Friday, September 4, 2009

The Unbearable Happiness II

If you want to know what happiness is don’t look into the holly scriptures and don’t talk to the holly men, just watch some children play.
I often watch my children play in the playing room.
I look at their pure and unadulterated joy and I can’t stop thinking that I was once just like that.
I look at them and I can’t stop asking myself: “What ever happened to that happy boy?”

I grew up on a farm at a time when ADD was not a childhood disease but rather a childhood requirement,
If you did not climb up trees and jumped over fences, if you did not have a permanent assortment of scars and bumps, you were considered a weird, abnormal kid.
We did not have a lot of toys, computers or video games, but boy, did we have fun!

The first “joy kill” memory I can recall was going to church on Sunday morning.
Going to an orthodox catholic church was a very grim and scary experience.
There is no joy and laughter, not even smiling in an orthodox church.
I don’t know if joy was considered a sin – pleasure was a sin for sure – but I remember being scolded for having fun in the church.
God was not supposed to be fun. God was supposed to be feared.

Then I remember going to school.
I remember distinctively being asked to wipe of the smile of my face.
“Stop smiling / laughing / like an idiot!” they would say, the implication being that only mentally retarded people can have that kind of unconditional joy.
Normal people needed a reason to be happy.

Some how, in time, that idea become embedded in my mind.
Happiness was not something that you are. Happiness was something you were supposed to find and to get from outside.
That meant that you are not in control of your own happiness, that your happiness is controlled by external factors and people.

Once you give up that control you are bound to spend the rest of your life in spiritual misery, at the mercy of other people and institutions.
And that my friend is the short version of how we got to sell out our happiness in exchange for being accepted into the club of civilized and unhappy people.


Flight said...

It's all true ... Humans are just like a pot full of crabs , you never have to put the lid on .
When one crab starts to make it to the top the others will just pull him back in.

It's about time for all of that to change.

Argent said...

I think there is much truth here: unhappiness is leaned thing, not an inate state for us. This of course begs the question: how on earth did we ever get to such a parlous state? If you read this post to a million people, most of them would agree with it, so why do we all buy into being unhappy as a species? Beats, me! Love the pot of crabs analogy too.

Quantum_Flux said...

BOH, worldly success and happiness are both strongly discouraged by the church. When I finally concluded atheism, I just became an instant nihilist. It took a while before I learned that there are a lot of things in life that can bring happiness and that are worth working for. After all, how does somebody go from renouncing the notion of all worldly possessions and finding companionship in misery (christianity rewards failure and admission to mediocrity via feeling sorrow for your actions), going from that to the actual striving for worldly success and perfection? Christianity is essentially a renunciation of the American Way. It took much study to overcome the ignorant ways that I had been taught in life.

Anyhow, BOH, there are perfectly rational explanations based in our evolutionary makeup for why worldly success brings us happiness, by that I mean true happiness, the kind of happiness that can only come from a conscious mind for reason and logic. The satisfied mind is the one that makes active observations of nature and derives logical relationships from the quantifiable realm of mathematical axioms. Something true to boast about is every time you use your mind and body to perform a well reasoned and executed move, not based on superstition, but based on logic and reason.

Furthermore, there is an evolutionary reason why we experience emotions. Happiness reinforces the rewards of success, and sadness or anger reinforce the pains of failure or the desire for solving a problem related to minimizing losses.

One thing that Christianity overlooks, I believe, is that material success is a necessity for survival, power is a necessity for ensuring that your goals are more successful (prayer just doesn't quite cut it, it doesn't bring about favor besides what it tunes your mind toward, but favor must come from your actions instead of your thoughts or feelings or desires).

Ted Bagley said...

I 've seen a strange thing having a toddler.
Kids can kill and seem to fell joy in it. Like it's fun.

Buddha said...

@ Flight – We have to change our priorities – as society and as individuals – or the world we are building will become our grave.

@ Argent – I think we lost our direction when we started looking for success instead of happiness.

@ Quantum – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.
Your excellent observations are an eye opener and it helps me tremendously in sorting out my own thoughts.
It is this kind of discussion forum I always wanted where you can learn by sharing your life experiences with other people interested in personal development.
This is by far the best comment ever!

@ Ted - … so does God, it seems…
Any way, you are saying it like death was something bad and horrific.

Argent said...

Quanum's words are very resonant for me.

I was raised a Christian and conned into the idea that we should not seek out nor take satisfaction from worldly success and we should not take pride in any of our own talents or achievements (pride being a sin, you see).

I think now that we should not spend more time than is necessary on aqcuiring what we need to live and enjoying that, and that to rubbish our talents or achievements is to be terrifically ungracious and ungrateful for what has been bestowed upon us.

It has taken me years to climb out of the corrosively damaging mindset that I got from believing that I was inherently bad and that nothing I could do could come to any good.

Flight said...

Ted Bagley said...

Just a strange thing, like something you don't see all the time.

Scruffy said...

Burning ants with a magnifying glass is fun.

Talon said...

I think happiness is transitory...even for children. But the idea of being completely yourself, like children are apt to do, is wonderful and is something most adults have forgotten.

Buddha said...

@ Argent – Yup. He’s good!

@ Flight – Yup! We don’t even know how to take care of the people we love.

@ Ted - It is not strange.
It is that it is..
But that is really all that it is – nothing more.

@ Scruffy – Killing people with an Apache helicopter is fun too.
The difference between a soldier and a child is that the kid doesn’t believe in his moral superiority…

@ Talon – We take ourselves way too seriously…

@ Anonymous – I think you are onto something here…
I’ll have to meditate on that…