
More on this in The Great Little Book of Happiness