I found and translated this writing by Fernando Araújo Vélez shortly after my dad died, when I was struggling to find a way to happiness. I felt lonely and angry when I saw the happiness of others. I was the casualty of their happiness. The title, "Los muertos de mi felicidad," comes from a song by Silvio Rodriguez that I really love.
Happiness is not an obligation, but a decision. And happiness is not one decision, but thousands, millions, and with every second that passes it can be different. And the best happiness might last for less than a second.
Sometimes it’s calm, and other times, strong, and on occasion, happy, and others, serene, silent, and even vengeful. Because there are happinesses in revenge, and some vengeances that hurt and other vengeances that relieve hurt, and the pain and the relief and the wounds can all be forms of happiness.
Happiness transcends its meaning in the dictionary, and between its nine letters dance the remains of joy and euphoria, of shouts, of surprise or of contemplation, or even of rage. There are happy rages.
You can be happy with a rubber ball or a wildflower, but there are those who want to make us believe that you’re only happy with a brand new truck or an Armani suit. Cheating can be happiness, and cheating oneself, a false happiness. You should always remember the saying of the tormented philosopher*, “For a long time I have ceased to strive for happiness; I aspire to my work!” The work is a seal, a bond, a confession, an explanation and a saving grace. An unfinished work can be a complete daily happiness and the motivation that we need to get up. And getting up ends up being an eternal wandering if we don’t have a motivation. Because being happy can be the consequence of ignorance, and because this happiness of the ignorant is that which for hundreds of thousands of years has promoted the lords of the earth. Before, it was bread and circuses. Now, it’s football, princesses, and patriotism.
It’s impossible to determine the line that separates the happy from the crazy and from the sane, and this impossibility lets these same lords of the earth follow the lines to send inconvenient people to the psychiatrist, backed up by studies with improbable results. Because craziness can lead to happiness, and happiness to craziness. Because it’s also impossible to trace the lines between good and evil, bitterness and happiness. The same people as always want to benefit themselves by tracing for us their own lines along their own interests. They give us first place among the happiest countries in the world, so that we’ll buy and never stop buying, and so be happier. Good needs evil and happiness needs bitterness to exist, because one is the measure of the other.
Because happiness is not a gift that arrives falling from the sky, but rather an eternal search, and in this search are pieces of happiness. Because without barriers and sludge and storms there would only be monotony, and because you have to count the dead that these storms leave behind as they continue their path. Because the path is made with our steps. “The path is made by walking,” as the poet says, and the poet is an unending succession of steps and paths. Because our only map is the struggle, and that is our only triumph, because our triumph is the sum of our little triumphs.
Because of all this, and many more things, tonight I went to bed singing an old song by the consecrated poet* that I have only begun to understand, “I’m happy, I’m a happy man, and I hope for today that they pardon me the casualties of my happiness.”
*The tormented philosopher is Tolstoy
*The consecrated poet is Silvio Rodriguez