Patching Bits of Happiness

January 29, 2014

I try to remember when I was at my happiest. I distinctly remember my parents asking me in 2009 about which year of my life had been the best, and I answered “this one”; at that point, things had just improved by the moment. Being in New Zealand can have that effect. Though I don’t doubt my words at that gathering, I would say finding meaning in my life, in how I spent the majority of my time, is still forthcoming. Relationships and physical health have been in my favor on many occasions, but finances and putting my abilities to their best possible use have always been lacking. Even today, I feel as though everyone I encounter has a poor understanding of human potential. People are amazed when I tell them what I do, but they fail to see the simplicity of it all. Anyone can travel. Anyone can run. To a lesser degree, perhaps, but such pursuits aren’t meaningful in and of themselves. Only I can determine if I’m meant to be a runner and a traveler. And I am, but I need more.

Maybe the key would be remembering my happiest time, but circumstances in my life (and others’, for that matter) don’t exactly repeat themselves. I can’t be a fresh face at a Buddhist monastery with the same people ever again. But, being aware of this is a start. Although I’ve been inspired by a number of causes, nothing has reached me on such a level as to force me to drop everything and devote my life to it. If anything, trying to reach something that seems impossible in one lifetime doesn’t inspire me, it just depresses me: Paul Farmer trying to save Haiti; ending communicable diseases in Africa; feeding the world. I understand that while the ultimate goal of these causes is to eliminate the problem, the true work lies in lessening suffering, one person at a time. I understand that, but I couldn’t come to terms with it if I were to use my strength, energy, and ability to become involved, in much the same way I see futility in working with any particular company or starting a relationship with someone who might be moving away: I know in my heart it’s worth the effort, just to try and connect, to help, but I usually don’t.

We all think this way in different aspects of life. If we didn’t, you would be walking downtown right now to offer a homeless man a meal, hot shower, and place to sleep. Why didn’t you? Because you’re too busy, too broke, too evil? No; because, like me, you see it as merely patching a problem, not curing it. What would happen to him if you had to stop helping for any reason? Right back where he started. We all do this with our lives, “patching” it with bits of happiness – desserts, one-night stands, video games, adrenaline rushes – instead of finding something to bring true satisfaction. Most of us are probably even aware of this, but can’t stop for fear of facing the underlying truth, that despite the fa├žade we present to friends, family, and online, there’s something lacking in the majority of our lives. Being alone with these thoughts is terrifying. Don’t believe me? Try not doing anything for a day (if not more). No food, no Internet, no human contact, no paper and pencil, no books, no looking out the window. At first you’re sure to be bored, but then, unless you are truly satisfied with your life, terror and the reality of your situation is almost inevitable. Facing and understanding that is key to change, should you want it.

As for myself, I’m using this time to explore hidden crevasses and nooks in my brain. I’ll let you know if they lead anywhere.

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