I just dreamt that I traveled deeply into a damp, torchlit cave to consult an enlightened being. When I arrived at the small chamber at the end, the dim blue light revealed only his hat and cloak, which rough and fibrous, like different kinds of bark somehow bound together. His backlit face was cast in shadow, but I could make out a tangle of white beard.

The only tension in the room seemed to come from me, I felt an awkward sense of formality rather than fear. The motionless figure didn’t acknowledge me but seemed clearly aware I was there.

After a moment, I realized it was OK to speak, and tried to formulate a clear statement. “I… just want be happy.” (It felt awkward to not phrase it as a question, but it was likely clear enough.)

“Mankind does not make happiness.”

“Do you mean… people aren’t meant to be happy?”

“Only that mankind does not create happiness. Happiness is always here. It is up to you to claim it; it is not yours to create or destroy.”

“But what about, I don’t know… books? Books make me happy. People make books. Books can be created or destroyed.”

“Books are made from trees. Trees are from nature – nature has made you happy.”

“But I read a lot on my Kindle.”

“Electricity comes from the sun and eventually the universe at large. The universe makes you happy.”

“Yeah, but books are really about the ideas, not trees or electricity. The ideas…”

“…were already there.” he interrupts. “Mankind does not create ideas. It gets fleeting glimpses of that which already exists.”

“Huh… OK.” I’m not sure that I’m any closer to an answer. “What does that mean?”

“Ha!” A brief chuckle, and he appears to consider how to best answer my question. “Clearly, it means snort… snork. oink…”

I awaken to a chihuahua gently snorting in my face trying to get me to move so she can burrow under the blankets against the cold.