Monday, October 17, 2016

I am voting out of fear and anger, but also with hope

"Things never go so well that one should have no fear, and never so ill that one should have no hope."
  Turkish Proverb
My favorite candidate did not get nominated for the presidency of the United States although he would have been the best candidate by far. Bernie Sanders should be the Democratic presidential candidate, but since he isn’t, I am faced with a difficult decision. Honestly, I do not like my choices.
For a long time, I have explored voting for a third-party candidate, but I believe that this election is too risky for such a decision. Please don’t split the vote because none of us can afford for Donald Trump to become President. 

I am voting for Hillary Clinton, not because she is a great candidate but because she supports the Democrat’s most progressive platform in the history of the U.S. She promises to deal with wealth and income inequality, the reality of climate change, the need for immigration reform, and decreasing tax breaks for the top 2%. She also wants to improve the health care system and decrease the high prices charged by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Even though Hillary is too hawkish for me, she knows foreign policy backwards and forwards, and we need a smart President who knows how to work with all world leaders, not just with those who are power hungry and dictatorial. 

The fear and anger I feel are related to Donald’s being a despicable, menacing and dangerous candidate, who attacks almost everyone while using vile language not fit for kids or adults. Even before the recent video of his degradation of women as objects for his assaults, he has appealed to a huge segment of the American people many of whom are xenophobic, sexist, racist, and classist. They scare me. Donald says that he will improve his followers’ lives for the better whereas my guess is that he would do just the opposite. Giving this man the power to blow up the world is no small matter. 

Donald’s supporters are also angry and fearful, mostly white men losing their patriarchal power, worrying that women, people of color, and immigrants will become our future leaders. The future is now. 

We live in an oligarchy, where those elected do not represent their constituents but are obliged to bend over to their Big Money donors. Once we change the corrupt campaign finance system, then perhaps all people will be able to vote for a President of the people, by the people and for the people. 

Hillary Clinton has worked as a public servant most of her life. She wants to reduce poverty, feed hungry children, and face the realities of racism. Because of Donald’s horrific rhetoric and nasty character, Republicans are running away from him in hoards. My hope is that either the Senate and/or the House of Representatives will soon have a democratic majority assisting Hillary in carrying out their platform. 

I’m with her, because of the other current candidates, she is the only candidate who can bring rational, healthy and reasonable change to our country. Vote for Hillary!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Militarization of Nashville Police: who are we trying to keep safe?

"If it were not for hope the heart would break."
 John Ray
The Metro Council voted unanimously on September 6, 2016, to provide $1 million to Nashville police for new military-style armor, flack jackets and helmets. Of course, we want our police to be safe if events unfold in Nashville like they have in so many other places. 

At the same time we are also concerned about the “militarization” of the Nashville police. What message are we sending to our citizens and how do we provide the best protection and safety for not only police officers but for all of our citizens? 

The police may be seen as preparing for a gun battle that may never happen, much like our highly armed United States military attempts to illustrate to the world that we can withstand any amount of force by spending billions of our dollars on the military. More recently, the U.S. has entered other countries, intervening in their local difficulties. Some think this is the way to protect our country against terrorists. But, when do we become active terrorists toward not only other countries but toward our own citizens? Violence can beget violence. 

The Council’s vote on this measure may be only a first step toward buying other military machines that many states proudly sport.

What kind of message does this send our children and grandchildren when the police dress in this new armor for all sorts of public events? Battle gear sends a strong message that we are assuming there will be violence even though some believe that these visuals will decrease violence.
Police are here to protect and serve. Instead we will see them ready for war. How many more black and brown children and adults will be killed as a result? 

Black Lives Matter states that “militarized weaponry... will only widen the racial divide and create massive distrust of police...” ( legislation-to-militarize-nashville-police?bucket=) Why use this money in this way? 

The ACLU states that: “Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform ‘normal’ police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence... [they] found that SWAT teams, which were originally devised as special responders for emergency situations, are deployed for drug searches more than they are for all other purposes...” ( issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/police-militarization) Let’s return to a more collaborative, less dangerous style of policing. 

After the recent Metro Council meeting, WPLN reported that Black Lives Matter protesters sported signs with, “Where is my jacket?” How will we protect our citizens from our militarized police? 

The Mayor and the Metro Council may be trying to make excellent decisions for the community to improve Nashville’s health and well-being. But, let’s not fool ourselves that while we are trying to prevent violence, we may actually be promoting more violence instead of de-escalating highly tense and potentially tragic situations.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

As the current reporting of a tragedy unfolds... and Open Carry laws

“Shots fired! Cops down!”

Baton Rouge is unfolding as I write this (07/17/2016).  One shooter has been killed.  The Republican National Convention is coming up and police are asking Ohio’s governor to suspend the open carry law during the convention.

Why not suspend open and concealed carry laws everywhere for all civilians and not just for some who seem more important than others? 

At the beginning of this Baton Rouge event, several TV newscasters implied that this was a racial attack, an ambush on police.  As the day unfolded, we found that perhaps this wasn’t racially motivated like in Dallas with one black shooter targeting cops. Why suspect this was racial at the start?  Trauma does that to us: distorts our vision, brings up primitive and life threatening rage and fear. We lash out toward those different from us.

I think anyone openly carrying a firearm should assume they are risking their own lives not just those of others.  But, if you are white and carry, chances are you will not be shot.  Just black and brown men might be, right? 

We seem to think that certain people are more important, better than others.  Politicians, police and delegates better than innocent, little children?

Some may believe they need to carry weapons to shoot the bad guys when there are very few ways most people can ascertain who is right or wrong, good or bad.

I am appalled and amazed by legislatures, the NRA, politicians and voters who think open and/or concealed carry is a good idea.  Maybe they just want to return to the good ole days when cowboys waved pistols at each other (at least, on TV), resolving conflicts with shootouts.  Especially when those Injuns showed up after we stole their land. It seemed clear then who was good or bad.

But, now civilians carry military weapons that can destroy large numbers in moments.

Clearly, if you have white skin, you must be good.  If your skin is dark, you might be bad, or at least most of you are.  Oh, yes, there may be some good ones out there but since we can’t tell, we need to judge people by how they look, right? A whole bunch of Americans seem to think that we better keep this nation white, as does one presidential candidate.

Beware Americans, beware.  For those who want citizens to keep carrying military-styled weapons, what has happened to your brains, to your morals, to our public safety and health needs? 

What a regression for our country.  If you think life was better in those good ole cowboy days, please read current history books and not the old distorted ones.

Perhaps Michael Moore was right when he said, the U.S. “was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves.” It is way too easy to kill those who look different, given fear and rage.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Great Divide: America's not-so-civil war

 "Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice."
 Pema Chodron
Divisions all around, family member against family member, friend against friend, presidential candidates fighting it out, acting out America’s daily dysfunction all over the globe.   

Does airing our dirty laundry make us proud, or full of humiliation and shame? 

Brain researchers say that conservative brains and liberal brains are different and I believe that must be true.  How they develop in those ways, we aren’t so sure.  

We can argue all day long about our values and our differences regarding a variety of topics: police killings of black and brown boys and men, allowing big money to control our elections, women’s reproductive rights, gun violence, mixing church and state, and income inequality.  All day long, I can talk myself blue in the face about these and other issues.

Would anyone listen?  Those who agree with me would nod and those who disagree would send me hate mail and instructive missives, asking me to come over to their way of thinking.  And, I would not.  We are such determined people, often sure that we are right, and that good and bad, right and wrong are black and white instead of murky gray.

Debating and arguing has its benefits.  We feel passionate and excited, our energy peaks and we jump into the ring time after time, sometimes enjoying the battle, wondering who will become the next American Idol (or President)?  Human beings like to feel connected and engaged with other people, either through loving, kind actions, through debate and controversy, or through reality shows and the news. We bond together against those others.

But, the arguing gets exhausting, and we tire of butting our heads against walls, weary of the rhetoric when there are usually no clear winners or answers, unless someone rules that the contest is over.  Then, the winner is praised, described as the best, while the loser may seem wrong and bad. And, that’s just not usually true.

We all have something to contribute to our world, to our families and our country. Why do we isolate so and look across the aisle with such venom?  Do I need you to agree with me about almost everything and only then can we be friends?  Differences can tie people together or break them apart.

We may be living in America’s 21st Century Civil War, including some of the blood. Now, a tiny few, less than 1%, wins big while the rest lose greatly.

Life is messy, not full of tangible, concrete answers much of the time. Life can be mysterious, uncertain, and confusing, and we hunger for guarantees and solutions whenever possible. We fight tooth and nail searching for certainty.

When a civil war occurs, people often gravitate to their opposite corners, just like in Rocky and Creed, glaring at each other with hate.  After the battle is won and lost, we wonder if we will continue repeating this destructive pattern that turns us all against each other.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Transformation to Equality and Community

"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment-or unlearning-a fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts." 
 Marianne Williamson
How can we be truly equal if we are all so different in various ways: physically, emotionally, educationally; a myriad of races, cultures, genders, religions, spirituality, and more?
How can we be at one with other people with whom we may share some similarities but also find that some of our differences seem to set us widely apart?  If we are all really one, then to what level do we need to rise to find true human equality and sharing? To see each other in community and not only as separate individuals, fearful of each other?
I am quite positive that our history of patriarchy is partly responsible for so much violence in the world.  Maybe if women were in charge, the world would be more peaceful, much safer.  But, we may be moving into an era of not the opposite to patriarchy, meaning matriarchy, but into an era of androgyny, where both masculine and feminine energies intertwine along with all sorts of other energies that may not be defined in such black and white terms. No longer in binary opposition.
Perhaps one way to say this is that we are transforming from a dichotomous and dualistic culture to one that allows for more amalgamated, cooperative and collaborative ways of thinking, feeling and acting.  A culture where no one type (or any sort) is in charge but where we all play notes on the scale sometimes creating dissonance and at other times, lovely harmonies.
Giving up duality and rigid concreteness regarding our perceived informal rules of living and behaving is not an easy task for those of us who have become fully acculturated over time to the ways things are. We see young people thinking and acting very differently than we older people, and the generations often have trouble communicating.  But, what a blessing it can be.  How lovely to see a young person with a radical, new idea that we have never even considered!  Sometimes that freaks us out and sometimes we rejoice. 
We have been defined by gender roles since we were babies.  We have attended educational systems that give grades for what is perceived to be good, average or bad performance. We work at jobs that give us salaries from large to small and everything in between. Our self esteem is often measured by such criteria or by how we look, how much we weigh, how able bodied we are, how privileged we are without having done much of anything to receive that privilege.  How impoverished we may be.  Most of what we see and hear on TV and in most mediums is hierarchical, where one at the top wins, and several or most at the bottom lose. 
The American Dream is all about winning enough for ourselves and our families while many tend to suffer because there seems to be not enough to go around.  We are a culture whose values are too often based on deprivation and despondency about that perception.  Many feel hopeless and helpless when it comes to being able to change their circumstances in life, whether they are focusing on career success, love relationships, or on money and stuff.  And, maybe there really is enough to share if only we would shift our thinking and our actions a tiny bit.
When will we start acting as a community instead of as a solar system of one, myself first and foremost?  When will the common good be as good as the individual good, even though we see reality in unique and often conflictual ways?
The blending of races, religions, and cultures can all simmer together in a tasty gumbo, a stew of delight. But, we also bump up against each other in that bubbling mixture taking on each others’ tastes, textures and smells, not always liking the outcome.  Too hot, too spicy, or too bland and diffuse, not enough separate ingredients seen, or tasted? The vegetables no longer crisp but soggy, mushy. And, if you are so sweet, does that mean I must be sour?
Oh, the excitement of transformation when we fear the unknown, hoping that things can’t possibly get worse, when we know darn well that they can.  Why change anyway?  Better to stay with the old familiar chord, that same ole refrain that we have all memorized, deeply held in our bones.  Let's invite each of us to be more creative and play with all the notes of the scale, not focusing on only 2 or 3, which keeps us limited and trapped somehow.  Or, safe.  At least we know those notes very well and we can rely on them.
This is the way we do it.  We start by talking about the change, writing about it, singing about it and dancing to it, imagining the huge number of combinations that we can dream up, knowing that we have this life to live, these people to live with, and we hope not to have to kill off too many more people before we decide that we can truly accept and/or care about those who are not like us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Violence is Violence

Whether a hate crime at a gay nightclub, or a legislature creating restrictive policies about women’s reproductive health, violence is violence.  Whether sexual assault or police brutality against brown and black men and boys, violence is violence.

Combine weapons allowing shooters to mow down scores of people in minutes with hate, fear and anxiety along with alcohol and drug use (or not), and we have a perfect storm.  Shooters playing judge and jury against people they do not like, with whom they disagree, or because of some ideological passion.

Violence without physical assault is also pernicious and destructive, like taking rights away from people.  We live in Tennessee, a state that is known for some ignorant bills and laws. Proposed and actual legislation wrenches away from people the ability to make thoughtful decisions about healthcare, privacy, and bathrooms.

Violence occurs while locking up people who can’t afford to pay for traffic and other violations accruing large penalties and interest charges, returning us to the days of paupers’ jails and prisons.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy… In fact, violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spies among us, our lack of privacy

"The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having fresh eyes."
Marcel Proust

Did you know that we can be spied on and we can spy on each other? Even though I am not usually a suspicious person, I have learned that we are all vulnerable to our privacy being violated frequently.  Watch this recent Vice episode with Edward Snowden for more details:

We live in a country and in a world that once gave us the illusion that we had privacy, just enough so that we could act without immediate judgment or witness.  These days, however, privacy is a thing of the past.  The Golden Age of Technology, as wonderful as it is, has changed all that, and breaches to and betrayals of our seeming privacy and safety happen more often that we know.  

Any of us who use or carry cell phones, iPads, and computers allow the National Security Agency (NSA) and other groups and people to enter our worlds, not just our thinking and feeling worlds, but our worlds in action: where we go, what kind of music we like, where we shop, what we read, data about family, friends and romances, and other tiny details about our everyday lives that shouldn’t really matter to anyone but to us, and perhaps to our loved ones.  The NSA now has access to our lives almost all of the time.

Whether you call Edward Snowden a saint or a criminal, he explains how we no longer have much privacy whatsoever. By collecting metadata, our country may not even be able to process it easily, and if the producers of Vice can be believed, the NSA’s data collection has never once prevented a terrorist attack. 

Presidents and other political structures will not stop this spying on so many citizens because if they do and a terrorist attack occurs, they will be blamed. Some think this data collection is a way for us to be safer instead of its being a government process that can create more danger for us all.

No longer can we talk or joke aloud about how we feel because data is collected through our iPhones which carry two cameras and a microphone.  How do we live contently in a world like this?

What does not having privacy do to our minds and our hearts? We cannot develop our creativity without sometimes wandering through the darkness.  Adolescents can no longer adventure easily through their reckless years without being continuously watched. And, journalists can no longer assure sources that their valuable data will be kept confidential.

However, technology can be extremely important when our phones record crime, like when police attack brown and black boys and men.  Or, when college students record rapes of drunken, adolescent victims. But, life gets insane when our government and businesses intrude so far into our lives that everything that we do or say might just be observed.

Some speculate that we will be living in a police state soon.  I hate to think that.  But, I wonder how we will evolve without knowing clearly that we can share some confidences safely, especially during times of crisis or distress when we need discreet and careful support and guidance? Without this possibility, few of us can remain healthy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Counseling discrimination: the dark ages have descended

The dark ages have once again descended upon Tennessee.

To summarize: “Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed into law a controversial bill that says no licensed counselor or therapist must serve a client whose ‘goals, outcomes or behaviors’ conflict with the counselor’s ‘sincerely held principles’ — a measure the American Counseling Association had denounced as a ‘hate bill’ against gay and transgender people.” ( This law is not controversial.  It is a travesty.

Imagine that you are a LGBTQ child from a low income family living in the Tennessee hills.  Imagine that you are depressed, even somewhat suicidal, and when your good Christian parents find out about your distress, they send you to the only counselor in town.

When you enter the counselor’s waiting room, you notice books about Jesus, positive thinking, faith and will power.  Counseling is supposed to be a supportive, safe space where you should be able to say anything that comes to your mind, where you can build trust with a confidential counselor who can help you understand yourself and the world around you so that you can find healthy ways to live, even with depression.  

However, if you tell this counselor that you are gay, bisexual or transgender, she may want you to embark on a journey of conversion or reparative therapy for your LGBTQ issues, possibly neglecting your depression and suicidality as secondary to the issue of homosexuality. Such a counselor should be reported to and reprimanded by the Tennessee Health Related Boards but you don’t know that as a child.  You aren’t even sure you want to live, and this lady is telling you that homosexuality is a sin and in order to feel better, you must change who you are. 

If you as this child asks that the counselor to treat you in a gay-affirming manner, the counselor,  who should be your thread of hope, can now tell you, because of this legislation, that she has decided not to work with you because of her “sincerely held principles,” her thinking that your sexuality is problematic.  Some might say if you are suicidal, she has to work with you, but not unless you are in imminent danger of hurting yourself or others.  Irregardless, who would want to work with this kind of counselor anyway? Someone in trouble, that’s who.

So imagine if you had begun counseling with this person and had worked with her for a year already before you told her that you are LGBTQ - after trust has been built, after you have depended on her for so long, a lifeline for you.  Then, she may refer you to another counselor because of the same issues.  Such a betrayal by a counselor is traumatic and tragic to an already struggling child.

A young LGBTQ child may not have the resources or the transportation to find any other avenues for mental health counseling in rural Tennessee.  And, if the child reports to their parents what the counselor  has said, they may agree with the counselor because they also don’t like the fact that their child seems to be oh, horror of horrors, LGBTQ.  They, too, may be uneducated about any other healthy alternatives for counseling assistance.

All this because some Tennessee legislators and the governor have proposed and passed this disgusting bill into law. 

One mental health advocate, Sita Diehl, Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, states,“This legislation flies in the face of professional ethics. Helping professionals make considered decisions about who they can serve - and who they should refer to others - based on their areas of professional competency, not their personal beliefs.  Referral is a skill that requires sensitivity and professional judgement. The law is a blunt instrument that has no place in this delicate process. I’m truly disappointed that Governor Haslam has seen fit to besmirch our state by signing this bill into law.” 

What’s a child or even an adult to do? Some counseling not only reinforces the shame that the child or adult may already feel but can add to their depression and suicidality, figuring that if even a counselor says they are a sinner and need to change, or go to hell, then life is not worth living.  They may die.

Is this what we want for Tennessee and its citizens?  Absolutely not, most of us counselors say.  But, hardly anyone is listening. 

Not only is there no need for this law, it is a disgrace to Tennesseans.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sexual harassment against women continues: “Confirmation,” the Movie

 "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their prejudice and hate so stubbornly is they sense that once hate is gone they will be forced to deal with their own pain."
James Baldwin

Confirmation, the new HBO movie about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court Justice nomination process, reminds us vividly that sexual harassment of women was not only rampant 25 years ago but still occurs today.  Perhaps the glaring details and structures are more subtle and covert these days but such abuse of women and support for the good ole boy network are still very much alive and well, even here in Tennessee.

Just look at the status of women’s reproductive health in Tennessee, another form of sexual harassment. Look at the amount of sex trafficking.

As I watched the Confirmation debacle, I tried my best to view the men with compassion. Being someone who advocates for peace and justice, I still could not calm my anger and disappointment about the unfairness and injustice that were so rampant in those years, and now.

I try very hard not to stereotype, and I don’t hate men, but have loved and respected many men in my lifetime.

This movie also displays the problem with those white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee passing judgment, some of whom had exhibited much worse behaviors than Thomas in their treatment of women. Some of these men coined Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims as fiction, fantasy, or a psychiatric disorder. Not needing to look as far up as Supreme Court justices, we view in today’s news frightening statistics about domestic violence, incest and rape far too frequently.

(Mostly) white men have been in power in this country for so long that we have taken patriarchy for granted. And now, that is gradually but thankfully changing.
Women used to be so frequently sexually harassed in their jobs that this behavior became a social norm. How do I know?  Because it happened to me.  Women learned to expect such behavior from powerful men and some women played men for gain.  Whether they be politicians, bosses, ministers, fathers or husbands, men have learned to disrespect women for far too long partly because of this culture that has raised them. And, we all have a part in this while we raise our families.

During my early 20’s, a local college professor in his 40’s offered a scholarship for graduate school work, so I went to talk with him.  He wined and dined me but when he tried to have sex with me during that first meeting, I refused.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship. When young women experience this kind of behavior, they learn not to trust or respect men, making for messy relationship dynamics throughout time.

The good news is that women have now expanded their presence in politics and leadership, organizations require training about sexual harassment, and women’s rights have increased.  But, make no mistake.  Sexual harassment still occurs today, perhaps less frequently but just as perniciously.

We continue to have much work to do to change our culture regarding crimes against women.

Monday, February 29, 2016

An Open Letter to Gun Advocates

Dear Gun Advocates,

Some of you want pistols to protect yourselves and your families.  Some are vigilantes, like George Zimmerman, who want to keep neighborhoods safe.  Some are police, some of whom need to use weapons more responsibly.  Some shoot defenseless animals for sport or food. Some own military weapons that can mow down large groups of school children or movie goers.

I am writing to this last group.  Please: help me understand.

It may be a constitutional right to bear arms, but the Constitution said we have the right to bear arms in a militia, those arms being muskets at the time, guns that you could shoot once, taking much time to reload. Not AK-47 weapons.

Please help me understand.

Why assault weapons?  Are you waiting for a used-to-be rare but more frequent mass shooting or another shooting so you save the day, planning to kill the “bad"guys? How many times might you have that opportunity in life?  Is that your plan?

Have you listened to police chiefs who say that they don’t want their staff entering an active shooting scene where “bad” shooters and “good” shooters are battling around innocent families and children, unable to discern who is bad or good? Do you think you can shoot your AK-47 and hit only the bad people instead of innocents as well?

Please, help me understand.

The police might mistake you for a “bad” shooter. The might shoot and kill you. The investigators will also need to determine if your bullets killed the innocent. Are you asking to be imprisoned?

Maybe you just don’t feel very good about yourself or your life, and you need to boost your confidence and self-esteem by openly carrying a giant weapon, perhaps fearful, angry and/or psychologically distressed. Maybe you think Muslims are taking over this country and if not Muslims, then perhaps Black and Brown men and boys are wreaking havoc, frightening you.  Maybe you have been severely traumatized and need help.

I still don’t understand.

Who makes you God?  Even if you were in a challenging shooting situation, are you the judge or jury?  Can you sort out facts in the heat of the moment instead of using our justice system to work through an agreed-upon process for determining innocence, guilt, and sentencing?

I, for one, am extremely frightened of you because you are holding me and my family’s lives in your hands when you carry your weapons of mass destruction around our schools, parks, and churches.  Tiny children can sometimes find your weapons, thinking they are toys, forever ruining or ending their own or others’ lives.  Who gave you the right to endanger so many people?

Please help us all understand your thinking, feelings, or logic.  And, then, maybe we can have a safe and honest conversation about your fear, your anger, and perhaps your obsession with power, control, and violence.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016: Happy New Year?

Let’s talk about happiness and what it means to be human, not divine.  Or, maybe we are divine too, but we can agree that we are certainly human.
Everyone, including me, desires to be happy.  Not a bad goal but one that is continually frustrating in this mortal body and in this world of ours.  Philosophers and theologians, all kinds of people, have for centuries wondered about the human condition and happiness.  Pop psychologists, commercial authors, and radio and TV stars feast on their theories about what helps people be happy.  And still, most people seem to experience happiness only a little at a time, or not at all, craving that one state of being that seems if not impossible to reach, then only temporary and quick to fade.
Why be happy?  We say it feels good to be happy. But, the definition of “happy” would be unique to whoever attempts to define that overused term.  Many of us would like to be peaceful, not worry so much, be calmer in the face of life’s chaos and confusion.  Now, saturated with 24 hours news and a media that seeks not only to inform but to entertain with sensational stories about crime, celebrity, terrorism, and other horrors, we are overstimulated, overwhelmed and overindulgent as we attempt to soothe ourselves given our being human in this crazy, stressful world.
Still, we wish for happiness.  We also wish for love.  But, with any kind of love comes conflict (except perhaps in the infatuation stage of a new relationship, or between parent and child) whether with families, with friends, or with a partner. Being intimate with people is so much harder than being intimate with a dog, a creature who gratifies us, loves us, sleeps with us, adores us when no one else does, and who can often be made seemingly happy with so little attention, affection, and/or treats.
Human beings are something else.  Not dogs, but mouthy, having needs of their own that often differ from our needs.  Oh, what to do, how to compromise, how to negotiate, and live through all this without once trying to go live in a cave somewhere alone by ourselves.  Fact is, we wouldn’t like that either.
We do like our creature comforts too.  We love to be entertained with movies, vacations, books and TV.  We love to sit after a long day at work and zone out while the source of entertainment asks nothing of us. We feel momentarily not responsible for anything but our opening the computer, or other electronic device, letting it take us to places we have never been, see things we have never seen, listen to our favorite music, and provide us with consistency (usually), nourishment, and attention.  After all, as long as we have electricity, we can often manage so self sufficiently.  What else do we really need?
I know so many lonely people. Sometimes I get lonely too.  Not just for other people but for comfort, enjoyment and a respite from stress and hassle.  Sometimes we would like others to take better care of us, but, particularly as we age, damned if no one can be the good mother we have always wanted. Whether we had a good mother or not early on, I think we still want that object of our desire and she (or he) is no longer there for us like when we were babies, answering our every need, playing with us, cooing at us, looking adoringly at us (remember the dog?), feeding us, bathing us, and hopefully letting us sleep at her/his breast, rocking us to sleep until we dream sweet dreams about the next day of being so beautifully mothered/parented. Alas, we all grow up. 
So, we volunteer, we try to do for others as we would have them do for us, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work out so well.  Those others will take our giving, and we sometimes feel good about meeting their needs, but if we never get back much of what we give, we end up resentful, dismayed, discouraged and sometimes despairing.  What then?  How did I get to despair while thinking about happiness?
The world is a hard place to grow up and live in, that’s for sure. We can take pills to be happy, we can eat right and exercise well, we can hang out in nature and focus on our spiritual beliefs where we hope at least God loves us.   But, God is not mortal (although my preacher daddy would say that we experience God through connecting with people, which I agree with, but then God must have lots of flaws, given how we people tend to argue, compete, and fight with each other, fearful and angry, wanting to make sure we have enough and scared we won’t, filled with greed and selfishness and misery, too.) So, God often doesn’t really fill all our needs either.
I have been rambling, trying to make sense of why we humans have so many problems and how we can become happier.  I think it makes sense that we would suffer some, given the nature of being human with our brains, bodies and needs.  Perhaps we can hope that happiness sneaks up on us every now and then, and sometimes, we can go after it and get it through some method, practice or belief system. And, maybe in the meantime, we can at least be kind to each other, knowing that we are all in the same boat as human beings, all flawed, all dealing with something or other, and all just trying to get along as best we can without hurting others in the process.  Unfortunately, we do hurt each other even when we don't mean to, and therein lies the rub.
For this New Year 2016, I plan to listen better, “blurt out” and interrupt less, and love more. How about you?