Last week, in a cool evening, I was walking along the banks of Hudson River with a friend. The shimmering lights decorated the banks with a calm aura. Quite befitting to the moment, my friend turned and asked me a philosophical question: “What do you think is the most important factor that determines a person’s happiness?” I thought for a while but couldn’t give an answer. She smiled, and we went on walking.
That night, I came home still pondering about the question. I then remembered Albert Einstein was once quoted saying that the single most important decision any of us will ever make is whether or not to believe the universe is a friendly place.
Is the universe friendly or hostile? This seemingly simple decision allows us to answer the more difficult philosophical question about happiness.
What I meant by that is this. When we make a decision on whether the universe is a friendly or a hostile place, it changes the way we live our lives, relate to people, and engage with this world. In turn, that decision would shape both our future and our reality.
Imagine. If we decided that the universe is a hostile place, we would spend our energy and resource building walls between oneself and others. When we act as if the world is hostile, we are combative and belligerent, and that makes people react to us the same way – and a vicious cycle begins.
When one decides that the universe is coincidental and random, one lives as though one is a passive victim to the unpredictable circumstances. Consequently, the world indeed feels like a wild place governed by dangerous forces.
Now, what if we decide the world is a friendly place? We would devote our energy to understand the world and other people so we could enhance our future together. Rather than focusing on security and survival, we would live our lives with a sense of ease because we’ve decided that recourses are abundant and that life is meant to thrive.
This is a far more productive philosophy than the previous two, because we know that when we approach the world with understanding, patience, and grace, the world, like a mirror, reflects back on us the same energy we emit.
Each day, let us tell ourselves, that the universe is a friendly place, and let that transform our lives beyond imagination.