Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Makes Us Happy

from freeacre

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….”
From the Declaration of Independence

Happiness. Our founding fathers considered it very important - important enough to start a revolution. The declaration goes on to state, “ that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundations upon such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” If he had not been the author of the Constitution, he might have become the father of the run on sentence. Anyway, happiness has long been held to be crucial to our well-being both individually and collectively.

Murph and I recently watched a documentary film entitled, “Happy.” I recommended it in one of my comments to the previous post. In it, several people all over the world were interviewed regarding how happy they were and what it was that made them happy. They found that once the basic needs of a roof over one’s head, food, access to medical care, and physical safety are met, say, $50,000 to an American, more money does not correlate to more happiness. So, making $250,000 is not going to insure that you will be five times happier. Nuts. There goes my fantasy of making a lot of people happy with my winnings from the Publishers Clearing House.

On the other hand, if I did win the Publishers Clearing House prize pf $5,000 each week for life, and if I DID give much of it to my friends, my happiness is almost guaranteed to increase, as giving seems to be one characteristic that does improve one’s happiness. I guess, that is, unless you are a sociopath, and don’t care about anyone but yourself, but I digress.

On a happiness index, a rickshaw driver In an Asian country, who pulled a rickshaw loaded with people through clogged streets in the hot summer sun and the rainy season as well, came home to a shack from work to his wife and children, and felt happy and blessed to live as he does. His happiness derived from the same elements that most of us need to be happy: family, friends, place/nature, and a sense of community.

I think we know that our values have become distorted. Every moment, it seems, we are bombarded with messages that tell us that more and more things will make us happy – more and more money, products, growth, investments, power, prestige, whatever. Just more. There seems to be never enough. Planned obsolescence insures that we will never have to stop buying stuff.

I know I have written about this before. Cultivating a sense of “enough” is a revolutionary act, along with cooking from scratch, and growing one’s own food.
But, being happy despite the horrors of the times, is also a revolutionary act. I’m not talking about the clueless ones who are untroubled because they are unaware and mostly numb. I don’t think they are really very happy. Heck, maybe they are. Are stupid people happier than smart people? I don’t know. The documentary did not address that question. At any rate, I am not talking about them.

I am talking about people who feel alive and loved and secure within their family and neighbors. People who spend a lot of time together face to face, helping each other with projects, co-operating, sharing, eating together, playing, and enjoying things together. It seems we are social beings, and we don’t do well when these natural needs are displaced with chasing the All Mighty Dollar. Money has become the cultural God. The mall is our tabernacle. On the television set - the idols we turn to for direction. It is a sad state of affairs. We are stalked at every turn by advertisements to purchase things to make us attractive, potent, cool, hip, in control, yada, yada.

But it’s more than that now. Now the problems go beyond shallowness, neuroticism, and bad taste. We have become so disconnected from each other that the police have become an occupying army of thugs. They have been armed as a paramilitary force by our own government with implements used for torture and death. The government has become corrupt and tyrannical. I could put in links, but you know what I am talking about. The collapse of the world as we have known it to be, is happening all around us. Fukushima could blow at any moment. And, we could also be on the brink of natural disasters as our planet enters the galactic plane and we encounter energy “fluff” and many more space rocks that react energetically within the vast pool of plasma that makes up the Universe. Everything is more intense. It could lead to the take down of the electrical grid, and that would lead to our demise. Or, the methane could melt in our oceans and perma-frost, and that would also lead to our demise. Oh, yeah, and we are also on the brink of nuclear war if the Israelis and their minions in our congress have anything to say about it. One of the few things that Obama has done right so far is he’s kept us out of war with Iran. But, who knows if that will last.

It is the Kali Yuga. Hindus and Buddhist have differing takes on it, but they both define it as the Dark Age of strife, contention, and materialism. It is the collapse that eventually leads into the next Golden Age. From Wikepedia:

Prophesied events during a Kali Yuga

A discourse by Markandeya in the Mahabharata identifies some of the attributes of Kali Yuga. In relation to rulers, it lists:
  • Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.
  • Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
  • People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source.
  • "At the end of Kali-yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen of the three higher varnas [guna or temperament] and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser." (Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.7)
With regard to human relationships, Markandeya's discourse says:
  • Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma will occur.
  • People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
  • Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
  • Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
  • People will take vows and break them soon after.
  • People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
  • Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them. Their teachings will be insulted, and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings.
  • Brahmans will not be learned or honored, Kshatriyas will not be brave, Vaishyas will not be just in their dealings.
So, in the oft-quoted lament of our dear Montana Freeman, “What is a motherfucker to do?”

After taking care of the basics of keeping a roof over our heads, preparing as well as we can with food and survival tactics, and being aware of what is going on enough to maybe not be blind-sided with damage and/or atrocities, I think the next step is to cultivate happiness. I know that many of us have come to the same conclusion. In fact, I may be among the last. Self-expression is one of the elements that were found to add to happiness. Many of you play musical instruments. That makes you happy. I don’t. But, I write and have started to paint things. When I first moved here and retired, I thought I would work with clay. But, I got involved in politics and gardening and things, so that didn’t happen. Much of my time has seemed to be determined by more and more duties and projects. The fire hasn’t helped. I need to get outside more. I need to go fishing. I spend too much time at the computer and not enough time socializing with people. I need to remember how important they are to me. I already know how important you are to me. I go to bed every night grateful for my life and those with whom I share it.

It’s going to take ethical people to resist the dark dynamics of the Kali Yuga and plant the seeds for a better world. It’s going to take courage and co-operation, imagination, energy, love, beauty, humor, song, dance, laughter, celebrations, and festivals. All those qualities that sustained tribal and aboriginal cultures for so long. It’s going to take happiness.

Does that mean we should be happy all the time? Of course not. Horrible things are occurring. People are suffering and dying and it will probably get worse. It may be as simple as losing a job, getting an illness, or it may be widespread devastation like what is happening now in the Philippines. Anger and horror will be felt. Compassion will be needed. Pain will be shared. But, when it’s all said and done, extending empathy and compassion and helping a situation are the things that lead to feeling happy. If not happy, then at least whole.

I also think that Liberty is a fundamental element of being happy. But, that’s another post.

http://www.thehappymovie.com/ This site is almost nauseatingly cheerful, but it has a lot of good information on what makes human beings happy, if you can get beyond the happy face and hopium.

On the other end of the spectrum, Carolyn Bakers, Speaking Truth to Power. She has several articles and books on how to deal with the emotions of despair and loss brought on by collapse.