The fly & the window: in search of happiness
Like a fly trying to escape through an open window, are we trapped in our own room of life desperately craving a route to happier things? Maybe this realisation alone can set us free. By Lisa Lohmann
Except for basic survival, what is the one thing that every person, animal or living being in this world is striving to achieve? Correct: Happiness! It is also the desire to go about our lives peacefully and without fear of pain or harm.
The inspiration for this actually came from a simple but beautiful realisation:
It was a warm sunny afternoon when a fly entered my room through the open window. I watched as it flew briefly around the room. When it noticed that it had gone the wrong way and there was nothing to find inside, it headed back to the window where it had come from. It knew where its freedom was and it was determined to get out there. Crash! It hit the window at full speed. Slightly shaken, it took another trip around the room. That can’t have been the correct exit, could it? After a few seconds, it saw the window again and went directly towards it. Crash! It hit again.. and again…the fly was trapped.
As an observer from afar, I was able to see that the fly’s freedom was right there; in fact, it was right next to it. The window was open, it would only have had to take a slightly different direction to reach what it was so eagerly trying to achieve. Instead, it was blindly moving in circles at a tremendous effort, but going nowhere. I tried to help, waving it with big movements towards the exit, but the fly just panicked and continued to bang head-first against the window, desperately trying to get out. It was trapped. Trapped in its own short-sightedness.
If only this fly had a larger brain, I thought to myself. But then the realisation hit me. What if we are like the fly? Going through our lives, desperately looking for happiness. And then suddenly we see the window. Our window is what we think will make us happy — be it the next pay rise for which we’ve been working so many extra hours, the ideal weight for which we’ve been frantically cutting calories, or simply the weekend for which we’ve been longing for since Monday.
We firmly believe that this is where our happiness lies, the exit to our suffering. We know that if we reach it, we will finally be happy. We take the course of action and go full speed towards the window. Crash! Confused and a bit battered, we take another fly through our room of life. Why hasn’t this brought me the happiness I was expecting? we ask ourselves. But then we see the window again. This time, we are so convinced, this must be the way to happiness! Crash!
What if we are spending our lives adhering to invisible rules? The rules of society. Get a good job, find a partner, buy a house.
As easy and unconscious as we tend to accept all cookies on a homepage, we have agreed to follow these rules. It is deeply rooted in us, myself not excluded, to live in the illusion that if we follow these rules we will reach eternal happiness.
But this is the one great paradox of our time: we are wealthier than ever before but more unhappy; we are more prosperous, but more depressed; we have faster transport, better technology and a much wider range of goods and services, but we haven’t seen the corresponding increase in happiness.
Could it be that we humans are not good at judging what actually makes us happy? That our happiness, our freedom from all suffering, is right next to us, but we are too short-sighted to realise it? That we go in endless circles chasing happiness, but never end up fully grasping it?
I believe that, together, we can free ourselves from who we should be, and be who we want to be. Which in this case, is not a fly. Let’s move…but this time, let’s actually go somewhere!