As social isolation and quarantine persists, I believe people are realizing the importance of the other, whether that other is a family member, a friend, a loved one, a pet, a coworker, a babysitter, etc. The other in our lives has taken on a new form, and I believe we are beginning to reflect on how imperative it is that this other is happy.
As I sit at home, I find myself most happy when I have the opportunity to connect with another being, whether that is my family over dinner, my friends over zoom, or any of my many attempts to communicate with my pets. I find that I laugh more when they smile, and I am more positive and light-hearted when they are happy. That is not to say that I am not happy alone, but I find myself most happy when another being is happy.
Being in quarantine doesn’t change the pride I feel when my friend is accepted into a graduate program or the excitement I have when it’s a friend’s birthday. Another’s happiness is directly connected to my own, and I believe in this egoistic society people are beginning to face this realization.
While reading chapter 8 of Śāntideva’s work, I found a similar sentiment expressed in Verse 129.
“All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others.” (Verse 129)
Our happiness is dependent upon the happiness of others, and as we reside in this uncertain world, we are deeply aware and concerned about the happiness and well-being of others (all of the health-care workers we don’t know, the grocery store clerk, the mail person, our family members, our friends, etc.).
As the pandemic ensues and as it ends, we need to be sure to maintain this appreciation, this devotion to the other, for as expressed by Śāntideva, we will be happy as long as we continue to facilitate the well-being of the other.