Le Bonheur

April 28, 2009

It’s funny how some coincidences are just hard to take lightly. Just as I got back from Gran Canaria, today in class we talked about happiness and well-being. It couldn’t have come at a more pivotal period in my life, and it left me with more questions than answers. Besides the fact that my French is nowhere near good enough for me to fully express what I think of happiness, how it works, and how it can be achieved, the topic is far too complicated for me to comprehend.

When you leave your “home”, and try to take on a completely new society, you start to notice that there were a lot of things that you took for granted, and you regret not appreciating them enough. Some of the basics include home food, late-nights, and time spent with loved ones, but more advanced aspects can include mental strength and emotional support.

In Cairo, if I have any problem, there are so many people I can call, and there are so many things that I can do to release the negative vibes that have infiltrated me. But in the French capital, it’s not the same. Here (or anywhere away from home, for that matter), you start realizing that you’re not as strong as you thought you were, and perhaps the obstacles you face are too much for your confidence. But this is what it’s all about, learning to be happy no matter what. Learning to overcome obstacles, even when you don’t have your peops covering your back. That’s when you realize you’re not as tough as you had originally thought.

The thing about happiness, is that no one really knows what it is, or how it is achieved. You can fight your hole life for something, and when you get it, you’re happy, momentarily, before you’re seeking satisfaction elsewhere. One of the students in class, Maria, made the argument that it is part of evolution to seek happiness constantly, and to never settle for little, you always want more. While the word evolution automatically puts the argument beyond doubt (how can you argue against that?), it would be interesting to see if anyone can “think outside the box”, if you will, and become the rebellious, adventurous fighter that becomes constantly happy with very little.

I have no idea, but I wish we all find long-term happiness in our lives, and while I hope I never have to live without the security of my City Victorious, I think I should still be capable of surviving comfortably away from it. La bonheur is a destination that forces you to go through quite a bit to reach it, and just like evolution has always taught us, only the fittest survive.

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5 Responses to “Le Bonheur”

  1. Nile Delta says:

    I believe happiness is a “way of life”, not an “achievement”. I realized this shortly after March 1997. I considered myself lucky to have had that realization at the age of 16, rather than 50. Having lost one of the most important people in our lives, I realized that from now on, it’s only going to get better. And only when I made that “promise” to myself, did it actually work. I made little deals with myself, like I was never allowed to complain about the weather (that all fell down the drain when I moved to Boston, of course!), was never allowed to complain about how much work I had to do, or how little money I/we have. These all seemed so trivial compared to what we had lost. And it truly worked. And I believe that we all (only the four of us) had that attitude, even though no one really shared it with the other. Then slowly, I think I began to lose it, until something else hit me a couple of years ago, and the speed at which I recovered, in my opinion, was marvelous. I truly felt like I was “born-again” and had all the freedom to do WHATEVER I wanted. To make whatever choice in life, and that now I am older, know what I want better, and know that that’s not what I would’ve been happy with. And I remember walking down one of the streets in Allston and realizing that I had developed a very efficient coping mechanism in my life, and it all started when I was 16. I felt great and proud of myself because unlike most of my peers and colleagues in the U.S., I was not in a hurry to get over things, instead I felt like it was important to feel bad, when life hits you unexpectedly, and it’s important to get over it, albeit slowly. Many people I know would just “speed things up” by popping some pills. I think it’s bullshit. I think you MUST experience difficulties, to understand what it means to be happy. However, I do believe that happiness is a way of life. Not an achievement.

  2. Francesca says:

    Es curioso: yo he encontrado la felicidad lejos de mi casa, de mi gente, de mi ciudad y de las certezas de toda una vida… y la he encontrado en El Cairo! será que la ciudad victoriosa tiene algo especial…

  3. taha says:

    provocative post ya shalabox, placing and describing Le Bonheur is no easy task. it seems we know it when we’re experiencing it, and yet we only begin to understand, appreciate, contemplate and question it when it is missing.

    what a great question to ask students learning a language! The difficulty in expressing what exactly it is in a foreign/second language and then the difficulty of expressing it even in one’s native tongue shows how deficient or inadequate language can be – but it also thankfully allows for la poésie!

  4. tarekshalaby says:

    Neefa, you’re absolutely right; it’s a way of living. However, you can still spend your entire life searching the secret recipe for le bonheur. In which case you’re not after an achievement, but you’re changed your goal to have a happy way of living, which inevitably turns it into something you’re trying to achieve. Your message was very moving, and I completely agree.

    Cicardi, es verdad que la ciudad victoriosa tiene una magia, pero tambien tu tienes el poder de aprovechar de ella. Evidentemente, una persona como tu, inteligente, abierta (en ciertos modos!) y independiente, no necesita lo comodidad de los amigos y la familia. Pero, y te lo digo por lo que siento ahora, lo necesitabas en algun momento de tu vida, hasta que te convertiste a un soldado egipcio, como dice mi amigo, y pudiste llegar a donde estas ahora. Aparte, estoy muy orgulloso de que mi pueblo sea quien te haya hecho feliz – muchas gracias por darnos la oportunidad, es un honor.

    Belallipops, you raise an interesting point; language’s limitation in expressing such a complicated subject (or is it?). This reminds me of La Petite Morte, on several levels. Most importantly, the fact that when you’re not able to place a clear-cut label on something, it allows for engagement at a much higher level. The fact that we cannot express la bonheur using language is partly why it’s so special.

    Merci a tous! A bientot.

  5. [...] couple of days ago I made a post about Le Bonheur, and it provoked some very interesting comments. Today in class we actually revisited the topic, and it was even more interesting because we all [...]

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