A man comes running towards the well, almost out of breath; he struggles to draw water out of the well and drinks it hurriedly, all set to resume his mission until he is interrupted by an old man sitting next to the well.
Why are you running? the old man asked.
I am not running, I am in the pursuit of happiness, the man replies.
An old man unable to fathom the urgency, asks again, how long have you been running?
The man dripping of sweat and water now pauses, taken aback by the question, he looks at weathered old man, sitting calmly by the well, looking towards him with his inquisitive eyes, full of kindness and sadness.
Well, I have been in pursuit of happiness, ever since I was told there was happiness to be had, he replies, unable to recollect how long it had been since he had been living and running this way.
Haven’t you found it yet? the old man asks.
I thought I found it when I found a job I liked and started making money, but the money was never enough so kept running after more. Then I thought I found it when I fell in love, only to realize I had to run after her family for marriage. When I finally got married, I thought I would be happy, but then I had to think and plan about our future, buy a house and a car, try to sire children, then raise them, provide for their education, their future, their marriages, my retirement. Now that my daughter is pregnant and I am about to become a grandfather, I feel I would finally be happy. This is why I must hurry along, there are miles to go and so little life left in me, the man replied.
Are you sure you will be happy when your daughter gives birth? quipped the old man.
Well, my son is young and trying to marry the girl of his dreams. Only her family is playing hardball, so I have to take care of that, after that I surely be happy. Though to think about it, my wife’s health is not good these days, so once she is healthy, I will be happy. On the other hand, maybe when we move to a bigger house or get to see my son’s children or build that holiday home I always aspired to construct on the beach. Yes, surely, I would be happy then, the man replied, more to reassure himself than to convince the old man.
But what will you be able to hang your running shoes and relax, if all this happens and there is no more happiness to pursue? the old man said with sadness in his eyes.
I do not know. I have been running so long, there is little I know apart from that. Whenever I am sitting or even sleeping, my mind is racing, finding more pursuits for me to follow. When I finally reach a point in my life, where I think I can be happy, there is always something else that makes me forget that momentary happiness and gets me back on my toes. However, I know, one day I will be happy. After all, things that are worth it, never come easily, you have to struggle for them, struggle hard. In fact, the greater the struggle, sweeter the reward, the man replied with pride in his eyes.
And what was the reward? The thing you had struggled so hard to achieve or the fact that you struggled and won in your mind?
The fact that struggled, toiled, and put up so much effort, the man said with his eyes glimmering. It does not matter what I wanted, in fact, most of the time, I did not even care for the thing I ran after for so long. All that mattered was that I was successful and managed to achieve my goal.
But were you happy?
No. the man said, looked down for a moment, then with sadness in his eyes, told the old man, I must be on my way, I am in pursuit of happiness and it shall be mine…