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In Pursuit of Happiness
I saw a bumper sticker the other day and it rather niggled me. Anyone who drives a car will eventually see this one. The bumper sticker is "Free Tibet.". Now, before you start hollering as to why I would find such an innocent and caring bumper sticker a bit annoying, let me finish.
First of all, of course Tibet should be free, we should all be free! It's not really the bumper sticker that annoys me, but the people who support Buddhism that are always lecturing me about my happiness being a state of mind alone. Okay, I agree it is largely a state of mind, but if that is solely the case, then why Free Tibet? Shouldn't they be happy right where they are, oppressed and all? Because if not, then they shouldn't be telling me to be happy when I'm oppressed, and controlled! You can't tell them one thing, and me another.
The fact is, no human should be oppressed or controlled and has every right to declare their displeasure over the condition and take steps to eradicate it. There was a period in my life when I wanted to escape this madness we call mainstream society. One of the very first places I considered was a religious facility (like a monastery, except for women). Life gets a lot easier here. I found one in Canada that was located in the woods (my idea of heaven), everything was very basic; you grew your own food, sold goods that you made, spent hours a day meditating, taught those willing and eager who came to you for council. Wow, what a life! Who wouldn't be "happy" here? Then I could lecture to everyone who would listen how happiness was a "state of mind." Ịt's easy to talk about the ease of happiness when you're a monk or a nun. You don't live in what we call "reality." You're holed up with no news of the pitiful world (the intake of news is voluntary at this level), you speak to people who share your beliefs, work with the land-always therapeutic-- worship in quiet, and aren't stuck in a droll workplace, paying bills, commuting, taking your children to daycare (totally not normal for humans), maintaining house, property, relationships and to top it off, have to deal with an onslaught of depressing world news! Instead, you're in a house of worship living a quiet, simple, and very relaxed life. In fact, many of these people specifically migrate to this life style because the one we live is too stressful for them to endure. When I was reading up on monasteries, I was rather surprised at the 'escape" mentality of the people seeking their refuge (I know that was what I was seeking). I'm not judging them, I'm just saying, don't tell me about happiness when you live in a sanctuary!
What makes us happy? Obviously attitude has a very large part to do with it (this is the state of mind part of which they speak, and of course I agree with it), but what else? For starters, happiness is more than a mindset and I'll tell you why.
There are certain qualities and tendencies about humans that are undeniable. Across the globe you'll find these traits and it's more than just human nature, it's God's nature of which we are a part.
God's nature does certain things. One is that God experiences itself through creation. To create it to experience the immense beauty and power that is within us all. It doesn't matter if what we create is art, poetry, music, furniture, a child, a community, a nation, a world or a universe! We create because we are a microcosm of God and that's what God does. It is our blessed soul right, and we are ecstatic during this process.
We were never meant to be bound. We were never meant to be oppressed. The soul will always reach out for more when these conditions exist. Whether those conditions exist through marriage, work, political strife or whatever, the soul will eventually wither under that kind of suffocation. How dare someone tell an oppressed person, "Just be happy, it's all a mind set!" Tell that to an African American when they were being discriminated against, killed, and violated. Tell that to a Jewish person during World War II, or to a Native American when their land was robbed, their women raped and their spirit broken! How dare anyone say those insipid words to a deeply suffering human being? So yes, free Tibet, but by God, free us all!
Happiness is living our true self. Our true identity of love, a free spirit, and creating for joy!
I never see humans so joyful as when I see them creating something. My sister lives such a happy life (she's a house wife) and is busy making potted plants, raising her four children, making furniture, tilling a garden. I remember the gleam in a friend's eye when he was building a library with his own hands; the girlfriend who paints with such joy; my friend whose joy is to create expression through acting; the happy hours absorbed by my friend and web developer when he's knee deep in complex code.
The theme is the same. These people are at their happiest not because they are rich or famous, but because they are free to create and express an element of their Godlike selves. We all want this. We all strive for this. It is natural and it is right.
Now, the other side of the coin might be to say, "But should we have no peril?" "How will people grow without adversity?" Of course, these questions are valid. Yes, we all have peril and adversity, that's called life, but what I'm saying is that the soul will always want to reach beyond peril and adversity, especially when caused by the hands of another human being. Trust me, people will get their peril and adversity, without the infliction of another human being's wrath and hatred thrust on them. Life is hard enough just enduring famine, drought, pestilence, and disease, we don't need to throw the man-made perils of murder, oppression, and control on top of this!
So I say in the name of happiness, pursue your freedom, and create and express yourself as much as you can. No matter what that venue is, take this opportunity to pick up that hobby you forgot, or thought was silly or a waste of time. Bring back into your life the joy of creation and self expression. You WILL feel better!
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