Happy Children / Modern Life

Today, after a long day of work, I went to the beach with my dear friend to see the sunset.

We sat side-by-side in the sand, watching as the sky took on brilliant shades of orange and pink and purple. For the longest time we were quiet. We both just wanted to enjoy the natural spectacle, and to enjoy the feeling of our being together.

As the sun was dropping below the horizon and its light was beginning to dim, my friend Takahashi finally said, “People don’t appreciate things enough…”

I looked at him. Studying his dark brown eyes, his graying hair, the lines of his face, I thought to myself, He’s getting older. And I guess, so am I.

It’s a wonderful thing, this feeling of growing old with someone else.

The beach we were at was smooth and sandy, so the waves were not large. The blue-green seawater crawled toward us and then crawled away in a steady, calming rhythm. I closed my eyes, tasted the salty air, and tried to appreciate this moment with the core of my being.

“Question,” Takahashi said. “Whenever you see children, they’re almost always incredibly happy, for no apparent reason at all… and adults aren’t. Do you think that’s a bad thing?”

I smiled. “I love your questions. Let me think about it.”

It’s true, really, I love his questions. To have somebody with whom you can talk about these kinds of things… this is also a wonderful feeling, and it’s rare. I can count the number of these companions I have on one hand.

“I don’t know if I could say it’s bad, necessarily,” I replied after a while. “But I definitely think adults need to reevaluate happiness. You’re right, most children are so happy, and most adults aren’t. It’s kind of silly when you think about it – we spend our whole lives pursuing happiness. But we already had it when we were kids, and we just gave it away.”

He nodded slowly. “Why do you think we gave it away?”

I was slow with my answer, working it around in my head. He waited patiently, listening, focusing on me and my words.

“I think the act of giving our happiness away was unintentional, and for most adults, it was passive. In other words, we didn’t actively give it up. It was taken from us, and we just let it go. And I think what took our happiness from us has to do with how modern society works. It’s hard to explain, but… I don’t know, in today’s world we have so much technology and all of these gadgets and inventions that are supposed to make life better, to make work easier, to make us happier, and we spend our lives chasing after them… but at the end of the chase, when we look back at who we were before, we realize that we’ve lost everything that made us happy in the first place.”

Takahashi smiled at me when I was done.

“I like that explanation,” he said. “You’re probably right.”

For a minute we were quiet, watching the waves, watching the sun’s slow disappearance.

Then he spoke again. “So, Haku, what makes you happy? What are the things that you don’t want to let go of? Actively speaking.”

I threw my head back and laughed. “I knew you were going to ask that…”

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