Monday, July 13, 2015

Happiness

A couple nights ago, Joel and I watched a movie called, "Hector and the Search for Happiness." It sounded like your typical search-for-happiness film especially when the description read like this, "Unfulfilled by his career as a psychiatrist, Hector leaves everything behind and travels around the world in search of happiness." How many times have you heard this plot line? 


I wasn't really enthused when Joel turned it on, but I do like a good travel film so I just went with it. Turns out that this was not your cliche happiness movie. There are a couple of important take-aways that I think are valid enough to share here and honestly, the film got me thinking. 

First off, Hector takes a journal with him and asks everyone he meets the same questions, "Are you happy? What makes you happy?" 

He travels first to China and meets a very wealthy man who does business there. This banker takes hector under wing and shows him what having all the riches in the world can pay for and look like. This adventure leads him to meet a call-girl, then some maids and he soon finds himself heading toward the Mountains where he spends times with Tibetan monks. Next he flies to Africa where he meets a mother, a doctor, a body guard, a drug-lord, then he is captured and imprisoned against his will (by mistake) by a gang of thieves who nearly killed him. (Spoiler alert) He is freed and leaves Africa for the U.S.A where he ends up caring for a dying woman on the plane. Then he visits an old flame and her family. This encounter sends him to a university where he spends time with a professor who studies happiness. This wild adventure is chocked full of incredible scenes of natural wonders, wonderful human encounters and of course, answers to his questions.

 This is what he recorded in his journal:


Lesson no. 1 Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
Lesson no. 2: Happiness often comes when least expected.
Lesson no. 3: Many people see happiness only in their future.
Lesson no. 4: Many people think that happiness comes from having more power or more money.
Lesson no. 5: Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
Lesson no. 6: Happiness is a long walk in beautiful, unfamiliar mountains.
Lesson no. 7: It’s a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
Lesson no. 8: Happiness is being with the people you love.
Lesson no. 8b: Unhappiness is being separated from the people you love.
Lesson no. 9: Happiness is knowing your family lacks for nothing.
Lesson no. 10: Happiness is doing a job you love.
Lesson no. 11: Happiness is having a home and a garden of your own.
Lesson no. 12: It’s harder to be happy in a country run by bad people.
Lesson no. 13: Happiness is feeling useful to others.
Lesson no. 14: Happiness is to be loved for exactly who you are.
Observation: People are kinder to a child who smiles (very important).
Lesson no. 15: Happiness often comes when you truly feel alive.
Lesson no. 16: Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
Lesson no. 17: Happiness is caring about the happiness of those you love.
Lesson no. 18: Happiness could be the freedom to love more than woman at the same time. (later, hector omits this lesson from his list)
Lesson no. 19: The sun and the sea make everybody happy.
Lesson no. 20: Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.
Lesson no. 21: Rivalry poisons happiness.
Lesson no. 22: Women care more than men about making others happy.
Lesson no. 23: Happiness means making sure that those around you are happy.
  • Be very attentive towards others.
  • Take time to observe the beauty of the world.

While I found these musings fascinating, they truly are not profound until you realize who the character was in the story that helped Hector reach this conclusion. Each person's experience and situation dictated their definition of happiness, which I am sure, comes as no surprise. Taking into consideration what different types of people find to be happiness really made me wonder what I think happiness is. 

I think my idea of happiness can be summed up much like the film itself. Hector finds himself in a study with the professor who hooks his head up to a brain sensor. This sensor indicates what emotion he is feeling when he recalls a memory. The professor asks him to think of a moment when he was afraid, a moment when he was sad, and a moment when he was happy. 

Right in the middle of this scan, Hector's girlfriend calls him and they find themselves in a very emotional, very important conversation that really becomes the climax of the whole film. Hector and Clara are finally admitting that they want to be together; they want to get married and start a family. Somehow, Hector was avoiding this feeling throughout the entire journey and in this study with his brain hooked up to a scanner, he looses control and finally shares his heart with the woman he loves.  

While he is confessing his love for Clara, the screen the professor is looking at is lighting up all over. The part of the brain that registers happiness is all a glow (of course!), but so are the parts of the brain that register intense fear and sadness. 



I found myself so deeply moved by this scene and I think it was more than pregnancy hormones... For me, happiness IS that. It IS everything. We are not Tinkerbell, who can only feel one intense emotion at a time. We are humans and we feel EVERYTHING all at once. The reality of happiness is that we won't ever only feel happy. We are too complex, too inserted in the past, present and future to only feel one delightful emotion. Even in our most present moments, we still don't only feel plain happiness. 

That glowing brain immediately made me think of my own feelings towards our pregnancy. I am exceedingly happy but I also have no doubt that the fear and sadness parts of my brain would also light up if someone where to scan what emotions I feel when I think of becoming a parent.

Happiness is being able to feel it all. It is knowing that joy can still be experience when there is fear or sadness. Or that fear and sadness can still be experienced when there is intense joy. Happiness is being alive, fully alive to all that you are capable of experiencing and being grateful for it. 

Happiness is dynamic. What gives me so much hope is that we can still be tired, bored, lonely, angry, sad, and fearful, and still be joyful. 

Here are a few more quotes from the film that I think are worth a ponder today:

 "We should concern ourselves not so much with the pursuit of happiness but rather with the happiness of pursuit."

"Happiness is answering your calling."

"If I seem happy, it is because I know I am loved for who I am."

"Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness."

"Listening is loving."

"More important than what we are searching for is what we are avoiding."

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