I was creating paintings to be presented at Nuk-Cuxta “big life” an art expo featuring the dichotomy of happiness. A few weeks back, Chino, a photographer, and I, among other friends and supporters had experienced an insightful trip to Guatemala to document the graduation of Juan Carlos, the first ever graduate student of Join Foundation’s scholarships program.
While working on the paintings, my mind wondered for a long time, where does happiness comes from? I was inspired by Chino’s work, his photos of kids living under extreme poverty conditions back in my home country, Guatemala. Their smiles where beautiful, deep in my heart I knew that during our trip, I had experienced their joy for life, regardless of their extremely poor conditions.
I signed the first two paintings of the collection, I placed them side by side. The realization came to me!
The first painting I named “9 years old and 90 pounds”, a painting telling the story of a child from one of the most beautiful places that my eyes have ever seen. Pedro, 9, already a member of the workforce in his community, finds himself walking on a dirt road, wearing a pair of decaying shoes that are falling apart in pieces, however he goes running around as if he was walking on white smooth sand by the beach. He’s carrying a load of wood fire that he picked with his own hands; a bunch of branches tied together that is heavier than his own body weight. Asphalt, concrete roads, and electrical heat and lighting are non-existing in his world. I doubt he has even heard of white sand beaches.
The second painting, “1st day at the beach,” depicts a little kid standing on the sand facing the shoreline of the Lake Michigan. A new swimsuit, a new hat, a new toy boat and the 65 SPF sunscreen he’s been covered with, are all he needs for a happy picnic at the beach. Hard labor, blisters on hands and feet, heavy loads on his back, are not a part of his world. I’m sure he’s unaware of children like Pedro, and probably they’ll never meet.
Regardless of their context and socioeconomic status, both Pedro and the little one at the lake are happy. The dichotomy strikes with the realization that we rapidly assume that one is happy and the other one is not. What I’ve learned about being happy is that happiness costs, but also happiness might not be expensive at all. Truth is, there is a price attached to happiness that don’t necessarily can be payed with cash.
So, where can we find happiness? the answer may be different for everyone. At the end of the day Pedro might never see the shoreline, he maybe never had a toy boat when he was two. He finds happiness somewhere or with someone else, I truly doubt it is a something else. But when the time comes for that someone else to get sick and unable to pay for his medicine, Pedro won’t be happy anymore. When the hardship comes for the little kid at the shoreline, and his “Dada” won’t be able to purchase his new toys and beach days, he’ll have to prioritize needs vs. wants, will then the little one be happy?
Wise people oftentimes say that happiness resides within the path, the process to achieve the state of happiness. The search for happiness is happiness in itself. In my case, being grateful for what has been given to me, caring with all that I have for my wife and kids, acknowledging that there is someone higher than me, and taking on the higher calling to reach those who have less, loving them and learning from them, and being there for them when the life becomes harder, trying to build a brighter future with them; that, right there, makes me a happy man.
The secret of happiness is bigger than us human beings. The one fact I know for certain, is that there is someone bigger than us, even bigger that happiness itself. I hope someday, when walking by his side, maybe barefoot on a dirt road, or maybe on white sand by the shoreline of crystal oceans; He will then explain to me the dichotomy of happiness.
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