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?