“It is so simple to be happy, but so difficult to be simple.”
I was struck by this statement when watching a re-run of a 1972 classic Indian movie “Baawarchi” (the “Cook”). I think the imminent philosopher poet Gulzar wrote the dialogues for the film and penned these lines.
There has to be something inherent in our genetic composition that causes us to enjoy a beautiful piece of prose or verse, scribbling memorable lines from songs or books that we wish to retain because they inspire us. Enjoy a piece of music, whether a concerto, a bandish or do an impromptu if self-conscious jig, humming a Bollywood song from years gone by. Walk on the beach dipping our feet in the incoming surf, yet taking care to keep the hemline dry. Watch the glorious lilac and pink of the sky changing color as the sun rises or sets, whether over city rooftops or across the rolling country fields. Get inspired by the yellow, golden, red hues of the leaves changing colors in the Fall. Enjoy being blanketed by the deafening silence as the first snowflakes start to descend languorously. Feel inexplicably happy as a toddler locks eyes and smiles when riding past you in a stroller. A friend, family member or a colleague who calls you or compliments you, out of the blue. The pleasure of an honest, personal exchange when you initiate an honest conversation by asking the cashier behind the counter how her day is going and attentively listen to her.
One does not have to make a special effort to enjoy these things. Making them a part of our lives and enjoying them comes naturally. So, it IS simple to be happy. Now, why is it so difficult to be simple?
When talking about taking things in one’s stride and not getting stressed, there is usually an accompanying qualifying statement, “… true, it is possible but it is not that simple.” This remark covers just about anything whether it is an issue relating to health, job loss, family problems or financial matters etc. In Hindi we have a saying by Bhagat Kabir,
“Jaake paaon naa phati bivaayee, so kyaa jaane peer paraaee”
[How can one who does not have fissured heels know the pain others have to endure]
I learned many things from my late mentor and friend Prof Singh. One evening in 2008, we sat sipping tea and I was trying to impress him by talking about the many books I had been reading covering a range of spiritual, religious and other “uplifting and evolutionary” subjects. He continued to listen patiently, smiled indulgently and never said a word. As I was leaving and getting into my car he put his hands on my head to bless me and with genuine affection said, “I wish you ever greater success in all that you set out to accomplish. Learn as much as you can but don’t forget that there is much more out there that you will never even know exists. As the Japji reminds us:
“.. Sehas siaanpaa lakh hohe ta ik naa chale naal
.. Hukam rajaaee chalnaa Nanak likhiyaa naal”
[.. Hundreds of thousands of intellectual (clever) acts, but not one will support you in the end
.. Nanak counsels us to submit to the Divine (Natural) Order]
Simplify your life, do all that you want but also learn to live in total acceptance of the Natural Order.”
I instantly recalled a similar conversation with my mother further back in time, possibly November 1990 when she had advised me, “It is only through creating conflict in our own mind or externally, that we generate unhappiness. Be simple and learn to trust our inherent nature, which guides, nurtures and sustains us.” So, it is not difficult to be simple. and yet we make it to be.
Which brings me to the stressed public who having voted, cannot now change the outcome of the elections. People are constant seekers and even when faced with things over which they have no direct control they find it difficult to let go.
As Bobby McFerrin reminded us back in 1988, Don’t Worry Be Happy.