From a presentation Werner Erhard gave at Masonic Auditorium, March 15, 1973
Happiness is almost not worth talking about because the instant you turn happiness into a goal it isn’t attainable any more. In other words, happiness isn’t something you can work towards. It isn’t something you can put someplace and overcome barriers to get to and so it makes a kind of difficult subject to talk about.
The thing which I think needs to be talked about is at the other end of the spectrum, the barriers to realizing happiness. The barriers to realizing happiness are a lot of very unhappy things. And they are the things which almost nobody talks about because very few of us are willing to confront those things.
It is a fact that an enlightened being wakes up in the morning feeling bad from time to time, especially if that enlightened being has had too much to drink the night before or something like that. You see, it doesn’t make any difference how enlightened you are. If you’ve got a body, it responds to the chemicals in alcohol. And maybe the chemicals in the smog and maybe the chemicals in whatever is going on in your life. People get the idea that enlightened beings never have bad days. If you’ve got that idea, you’ve got a false standard against which to measure the quality of your life. One of the things that can keep you from happiness, very assuredly, is false standards. If you’ve built up a set of notions about someplace that you ought to be, that it isn’t possible to be, simply because it isn’t real, then you can only be there by concept. That’s a way of making sure that you’re unhappy.
If you set up a standard for your life, if you say that in order for life to be really good, it’s got to be this way and the standard that you set up for yourself isn’t attainable to experience, then what you’ve done is to make a standard which makes happiness absolutely impossible. Because you’ve given yourself something to accomplish which is un-accomplishable. You can’t realize an illusion The only thing you can do about illusions is to illusion them or to disillusion them. But you can’t attain them. You can’t attain to illusions. What’s happened for most of us is that we’ve set up some kind of illusions against which we’re measuring the quality of our life, and when you measure the quality of your life against an illusion, then your life is eternally unhappy, or at least it isn’t really happy.
Happiness is not a disease. It does not creep up on you slowly. It is something that happens in an instant. And the truth of the matter is that you can alter your state to a state of happiness, by simply choosing to be willing to have it be the way it is. In other words, if you walked in here tonight troubled, or if you’ve been sitting there troubled, or if you’re troubled in any way, in the next instant you can be totally untroubled, and it comes from a simple willingness. I’d really like you to get this. It comes from the very simple willingness. It is the willingness to look at what is as what is. It’s the willingness for it to be the way it is. Now, it may take you some days, or years to move through all of the circumstances of life and move from a resistance to them, an unwillingness for them to be the way they are, to a willingness for them to be the way they are. You can do all that. You can spend your years moving through all of it happily. You don’t need to do it unhappily. Happiness isn’t at the end of the rainbow. Happiness is at the beginning of the rainbow. Following the rainbow is happiness, not getting to the end of it.