I must have asked a dozen times in my lifetime, others "What's the real meaning of life; what is happiness," and I didn't really want a strict religious answer, nor a strict, secular answer, just one from the heart, if you know what I mean, no philosophical jargon, or Shakespearean Sonnets to explain the simplicity I was looking for.
To be quite honest and frank, I never got a good answer. Matter of fact, what I got was folks thinking I was quizzing them, or presenting them with a trick question, surely a hard question because no one could really answer it to my liking. When in essence, it was straight forward, as straight and forward as anyone could get, or make it. For the most part the question was avoided with smirks, and smiles, and pats on the back, and then back to whatever the conversation was prior to my little jaunt, as it was accepted as.
But this all came to focus one day when I was in Athens, Greece. It was a Saturday, a cool day, in 1995.
I walked down to an old park area, lots of high foliage, weeds and grass, and open spaces, and high burly and bushy trees, also in the distance, was an old ruin's, a kind of Parthenon style of ruin's, dating to about 400 B.C., high pillars and all, Corinthian style, it was constructed for the legendary Theseus, so I was told, which Mary Renault in her two books so heroically, with attention to detail, describes: "The King Must Die," and "The Bull from the Sea."
As I looked about, realizing it was about lunch time, I saw several small groups, they looked like little packs of individuals, some Jews, some Greeks, some Turks-I suppose if we sorted out religions here, we had a sort of triangle, the Hebrews, Muslims, and Christians. Not that it mattered it was just so. A few made the sign of the cross, a few put their hands and palms up towards the heavens, a few were counting beads, then they pulled out bread and sausage and some cheeses from their baskets, and passed a bottle of wine around. A few had bottles of beer, and one person was playing something like the mandolin, while a few toddlers tried to dance.
They were all sitting around in circles, for the most part.
Far-off, there were a group of women, in a circle, with a woman in the middle of the circle, and everyone holding their skirts high and low, so you could not see what was going on, and no one needed to know beyond that.
There were old men, young women, kids, just a good assortment of the cross-cultural populist: eating, drinking, dancing, breathing in the cool and fresh air-a few steps away from the busy carbon dioxide streets of Athens, talking to one another, sharing conversations, thanking God for this day.
I said to myself: how can I not know what happiness is, or for that matter, the purpose of life, it's right in front of you.
Here was the thing my heart was looking for, that I felt the world should have more of.
Funny as I write this out, I was raised in an extended family, Russian-American, and every weekend, on Sundays, that's exactly what my family would do, all the relatives got together, ate at our home (my Grandfather and mother raised me) and the family drank some vodka, and ate sausage and bread, and cheeses, and talked until late afternoon, and us kids played, wherever. And sometimes I could hear the old 78-records playing. Hick, I didn't need to search for what happiness was, or the purpose of life, I had it in my pocket all the time, and I just forgot it was there.
Need I say more!