Wednesday, February 23, 2005


February 13, 2005

What is happiness? Is it a feeling of great joy at being with people you love? Is it winning the lottery? Is it laughter? Is it being able to buy all you ever wanted in life? Is it being with the man you love best in the world?

Happiness is like a cloud. The more you stare at it, the faster it seems to change form. It is different things for different people. Yesterday, I was looking at a particularly ugly cloud. It was like white cotton candy. Gradually, it began to take in the form of a fluffy duck. Then just as I am about to decide where the wing is, the beak is gone and in its place the hood of a car takes form, then a girl dancing and once I can even see it as Mary bowing her beautiful head. This is a game we usually play since childhood. Clouds have an amazing way of delighting the young. As we each gaze at it and debate on its form, we unconsciously say what our souls wish to say. We want the clouds to show what’s in our souls. We want it to show the world our heart’s desire. And as we debate with our playmates, if we are but mindful, we will also know their heart’s desire: a toy, a pet, a mother; all that a child could possibly wish for. And the clouds grant it.

So it is with happiness. It is always there before my eyes. I may choose to see it or not. And when I do see it, I may put figures or forms on it. I am happy because I got a very expensive gift. I am happy because my friend whom I haven’t seen for ten years texted me. I am happy because my father got well, and I am happy because my dreams are finally coming true. When we put forms on our clouds, we know what makes us happy. And we get a little nearer to heaven because of it.

Yet what makes me happy may not make other people happy. Sometimes when I listen to a student sharing his unhappiness, I tend to impose my own clouds at him. I want my wishes to be his, I want him to see the clouds the way I see it, forgetting that his soul is not mine, that his soul sees the clouds in a different way. When that happens, I do not respect his soul. I am guilty many times of this. What I should have done is guide him to see the clouds first. Just like what we do when we are young. When we notice a cloud and recognize its form, we immediately tell our playmates about it and together we laughingly find other forms. Sometimes we recognize the forms our friends discover, sometimes we cannot, there may be even times when we refuse to see what our friend has discovered, insisting that his duck is our airplane. The point is we recognize that each of us decides what makes us happy. Happiness cannot be imposed. It is discovered. And if our souls are but open and our hearts as carefree as a child, we will be amazed at how happy we can be. If we but let it.

So what is happiness? For me it is in seeing the clouds and discovering the fluffy duck, the dancing girl and Mary. It is recognizing that my happiness is not dependent on one form, one thing, one person. It is respecting my friends’ clouds and loving them enough to share my own clouds and see theirs. And if I cannot understand how my duck is their airplane, I will just put my arm around their shoulders and smile up at heaven. After all, I am not asked to understand, but see and watch the clouds.