Our founding fathers in the USA had it right when they put “. . . and the pursuit of Happiness . . .” in the United States Constitution. One thing they forgot to add was “except at the expense of the happiness of others.” It’s something I wish they would amend.
I think it was in a National Geographic that I saw beggar in India sitting amidst the filth and refuse of the sidewalk, bowed back pressed to the building; he was old, and had what looked like a dirty towel wrapped around his waist, and a warped old begging bowl set before him. And on his face was the most beatific smile with dancing eyes – true happiness just radiated from this character.
Staring at the picture, I thought: Why, if I am a fat and rich American – by his standards – can’t I be as happy as he is with nothing at all? There just seemed something wrong with it – and I don’t mean with him. I mean with me.
Why? Because I finally figured out: you can’t be happy if you’re mad.
And I learned this: everything everyone does is related to “the pursuit of happiness”. From the corporate exec raking in the profits, to the rapist down the street: they think that what they are doing will make them ‘happy’. Maybe it does for a moment. But that kind of happiness is transitory – even a child with a new toy bores of it; maybe even goes so far as to destroy it as some sort of entertainment – in the pursuit of that ‘transitory’ type of ‘happiness’.
Then why do it? Well, that’s the other thing – the separate drive. That animal need for raw survival – which for us, all thumbs and no claws, means getting things, acquiring stuff – acquiring control – for by controlling your environment, you control your chances of survival. I know one woman who gets enraged to near homicidal actions by her failure to control everything in her environment (which to her is the world). Lets pray for her, because I don’t think it’s gonna get any better. But that animal mind – yeah, it gets a thrill out of being able to ‘control’ or influence the environment to insure its survival. It’s been good at doing that – for the last, oh, say 30,000 to 150,000 past years? Not a bad pet to have – if you can keep it a pet, and not let it rule you – like I did for so very, very long.
No, the only way to true happiness is to change your perceptions. Period. Looking for silver linings. See the big picture. Know what’s important – and what will be forgotten tomorrow (or next week, or next year). Remember: memories you carry forever; things are here and gone. People’s actions can be stupid, but we all can be people. Being happy with what you’ve got, especially if it’s better than what you had before. Knowing you are tough enough to make it – because by gosh, golly, grit and gumption, you made it this far – and I’m willing to bet a lot of ‘thin’ to go with that ‘thick’, even if thick ain’t so thick no more.
So we began doing that. It’s been 30 years. It’s not perfect. Finding my ‘own’ brand of religion helped – goes a long way towards satisfying that animal mind’s unrelenting desire to survive, as well as providing comfort for not just me, but all my ‘souls’. Won’t go into a religious spiel; Jeff led us there a few weeks ago. Yeah, put ’em all in a blender; see what floats on top; let scientific evidence point to theory: it works for me. You choose your own path, though if asked, I am bound to tell.
So – What IS the nature of happiness?”
I’ll tell ya. It’s your perceptions of how you see things, ability to accept what does not affect you, and knowledge of what you can not change — and accepting that, too.
– Happiness is knowing you can’t ‘control’ the behaviors of someone you love and not expecting them to love you just because you love them.
– Happiness is knowing “things” don’t change your perceptions: you do. “They didn’t make you mad”. You let them make you mad. Control that and you’ll be 80% there.
– Happiness is looking for the bright things in the dark times; and when you can’t find that light, accepting the darkest times as another experience in your life. Life is rich and full – and not all of it easy. There are lessons to be learned if you are going to be happy.
– Happiness is seeing your roof get blown away, and thinking: I needed a new roof.
– Happiness is having your car wrecked, and saying “Now public transportation should be interesting!” — plus looking at all the exercise you’ll be getting.
– Happiness is learning that little things aren’t worth the trouble and emotional expense of getting mad. After all, you can’t be happy if you’re mad.
– Happiness is knowing that by allowing others to be themselves without persecution or trying to change them, you are allowing them to pursue their own happiness.
– Happiness is knowing just because YOU are upset and angry doesn’t mean I have to be upset and angry. After all – YOUR anger and upset are the result of YOUR perceptions, not mine.
– Happiness is knowing 99.9% of unhappiness revolves around trivial things. Things that are here today, and gone tomorrow.
– Happiness is knowing that if not today, then tomorrow. That things will pass.
Now I want you to note what words are reoccuring above. “Looking” and “Knowing”. You might as well say “Understanding” and “realizing”. And those are perceptions. How YOU percieve something. Not ‘what you have’, not ‘what they did’, but YOU and your perception of it.
I always have to laugh when someone says “This or that or him or her made me SO mad!”
They didn’t make you mad. You did. You chose to get mad over it due to YOUR perception of the event, thing, action.
People sometimes get mad that I don’t get mad at what they are mad at. I can’t help but laugh.
This isn’t to say I don’t get mad. I can have one hell of a temper. But I’ve learned: when I get mad, it’s not the outside world doing it — it’s me making my ownself be mad. And that’s giving THEM control. No, boys and girls – I want control of my own emotions – not have YOU twiddling with the strings and turning the dials. For you: I have no buttons. I am happy play-dough. Yes I will ‘spar’. Happily. Yes, I will argue – but I won’t get mad. I’m not going to let you take me down that path. I don’t want to go there any more. WE refuse. Therefore . . . let me change my perceptions, perhaps see you as you are – another human like me, trying to be happy. But I’m not going to let you affect mine.
People are people; they break promises, their word, they ‘do’ things. You can’t control it, not to mention: you are people, too.
When you recognize others as being human, with human failings — and recognize yourself as being human, too — it makes what they do a lot easier to accept.
And remember: acceptance is a perception, too. Learn to use it.