Every one of us has wounds and weaknesses. The often unfortunate side-effect is that we get beaten down as a result; we become weak to function on a personal level. While we allow such consequentiality, American Philosopher Bertrand Russell introduces a different perspective. He says:
Gradually I learned to be indifferent to myself and my deficiencies; I came to center my attention increasingly upon external objects; the state of the world, various branches of knowledge, individuals for whom I felt affection.
Center your attention upon what appears to be external to yourself – the objects, moments, knowledges and individuals that bring joy, light to the soul. It is the art of transcendence; in fact this immediately transcends oneself.
You realise that your problems are too small to be obsessed with; the suffering of the world is not only more immense, but so is the joy to be shared. This brings to mind the concept and popularised saying that happiness is a choice.
In fact, when you manage to derive joy through external objects dear to you, it is essentially the process of journeying from the physical to the nonphysical, immaterial and spiritual world.
From a physical and tangible moment captured in time – such as a beautiful sunset, a special moment, an achievement or the simple pleasures of the mundane – and constrained by time, our contemplation upon these things move them into a timeless, infinite dimension.
Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s search for meaning, has spent years in a concentration camp living in conditions where he (and other prisoners) were literally stripped to naked existence, possessing nothing but their beaten-down bodies. How could happiness ensue?
Frankl, rendered a powerless victim of nature and fate, during one of his early morning marches in the bitter cold – in his words – “saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers”. He says:
The salvation of man is through love and in love. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honourable way— in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfilment.
In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner’s existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered. “Stop!” We had arrived at our work site. Everybody rushed into the dark hut in the hope of getting a fairly decent tool. Each prisoner got a spade or a pickaxe.
“Can’t you hurry up, you pigs?” Soon we had resumed the previous day’s positions in the ditch. The frozen ground cracked under the point of the pickaxes, and sparks flew. The men were silent, their brains numb.
My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn’t even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing—which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
Love is the language of happiness, and transcends the boundaries of time and space. Just as love is transcendental, happiness is immaterial and belongs to the experience of the soul. Happiness might be obtained through external things, but ultimately seeps inward and transforms the soul through its vibrations of light.