Are you really happy, or just resigned to your lot?

Happiness is an emotional state we achieve when we find ourselves in an ideal situation. The more ideal the situation and the longer we have dreamed of the opportunity, the happier we are. Conversely, we are saddened when we are denied our dreams, when our state of affairs leaves what to be desired.

Take a moment to envision your fantasy life. I'd imagine it would include many of the following: More money, a nicer home, more self-discipline, regular trips to exotic locations, more time to spend with your family, better health, better healthcare, more money, a more understanding and sensitive spouse, a more meaningful life, better jobs for the children, a better relationship with your parents, more money...

"My fantasy life? I'm living it! I can't imagine a thing I'd want to change!"I'd love to meet the person who'd honestly say, "My fantasy life? I'm living it! I can't imagine a thing I'd want to change!"

Considering this all, is true happiness possible? Can anyone claim to be living an ideal life? How can we be happy with mediocrity? Yes, we all have fleeting moments of true happiness, when we experience an event that is so wonderful that it temporarily blocks out all the other less-than-ideal aspects of our lives. But to be happy with life itself, that would seem to be the domain of those life forms that lack the ability to dream and imagine.

As a society, I believe that we confuse happiness with acceptance. Someone who accepts his flawed life with a smile, refusing to succumb to depression and the lethargy that so often accompanies this emotional state, is considered a "happy" person. In truth, such a person has successfully reconciled with his lot, realizing that dreams are just that — dreams; but can that be accurately described as happiness?

Many of the greatest thinkers and contributors in the fields of philosophy, science, government and more, were known for their melancholy. Could it be that their keen intellect and perception prevented them from settling for imperfection?

Are you wondering why I'm equating happiness with material possessions and accomplishments? How about a quest for spirituality? Can't a meaningful, spiritual life be a source of happiness? Well, seemingly, the spiritual picture isn't rosier. Au contraire. Human nature and spirituality are sum opposites. For the vast majority of people, a self-analysis reveals that the endeavor to be a spiritual/G‑dly individual is practically impossible; comparable to a leopard trying to change his spots (or choose another cliché along the same lines...).

Spirituality; G‑dliness = Selflessness; total commitment to a higher cause; utter revulsion for any act that is detrimental to aforementioned cause.

We can act spiritual and do holy deeds, but isn't it all a grandiose charade? Human nature = Selfishness; commitment to self-gratification (will only renounce a self-gratifying act in favor of something even more self-gratifying); has no concern for any cause other than his own.

(If you think that this definition of human nature is simplistic or incorrect, print it out and show it to any student of psychology.)

We can act spiritual and do holy deeds, but isn't it all a grandiose charade? Whom are we fooling? No matter how we act, it can never change who we are.

Almost absurdly, the human being — the "crown jewel" of creation — is the only creature that possesses this anti-spiritual nature. All other creations — from the most celestial angel to the lowly earthworm — do exactly what their Creator wants of them, and have no desire whatsoever to stray one iota from their divine mission!

So can we be happy with our spiritual identity and nature? It can be argued that such contentment only serves to dangerously bolster and legitimize our egotistical natures.

So from whence does true happiness derive? Here is what Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says on the matter (Tanya ch. 31):

In order to comfort his heart in double measure . . . let him say to his heart:

"Indeed, without a doubt, I am far removed, utterly remote from G‑d, and am despicable, contemptible, and so on. But all this is true only of me — that is, my body and the animating soul within it. Yet within me there is a veritable part of G‑d . . .namely, the divine soul and the spark of G‑dliness itself clothed in it, animating it. It is only that the divine soul is in exile [because it inhabits such a lowly body]. . .

"Let your divine soul be more precious to you than your loathsome body...""Therefore, I will make it my entire aim and desire to extricate it from this exile, and to 'return her to her father's home as in her youth,' i.e., as it was before being clothed in my body, when it was completely absorbed in G‑d's light and united with Him. Now too will it likewise be absorbed and united with Him once again, when I concentrate all my aspirations on the Torah and the mitzvot."

. . .This, then, should be one's lifelong service of G‑d with great joy — the joy of the soul upon leaving the loathsome body, and returning, during one's study of the Torah and service of G‑d, to "her father's house as in her youth."

Surely, there is no joy as great as that of being released from exile and captivity. . .

True, the body remains abominable and loathsome. . . Yet, let his divine soul be more precious to him than his loathsome body, so that he rejoices in the soul's joy, without letting the sadness on account of his body interfere with or disturb the joy of the soul.

So it comes down to this: happiness depends on how we define ourselves, which aspect of our personality we identify with. If we identify with our body and its nature, then the outlook is indeed bleak. If we identify with our souls, the G‑dly spark extant within every one of us, then every mitzvah we do is an exhilarating moment of acute joy. Not despite the body; because of it. Because there's no joy like being uplifted from the very depths to the highest of high.

Words to live by:

Let your divine soul be more precious to you than your loathsome body... don't let the sadness on account of your body interfere with or disturb the joy of the soul.