“The greatest discovery of any generation
is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
“I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains.
Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun,
go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God.
Think of the beauty that again and again
discharges itself within and without you and be happy.”
~ Anne Frank
“The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self.
Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self.
Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self.
The true Self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it,
he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“True happiness cannot be found in things that change and pass away.
Pleasure and pain alternate inexorably.
Happiness comes from the Self and can be found in the Self only.
Find your real Self and all else will come with it.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
I was writing an essay about happiness as a choice; and, saying: “Though we may not be free to choose our outer circumstances in life, we are always free to choose our attitude and thoughts about those circumstances”. But, I was concerned whether SillySutra.com readers would question that statement absent some supporting confirmation. Whereupon, just as I was so reflecting, an eloquent, unexpected and previously unknown answer to my concern synchronistically arrived in my email in-box.
As I was writing, I received an email message enigmatically entitled “Breslau Prison, December 1917 — Rosa Luxemburg”. Wondering what this was about I stopped drafting the essay about choosing happiness, and opened the email. It contained an excerpt from a letter written from Breslau prison by Rosa Luxemburg, a “pacifist and revolutionary socialist, [who] was repeatedly imprisoned and eventually murdered by forces of the German Reich on January 15, 1919.” The letter excerpt eloquently fulfilled my wish for evidence that “it’s choice – not chance, free will – not destiny, that mostly determines our happiness.”
Until synchronistically receiving that mysterious message, I knew nothing about Rosa Luxemburg, so I consulted Dr. Google and Wikipedia, found an on-line copy of Rosa’s entire letter from Breslau prison, plus interesting biographies of her with photo portraits. I learned that Polish-born and Jewish “Red Rosa” had been the founder of the Polish Social Democratic Party and headed the left wing of the German Social Democratic Party; that she was a political and societal revolutionary who is now revered as ‘patron saint’ of the German left – a visionary icon like Che Guevara or Joan of Arc.
In 1917 after almost three years as an unjustly jailed political prisoner Rosa Luxemburg wrote from Breslau Prison to Sophie Liebknecht, a friend whose husband Karl Liebknecht was also a political prisoner. [Karl was co-founder with Rosa of the Spartacus League, the precursor to the German Communist Party, and like Rosa was later murdered by the German army.]
Instead of bemoaning her own fate, Rosa attempted to console Sophie who had been traumatically separated from Karl. Rosa expressed her motivation in writing thusly: “My one desire is to give you …. my inexhaustible sense of inward bliss. ….. Then, at all times and in all places, you would be able to see the beauty, and the joy of life.”
Here are eloquent excerpts from Rosa’s extraordinary letter to Sophie:
“This is my third Christmas under lock and key, but you needn’t take it to heart. I am as tranquil and cheerful as ever. —– Last night my thoughts ran this-wise: ‘How strange it is that I am always in a sort of joyful intoxication, though without sufficient cause. Here I am lying in a dark cell upon a mattress hard as stone; the building has its usual churchyard quiet, so that one might as well be already entombed; through the window there falls across the bed a glint of light from the lamp which burns all night in front of the prison. —– I lie here alone and in silence, enveloped in the manifold black wrappings of darkness, tedium, unfreedom, and winter – and yet my heart beats with an immeasurable and incomprehensible inner joy, just as if I were moving in the brilliant sunshine across a flowery mead. And in the darkness I smile at life, as if I were the possessor of charm which would enable me to transform all that is evil and tragical into serenity and happiness.
But when I search my mind for the cause of this joy, I find there is no cause, and can only laugh at myself.’
“– I believe that the key to the riddle is simply life itself, this deep darkness of night is soft and beautiful as velvet, if only one looks at it in the right way. The gride of the damp gravel beneath the slow and heavy tread of the prison guard is likewise a lovely little song of life – for one who has ears to hear.
“At such moments I think of you, and would that I could hand over this magic key to you also. Then, at all times and in all places, you would be able to see the beauty, and the joy of life; then you also could live in the sweet intoxication, and make your way across a flowery mead. Do not think that I am offering you imaginary joys, or that I am preaching asceticism. I want you to taste all the real pleasures of the senses. My one desire is to give you in addition my inexhaustible sense of inward bliss. Could I do so, I should be at ease about you, knowing that in your passage through life you were clad in a star-bespangled cloak which would protect you from everything petty, trivial, or harassing.”
The letter ended with this postscript: “Never mind, my Sonyusha; you must be calm and happy all the same. Such is life, and we have to take it as it is, valiantly, heads erect, smiling ever – despite all.”
What can we learn from imprisoned Rosa Luxemburg’s “joyful intoxication” and “inexhaustible sense of inward bliss”; her professed ability “at all times and in all places, … to see the beauty, and the joy of life.”?
Was such happiness her destiny or her choice? How was Rosa able to remain “tranquil and cheerful as ever” despite her unjust political imprisonment? How was Rosa able to selflessly and compassionately think of Sophie while suffering her own misfortune? Was there a causal relationship between Rosa’s selfless concern for others and her experience of tranquility and inner bliss? Can each of us – like Rosa Luxemburg – choose happiness with life “as it is”? Can each of us – like Rosa Luxemburg – find inner tranquility and an “inexhaustible sense of inward bliss”?
My inner and outer experiences tell me that it is possible to choose happiness despite adverse outer circumstances; that there is within each of us an ever accessible and inexhaustible Source of eternal bliss.
What do you think?
~ Ron Rattner
Ron’s Commentary on Why Socialism? – The Politics of Spirituality and Morality: