Friday, December 12, 2008

Little things should make you happy, no?

Smoothed rocks and driftwood and rich autumn leaves. Puppies and warm socks and piles of wood dry under the blue tarp. The smell of pine trees. Seeing the sun rise, seeing the sun set. Soft rain and softer snow. Chocolate chip pancakes, a warm cup of cocoa, a mug that fits in your hands. A bottle of red wine and bread baking in the oven. A fresh box of crayons, a new book, a letter from a friend, a phone call.

What do you do if these things don't make you happy, if you surround yourself with photographs and quotations and sensations and still feel empty? If you can never feel happy with what you have, where you are, can never be content with contentedness but crave require adventure, are doomed to forever seek something elsewhere? Must keep moving, every few months, pile all of your plants into your car and try out all of those places you've never been, maybe happiness will be there?

They say that happiness must glow from within, that your environment, your possessions, even your friends and family can never illuminate your core. Surrounding yourself with little delights -- nope. Striving ever onward, if not upward -- nope. Asking questions, delighting in thoughts and words -- nope. Reveling in tastes, smells, sights, sounds -- nope. Simply turning inward, thinking like a rock in a stream, letting life flow around you as it will, sometimes cold and wet, sometimes dappled with sunshine, what kind of rock would I be? I wouldn't be one of those giant granite boulders, just a happy little pebble, smooth and grey, swirled with ribbons of color from eons past, sitting a pool of water, watching the fishes and skies dance above, forever wondering what it would feel like to be alive.

(I'm sorry, all of you rocks and branches and leaves, that you're sitting on my desk, removed from your place at the bottom of the stream or on the lakeshore or in the forest's carpet in a futile attempt to make meaning tangible.)


Caitlyn said...

But that's just it... the rock in the stream doesn't think. It doesn't watch the fishes. It doesn't wonder about its past and the eons...

I never bought into the whole "brown paper packages tied up with string" theory of happiness. In fact, I've always wanted to smack our little Maria around a bit. Bring her into the real world a bit and find happiness in people rather than abstract things (which I guess you can argue she did find with the Von Traps in the end)

I too surround myself with photographs and the like. They warm the core from time to time like a little breeze that whips up the campfire. But they aren't what lit the core in the first place.

Don't look for the breeze that whips the fire. Its something external, uncontrollable, unpredictable... look instead for the fuel that you supply. The action that make the core burn. Becoming active rather than passive does not mean becoming an extrovert, just master of your own little campfire.

Caitlyn said...

Was just thinking about a phrase I heard somewhere: Life is a contact sport.

I like that.

But then again, that involves an awful lot of "survival of the fittest" thinking. An awful lot of people getting run over by others in the pursuit of their happiness. Would the Buddha engage in a full-on "life scrum?"

hmmm.... but then again, how happy was the Buddha? I'm stretching back to freshman english and Siddhartha, but as I recall, he wasn't so much "happy" as content with nothing. (At least in the end, post starvation and post gluttony).

But that in turn made me think of Stargate SG-1. (Bear with me). The Team had encountered a race of ascended being who observed but did not engage in human lives. THrough a series of unfortunate events, Daniel, our intrepid scientist, is on the brink of death and presented a choice to ascend or die. He choses ascention. Now, several episodes transpire where Daniel wants to help his friends (and has the cosmic power to do so) but does not. He must abide with the ascended ideology that he cannot involve himself in human actions or fates. In the end, he choses what he believes is his own death and intervenes to protect not just the Team but the Earth and several other worlds. He makes a choice and derides his ascended fellows for believing that inaction is the source of ascention.

Its a theme that was followed up on the spin-off series Stargate Atlantis. Our hero, John, finds himself in a hideout with a group of folks who had tried to ascend with that original group, but had failed to reach ascention. They teach John about inner peace and contentment in an attempt to help him reach ascention as well. Unfortunately, the group are being plagued by an unknown, unseen creature on the periphery. The group always hides from it before it leaves and they return to their meditation. John teaches the group that they must confront the unknown creature and after doing so, the group realizes the whole picture of life - that it is both internal reflection and external interaction. They ascend, but John choses to return home.

I really like that idea. The combination of internal reflection and external interaction.

(And yes, most of my life examples come from SciFi. God Bless SciFi)

Tyra Olstad said...

Funny, I was just told that I need to see Stargate (though I shall continue to insist that I dislike science fiction...)(Though Ray Bradbury is a wonderful exception. And Kurt Vonnegut sort of. And why didn't anyone ever tell me that there were writers like Ursula LeGuin out there? I refuse to let the Dune books infiltrate my lectures on global warming...)

Anyway, that outlook is very Taoist -- that you can't just retreat from life, go hide in a cave somewhere and only eat rice (who would want to eat only rice, anyway?)(though there is something appealing, daring that scene in Kill Bill II when the Bride struggles to eat), but must rather find balance between personal meditation and engagement in the physical/social world.

Maybe life is less like a contact sport and more like tennis. (I hope so, I'm much better at that, was terrible at soccer.)(Or "football," if you prefer.)

Caitlyn said...

!! Scifi is a beautiful thing. You just need to separate the good from the bad, as with all literature. (And Dune is not about Global Warming... its about politics, corruption, oppression of the "other," and mankind's unquenchable desire for oil... I mean "spice."

That and the interweaving of revenge, power, and religion.

I like the idea of life being like Tennis. Especially if it means some people get to sip back with Pimms and strawberries. :-)