The famous comedian Jackie Gleason once told a story about growing up very poor and always wanting a billiards table. When he became wealthy later in life, he finally bought a beautiful one. He was thrilled for about two days and little by little, it just became another piece of furniture. It didn’t bring the happiness and now it was one more thing to clean and take care for.
Or, you eat a scrumptious sweet dessert. It brings happiness for the moment. Then it might bring guilt for the additional empty calories and disease-causing sugar. You might even criticize yourself for being weak and succumbing to temptation. Or someone can take the delightful treat away from you and now you feel deprived and actually hate them. Or you might feel bloated and sluggish after your blood sugar plummets and all you have is a few crumbs.
But higher, spiritual happiness is something that is in the background of any and all experiences no matter what. Even when the most horrible, painful things are happening. On the surface you may feel anger, upset, or any number of unpleasant emotions. But underneath it all is a deep calm. You are a knowing observer, watching the procession of physical existence.
To Ivan Denisovich, a prisoner in the Soviet Gulag, even the cockroaches in his cell became his friends and visitors. He saw them as amazing manifestations of the One Eternal Intelligence behind everything we perceive or can contemplate. They were life forms, just as he was and he greeted them as co-prisoners in the Physical realm.
The deep, underlying happiness that comes from the Spiritual point of view is continuous. But it isn’t wildly frolicking around tossing rose petals and shrieking with laughter. It is a quiet, observant space. The fleeting happiness that comes from mundane stuff is up and down, always changing, morphing from happiness to sadness and back again. It is a rough roller coaster ride.