Life happens one moment at a time, whether we are aware of it or not. The pace we go from one state of being to another and our means of travel are merely perception. Things take place; feelings happen; moments occur. It's quite simple, really:
Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
Existence is but an illusion. What we see, feel, think, and do is all a matter of deciphering what we are given, then deciding what to do with it. We can choose to ignore our surroundings, embrace them, or flee; but reality cannot be escaped, only viewed from a different perspective.
Happiness cannot be achieved.
For me, happiness is not a goal — awareness is. Regardless of the situation, if I can truly be aware of myself and my environment, in that moment I am accomplishing my truest aim: living. If I am joyful or passionate, then that is what I want to express; if I'm sad or angry, I want to convey it. Emotional states are not failures; failure to make manifest my emotions is avoiding living (something I have done plenty).
This is the essense of why happiness is not achievable and is simply not a useful word anymore:
...by default when we aren’t riddled by sadness we say we are happy — but really it isn’t true and that’s why we feel like we are never quite happy enough, because we can’t sustain true feelings of happiness for more than a few moments.
We live life reaching for those intoxicating moments that are far and few between if we are very honest with ourselves.
If we spend our time trying to regain past feelings or realizing the future, it can be incredibly difficult for any single moment to be apparent to us. Seeking out happiness can be one of the most effective ways of ensuring its absence. Happiness can only be had in the moment, fleeting or not — it cannot be attained, merely experienced.
The future cannot be recreated.
I can neither change the past nor experience the future; however, I can both affect and receive the present.
This may seem impossible at times. I cannot have arrived where I am without having taken the steps I have; nor can I get somewhere without taking a single step first, now. It often seems that planning is necessary and having a memory is simply human, but for any of these memories or plans to have meaning, I must be able to experience them as I come across them, to live each moment as it arises.
I can both experience the past and change the future; however, I can only do either of these in the present.
Living gives life meaning.
I once had a fortune cookie containing this message:
Creating is the greatest proof of being alive.
I tend to agree with this. If you make art, that's proof; if you have children, that's proof; if you leave your mark on the world in any way by bringing something into existence that wasn't before, that's proof.
Evidence alone does not define humanity, though; nor do pulse and breath alone make a person. It is that which cannot be measured, which cannot be put into words that makes us who we are. Call it what you want, but life does not exist in a vacuum, and it certainly defies definition by mere mortals, try as we might.
Perhaps this search is its own purpose; or maybe there is none. Either way, we continue to seek meaning. In doing so, we create meaning for ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not.