Basic Instinct

The pursuit of joy outside of us is as futile as the pursuit of our own shadow. We have to find happiness within ourselves

12/11/2017 4:55:53 PM
written By : Debashis Chatterjee Print

Our basic instinct is to be joyful—“to be happy as hell”, my friend Sadanand would remark. “Even hell ought to be a reasonably happy place for you to want to get there,” I humour him.

Sadanand’s colleagues in the office call him Sad Anand: his grim and melancholy eyes behind his thick eyeglasses lend credence to that nickname. He is an accountant by training and a certified penny pincher at work — but spends generously to fly to Australia to do bungee-jumping every year. Imagine the hellish joy he gets in spending a fortune just to be suspended feet up thousands of feet above the sea. I wonder how our instinct for joy can even take us to such limits of our physical endurance

Our basic instinct is something that is innate to us. It is not what we pursue or learn. A bird does not learn to sing. A bird is instinctively song-full. Similarly, a human being does not have to learn to be joyful — we are instinctively joyful. The reason we do not experience joy is that we have learnt its exact opposite: to be sorrowful. Sorrow is mental suffering or pain caused by injury, loss, or despair. While pain is physical, sorrow and misery are mental states. Sometimes pain cannot be avoided, however, sorrow can be unlearnt. This is simply because sorrow is not real, sorrow is a mental make-up.

While joyfulness is the soft core of our existence, sorrow is the mental organisation around the soft core: like the hardened shell of a coconut. Joylessness is a learnt behaviour. Whenever we access the source of joy inside us, we get organised outwards to capture it. The moment we see a sunset, we whip out a camera. We see a tender flower, we are itching to pluck it and put it inside a vase. What we do not realise is that the charm of the sunset or the beauty of the flower can be felt inside the soft core of our joyful self — it can’t be felt by the luminous lens of the camera or the inert flower vase.

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