The Pursuit of Happiness
There was once a young boy who loved to hike the foothills of the mountain range close to where he lived. His father often accompanied him–especially if the young boy planned to camp for the night.
When they were together on hikes, they would often compete to see who could catch the most jackrabbits. This young boy would spend hours before these trips studying the best ways to catch and trap these rabbits. He honed his tracking skills, practiced with his slingshot, and exercised so he could run for long periods of time in pursuit of the desired prize.
His father, however, did no such thing. The boy would take great satisfaction from knowing he was more prepared than his father and would surely be the victor. He would become known far and wide for his great skill and success.
No sooner had father and son set up their camp than the boy issued a challenge to his father and was off. The father, on the other hand, sat down under the shade of a large tree and watched his son’s silhouette run off into the distance.
His thoughts focused on how his son was growing into a young man, how much he learned from his son’s example of kindness and hard work, and how his son could so easily let go of things and not hold a grudge. He thought of how grateful he was for his son’s health.
As the father sat and observed these thoughts he picked up some small rocks and thumbed them through his fingers noticing each rock’s unique color, shape, and texture. He breathed the fresh air, pretending his body was a balloon that he was filling to the bursting point. The sun’s golden hue filtered through the leaves and warmed the father’s skin.
Nearby, he could hear the gurgling of a fresh mountain stream. Recognizing all of these things left the father wanting for more of what he was experiencing, and he stayed connected to this state rather than rushing off to catch up with his son.
Ahead on the trail, the son was ecstatic about his head start. He knew for sure that he would win the prize due to his endurance, skill, and accurate aim. Surely he could not be beaten.
However, the son noticed that as he chased each rabbit that came into sight, it was unusually elusive. It almost seemed to the son that the rabbits were playing games with him, intentionally frustrating him.
It was as if they anticipated his every calculated move. What the son took to be a sure thing turned out to be an endless effort with no result.
“How could this be?” he wondered. He had worked so hard to be able to catch these rabbits. Nevertheless, his efforts were in vain.
After several hours of unfulfilled excitement, the boy turned and started, very dejectedly, towards camp. His only redeeming thought was that his father had been too tired to venture out and would therefore have no rabbits of his own. The end result would be a tie.
Tomorrow he would try again. He would run faster, think smarter, stalk more quietly, shoot more accurately. These thoughts were still swirling in his head when he arrived back at camp.
To his astonishment, he was met with an unimaginable sight. His father was still sitting under the tree, thumbing rocks, listening to the stream, and basking in the warm sunlight. A sweet smile of contentment curved on his gently aging face.
What the boy could not believe was what he saw surrounding his father.
Rabbits! Rabbits of all sizes and colors, young and old, had gathered around his father. Some were practically in his lap. They didn’t even scatter at the boy’s approach. It was as if the rabbits were held in place by a kind of magnetism.
The boy was stunned. It did not seem possible. The father had managed to catch dozens of rabbits without even moving an inch from under the tree.
Sensing the boys bewilderment, the father focused his eyes on his son and, with an inviting look, motioned for the boy to sit down beside him. The boy was clearly confused. He asked, “How did you do this?”
“Through being present,” was the father’s reply.
A look of confusion filled the boy’s face.
“But you didn’t do anything,” responded the boy.
“Don’t confuse being present with not doing anything,” said the father.
The father then explained the difference between the principle of pursuing and the principle of ensuing as they relate to happiness.
To pursue something is to chase after something, to go after it, to go get it–like the boy chasing after a rabbit. Pursuing and happiness are two contradictory principles.
One cannot chase after happiness or catch it. It will elude you. A more exerted effort on your part will not change this.
You have likely heard it said that happiness is not a destination; it is the journey. It is not something you go out and get.
Unfortunately, our society has lead us to believe we can go out and get it. This is one of the great lies we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into.
Like the boy in the story, we believe we can go and get happiness. You say you will be happy when you graduate, when you get married, when you get the dream house, when you get the promotion, etc.
If you are waiting for some future event to make you happy, you are not living a present-centered life. You are living contrary to the principle of happiness. Happiness is to be found in present–the present that allows you to experience the here and now for what it is without wishing it away or wanting to alter it.
Happiness ensues. When something ensues, it follows after as a natural result or outgrowth of some action.
Being present requires action–like the actions of the father as he noticed, observed, and accepted where he was and how things were unfolding.
Like the rabbits that came to him, happiness will come to you as a natural outgrowth of your action to accept the here and now.
When you choose to live authentically, applying the actions of honesty, integrity, acceptance, virtue, peace, and love to your relationships (including your relationship with yourself), you will find yourself surrounded by happiness. Live so happiness can find you. Then you will understand true internal happiness of the soul, not the masquerade that is the happiness of the world.