In our exploration of happiness, the topic of “the journey” unsurprisingly appears like an ever-present phantom. We hear it everywhere, namedropped in verse and song. “The journey” subtly emerges in everyday conversation and is prominently displayed on handmade AA posters hung on the walls of recovery rooms.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) is credited with the declaration. He said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Decades later, in Aerosmith’s 1993 song “Amazing,” Stephen Tyler forcefully sung out, “Life’s a journey not a destination, and I just can’t tell just what tomorrow brings.”
But, are these individuals correct? Shouldn’t the focus be placed upon the goal and the resulting harvest of our hard work? Swami Sivananda observed, “Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.”
That “illimitable domain of eternal bliss” was articulated best by American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell (1904-1987). During an interview with Bill Moyers, Campbell provided further instruction, “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you don’t know they were going to be.”
Follow your bliss. Don’t be afraid. Campbell’s metaphorical track can take us on a journey leading to an awesome, magical place of self-discovery. It is a destination embracing the life we ought to be living. It is the moment of awareness when we realize our intention in the universe.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are,” was a powerful tenet espoused by Swiss psychotherapist C.G. Jung (1875-1961). We are special and unique. None are the same, no two alike. We have the ability to create change and to make a difference. Each has exceptional talents and attributes that define our exceptionality. Each has a unique gift; a singular mission hidden within our psychic DNA. To fulfill that mission, when understood, contributes to the “greater” good.
Clearly, our single most important task is discovering our true purpose. It is a steadfast, goal-directed pursuit that begs the questions, “Who am I? How do I contribute positively to the universe?” Those who definitively answer these questions will have a deeper sense of fulfillment and sense of self. They will know themselves as they realize their place, their purpose in the world.
There is awesome opportunity ahead. Some accept the challenge and assume the risk. Some, bathed in the comfort and security of a predictable, nonthreatening routine, choose to do nothing. Change is difficult. Habits are hard to break.
Unfortunately, not everyone climbs onto their track. Some struggle looking for but, regretfully, never finding their life’s passion. For them, happiness is close at hand and just around the corner. It is that magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But it is a lie. It hides in the wings, waiting to be summoned, waiting for the cue that never comes.
These individuals, for lack of a better word, are the Future People, their lives stepped in anticipation and expectation of future events. They dwell, not in the strength of the moment, but in the Fantasy Land of tomorrow. They calculate that they will live, not now, but in the future. They just need to get their degree, a particular job, a promotion, or a raise. They demand that certain things must happen before they take action. Maybe they’re waiting to get married or have a child. Perhaps they will be happy after they retire.
In his essay titled “Happiness,” Father Alfred D’ Souza explained, “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time … and remember that time waits for no one…”
D’ Souza’s observation is that our lives are happening now. If we are to enjoy the satisfaction and fulfillment we deserve, we must draw pleasure from everything that happens to us. These experiences are the very essence of our life. We must live in the moment. We must stop to smell the roses.
“Be here now,” instructed Ram Dass. Happiness isn’t just around the corner. It’s not going to show up at 3:30 in the afternoon like an old friend. It’s not like a passenger train pulling into the station. It’s now and it’s today and it is happening on our journey and in the moment.
The more conscious we are that life consists of the journey, not the destination, the more likely we are to get the most out of it. Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist and poet suggested that,“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
Addison is on to something here. That “something” that we do strongly defines who we are. That “something” provides us with optimism, personal satisfaction and love of self. Joseph Campbell would agree that it equally defines our bliss. Discovering our purpose in life is essential. It helps shape our self-identity and allows us to look at ourselves with satisfaction and feelings of self-worth. This is key as we realize the interconnectedness we have with all things and the oneness we share on our journey.
It has often been stated … blessed is the person who has found their life’s vocation, doing what they most enjoy and receiving a compensation greater than any financial remuneration. As they embraced their passion they discovered their purpose.
Although scholars believe that the Life is a journey, not a destination is a misattribution of Ralph Waldo Emerson; he did write a thematically related remark. Emerson said, “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” And happiness too. With much appreciation to Ralph Waldo Emerson and countless others … the pursuit of happiness is about being and not doing and of the journey and not the destination.
Maxim W. Furek is a competitive athlete and published author. His rich background includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism. His latest book Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music explores the psychological and spiritual trauma of being trapped alive and is available at www.shepptonmyth.com