The progeny of Adam is a mere toy of mud if bereft of emotions. Had there been no emotions among the framework of bones and muscles, then man would have been only living in a physiological cage. Emotions elevate man many notches ahead of angels. Allah states in the holy Quran, “Verily, we have created the man in the best of moulds” (Surah Al-teen). Man is an amalgam of sweet and bitter emotions. Though negative and positive emotions are almost inseparable from each other and are two sides of the same coin, but the latter is somewhat the motive to lead a life at all. Happiness is the queen of all positive emotions, and it is commonly defined as a mental state characterised by feelings of fulfilment, contentment, joy and satisfaction.
Since his inception as the caliph of this planet, ibn-i-Adam has been striving hard to improve his living standards, in order to gain happiness. Though simple food, clothing and shelter can suffice his basic needs but the pursuit of happiness drives and propels man to the exploration of the hidden treasures of the universe. He has dived into the spine-shivering depths of oceans and surmounted the lofty mountain peaks of Himalayas and Andes. Man has subdued violent winds and gushing waters to grind his mill of happiness. Even deadly beasts have ratified the authority of man as the king of this world. Man has harnessed every opportunity of beatitude and blissfulness, every comfort and convenience is at his feet, delicious foods and feasts are there to satiate his hunger, adorable attires and dresses are available to add to his beauty, sophisticated medicine and advanced therapeutic procedures are at hand to get rid of diseases – and yet, tragically, man is still trapped in the clutches of misery, pain, grief and stress.
Man’s pursuit of happiness has landed him in the labyrinth of stress and pain.
Man has been working untiringly hard to climb the mountain of joys. An expensive house, a luxury car, surplus wealth, abundant bank balance, plenteous lands and costly clothes are considered to be the sources of happiness. Man burns the midnight oil to earn all these ostensible possessions of happiness. But, alas! all these have failed to bring him happiness. Man has almost failed to achieve his goal. Happiness has become a distant dream for him because his parameters of happiness are totally materialistic in nature. Millionaires and billionaires crave for a single nap. Usage of sedative pills and tranquilisers has increased manifold across the globe. If money and wealth had been the sources of happiness, then wealthy people would have been enjoying the riches of sleep. But the case is entirely different. Precious beddings are witness to the bitter fact that their owners toss and turn repeatedly in the gloom of night, while the poorest go into the lap of sleep under the open sky. Such scenarios are vivid under flyovers and bridges where wretched people are seen lying in rest on hard mattresses.
Physical comforts are considered to bring man happiness but the fact is quite contrary to it. Excessive comforts and luxuries haven’t only turned man slothful but have intoxicated him spiritually and physically. The industrial revolution has undoubtedly eased the hardships of man, but leaving everything to machines has enslaved man to the extent that he has lost the essence of being a man. The man of contemporary times is no more than a mechanical gadget. Emotions and feelings seem to be no longer part of his life. It is exceedingly difficult and almost impossible to differentiate between a biological being and a man. I shall not be afraid to call man a stooge of the industrial world. Surrendering even his hands to an electrical roti maker is unacceptable and ridiculous. We may not be as laborious like our ancestors but we ought not to be sluggish and indolent like snails.
It is an established fact that spiritual purification is a prerequisite to attaining emotional calmness, placidity and serenity. But, man is miles away from the spiritual aspect of life. Negative emotions have monopolised the persona of every human being. Hatred, anger, revenge, fear, melancholy, sadness, rage and disgust suppress the positive emotions and consequently perishes the real stuff of happiness. Thus, the pursuit of happiness has become a curse in disguise for man. It can be assumed without any exaggeration that the beast in man has goaded him to gallop onto the path of immodesty, devilment and tribulation.
Has the pursuit of happiness proved counterproductive for man? Has the so-called prosperity brought ruins to the peace and tranquility of man? Something is really wrong with the contemporary world because man is falling prey to stress and anxiety despite accomplishing great material feats. Absolute subordination and submission to mechanical gadgets has eroded the emotions and feelings of man. A living being deprived of emotions and feelings can never taste the fruit of happiness. The idea of happiness has thus proven to be a hoax.
Our ancestors and forefathers had no academic degrees and certificates to their credit, yet they were wiser than us. Schools, colleges and universities were fewer in number but the people were upright in their dealings. There was no internet, email, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook but the relationships were stronger and sweeter. Faster means of communication and transportation have distanced us badly from our near and dear ones. It is no less than a tragedy. Our ancestors would travel longer distances by foot but would ensure regular visits to their relatives’ homes. Ironically, our pursuit of happiness has soured our relationships because we have become egoistic and self-centered.
More knowledge and expertise has handed over man to the claws of destruction and demolition. Man can’t resist being hegemonic in nature, so, since early times, he would exert his muscles to expand his area of domination. But, sword and arrow were never a threat to the existence of man. Alas, in the pursuit of happiness, man has accumulated large quantities of deadly weapons and ammunition to annihilate all living things. The threat of nuclear catastrophe is looming large on humanity, and it has buried happiness deep in the bottom of the earth. We all need to relook into our benchmarks, standards and ideas of happiness. Here, I am reminded of a Bollywood movie song, “Zindagi Ki Talaash Mein Hum, Maut Kay Kitnay Paas Aagayay (How very close to death we have come in the search of life).”
The writer is a teacher and columnist. [email protected]