Follow the Light


Follow the Light



The Dalai Lama once said the meaning of life is happiness. His holiness is not completely wrong, but I do not agree. I know, it is a bold move to question the Dalai Lama, so let me explain.

Many people believe that happiness is the ultimate goal of life. Why? Because it makes us feel good. It is much more enjoyable to be happy than to be sad or angry. So we humans try to optimise everything that increases happiness and reduces everything that produces unpleasant feelings. So far so good.

But now comes the problem. Our brain is wired to directly link pleasure to happiness and pain to unpleasant feelings. This simple circuit has far reaching consequences: Every time we experience some pleasure we also experience a happy feeling. And vice versa - every time be get burned we experience sadness or anger. This evolutionary wiring was very successful while we were living in the Savannah, hunting for food and avoiding dangerous animals, but it is not the best software for the 21st century and even worse - it is a malware if you want to establish long lasting bliss in your life.

Why? If you want to increase your happiness by chasing pleasure you get a free ride in the rat race. You work to buy some nice cloths, nice cars or a house. And sure, they will make you happy. For a while. But then you need a new car, a new house and a new therapist. You get the point.

So if chasing happiness through pleasure does not work, let’s take a look at what does work. Let me give you an example from landscape photography. All landscape photographers, no matter which style they prefer, are united in the very same quest: They are searching for the magic in nature. That can be a breathtaking sunset over Uluru or a foggy morning in a rainy forest. Now in order to find this magic, photographers learned one simple rule: Follow the Light.

Yes, they are obsessed by the magic, but they are not searching for magic. They are searching for light. Because the light is what sets the stage for the scenery. The magic picture is just the result. And the same is true for happiness. If you search for happiness you will not find it. But if you search for meaning and what gives meaning to you, happiness will follow. Because happiness is not the meaning of life. The meaning in your life is happiness.

Yes the Dalai Lama said the meaning of life is happiness and I still believe that this quote is not optimal and much too often wrongly referred to. But I also have to say that his holiness added a very important question (Which unfortunately is often left out):

The meaning of life is happiness. But that is not the hard question. The hard question is what MAKES happiness? Money? A big house? Accomplishments? Friends? Or…..compassion and a good heart?

So in the end the Dalai Lama was right. Of course ;) Don’t search directly for happiness, but rather ask yourself what is meaningful to you. Don’t get obsessed by hunting magic.

Just follow the Light.

Martin Inderbitzin