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Aware Happiness

by on November 10, 2019

Aware Happiness

by Marco M. Pardi

Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” George Washington.

All comments welcome and will receive a reply.

At a very young age I began to ponder a question which has remained with me to this day: Can a person be truly aware of what is happening in this world, even the impact one’s existence has and yet be happy? Humans have certainly devised a myriad of ways to achieve temporary, fleeting happiness. But is that achieved only through the suppression of our awareness? My early penchant for speaking out on unpleasant issues earned me such titles as “party pooper” and such advice as “You think too much”. I’m guessing every reader has experienced saying or doing something which dampened the mood while presenting realism into a conversation. The latest term I’ve heard is “buzzkill”. As if we’re all supposed to walk around buzzed, as in Brave New World.

But even as children we were taught about consequences. Some of those consequences may have seemed remote, and even illogical, for example the admonition to eat all our food because children were starving elsewhere. I wondered, why not just send this stuff to them? After all, if I eat it they won’t get any. Raised in Catholic schools I got early indoctrination into the concept of sin. What interested me most about the concept was the underlying logic, and its glaring flaws. Nonetheless, there were some valuable ideas there: sins of commission and sins of omission. Commission: Doing something. Omission: Not doing something. If not eating my food was bad, would not sending it to hungry kids be worse?

Of course, these were questions typical of a very young person, a person who just didn’t know “how things really work” in the world. But now my question is this: Having a far deeper and more comprehensive understanding of how things work, can I honestly say I’m happy in this world? Would saying I’m happy automatically ratify the many terrible things I see or learn about every day? If so, what would that make me? A sinner? Or, is there something worse? Many jurisdictions have laws setting punishments for people who know of crimes being committed but do not report them. Am I guilty of collusion, an accomplice during or after the fact, or just cowardice?

Speaking of guilt, there are many who say we are not supposed to be happy here; being incarnate in a physical body is claimed as a vehicle for learning (funny, I was always and still am happiest when I’m learning). So, is a state of happiness merely a break from an unpleasant class, a fleeting delusion that must be put aside? After all, our Constitution safeguards our right to “the pursuit of happiness”.

But is happiness a general state, or is it purely situational like anger, sadness, and other expressed emotions? And if the latter, what does that say about “the pursuit of happiness”? Group therapy sessions often have wall charts with various affective states listed. The participants are then asked to look over the list and state which of them they are feeling at the moment. Okay, but how about ten minutes later, or after an hour of listening to other people moan about their situations? I sometimes say, When I experience a fleeting moment of happiness my first thought is: Mini-Stroke.

On a societal level we somehow weigh potential or real infractions. One may look away as someone takes a pen home from the office, but how about taking the power of the office and using it for personal gain? Is your happiness diminished when someone else gets away with something, even when it does not directly affect you?

Every day I sign dozens of on-line petitions and write several on-line letters to people from the President on down to the local dog catcher. Obviously, many of those address issues which do not intimately affect me. And, what’s worse is that I live in a Republican dominated State; petitions and letters to my “representatives” surely go unread and, if I get any reply at all it is a form letter having nothing to do with what I sent. My letters to the White House have brought me enough meaningless replies to print out and wallpaper my home. I do recognize that my original letters, articulate and informed as they may be, have no influence on “Republican” politicians whose fundamental goal is the installation of a purely Fascist society which enables them to enrich themselves and their masters. I also send out letters and petitions to governments of other countries, to universities, and to private organizations and companies.

So why do it? Once in a while I get a message from an organization that sponsored a petition or asked for a letter telling me my efforts, along with thousands of others, made the difference in resolving the problem. I see that as a source of happiness, just as I see the comments submitted by readers of this blog. But even where I do not get an encouraging message, I feel efforts at churning out daily communications put people on notice that their behaviors – of commission and omission – are being scrutinized.

But perhaps I’ve been aware too long. Perhaps I need to regress to childhood and take what must have been Trump’s developmental path: develop the art of manipulation. I could start with developing a new Action Hero (is that still the term?): AwareMan. Instead of fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way” (Superman) AwareMan would fight for truth, justice, and full awareness of all animate and inanimate existence in the Cosmos. Too ambitious? Maybe. Right now I’m trying to decide how to dress AwareMan. Suggestions are welcome. I assure you I will respond personally.

Time to return to churning again. AwareMan is sensing there are petitions to sign and letters to write.

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27 Comments
  1. Marcia Formica permalink

    Ha! I love the idea of AwareMan… I have some ideas for the elements of his outfit but I need to figure out how to make them practical and befitting a superhero. So far he looks like a crazy tropical chicken-like bird in my imagination – not quite the effect one would want…

    Like

  2. From La Corona:

    Your post reminds me of Plato’s cave analogy.

    I, too, share your frustration with the emails I send. When I receive their canned responses I write back that they didn’t answer my question. Then I receive crap.

    Like

  3. Dana permalink

    Marco, I recently saw a T-shirt that said, “Happiness is an attitude.” Felt that summed it up perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Marco,

    I am interested in your association between happiness and awareness. I think it is possible to be both and don’t feel like awareness necessarily causes happiness/unhappiness. Sure, today’s events are disheartening to say the least and being happy doesn’t mean being aloof. For me it is more a choice of perspective. I don’t want to be happy all the time; there are antidepressants and suburbia for that. But being able to appreciate awareness, the experience, or the act of doing something about whatever bad thing is happening helps my mood a little.

    As an aside, I like the following quote by the comedy writer Douglas Adams: “What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.”

    -E

    Like

    • Thanks, E. I’ve never been attracted to the “funny farm” and always abstained from “mood altering” substances. But you are right that it’s possible to be both happy and aware at the same time. That being said, I think you have identified a source of happiness: doing something about that which disturbs you.

      Like

  5. My understanding of happiness is as a series of fleeting “good” emotions, from joy to mild amusement, from affection to satisfaction and so forth. Not joy everlasting. I remember at the advanced age of 22 thinking, I’m aware that I’m happy, I appreciate the feeling. Shades of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”

    Like

  6. Gary permalink

    Happiness may share the same bed as fairness. Whenever somebody complains about getting a raw deal and how it isn’t fair, he/she are told: “where is it guaranteed in this life that everything would be fair?” The Constitution may support the right to seek happiness, but it doesn’t guarantee you will find it.

    The philosopher/mathematician, Bertrand Russell, said in his famous little book, “Why I am not a Christian”, that seeking happiness was the highest human endeavour and his main complaint against Christianity was that it did everything in its power to work against this. Christianity is not alone in that, if one takes the time to examine some other religions.

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    • Thanks, Gary. I really appreciate your reference to Bertrand Russell. His writings were sometimes a tough slog for me when I was much younger but the years have brought me to a point at which I very much appreciate his wisdom.

      I have shied away from opinions that “we were not meant to be happy” – or anything else – as too ontological. Nonetheless, your point is valid: nothing is guaranteed.

      Like

  7. There is such clarity in real Awareness that I do believe it could bring happiness to the bearer. 🙂 AwareMan will undoubtedly be my favorite Superhero!!
    P.S. ” You think too much !” brought a big smile on my face. A few years after I came to Japan, I was told by my father-in-law “You read too many books!” haha , I am pretty sure he meant “You think too much !” 😉

    Like

    • Thank you, FOAL. I certainly agree that awareness can bring happiness. But then, there must be a certain transcendence in order to rise above the judgments that inevitably come. I remember the old saying popular in the ’70’s, “The universe is unfolding as it should.” Then I felt that such awareness implied acceptance, and I could not accept many of the things I saw around me.

      Like

  8. I reach for joy and end up settling for contentment. Happiness is fleeting, but if we string enough of those moments together, the illusion is that we are happy, at least most of the time.

    My life is going through a rough patch right now, and yet I am able to find happiness in each small victory. Even being aware of the bad moments seems to make me more aware of the good ones. Life isn’t perfect, maybe is isn’t meant to be, but so far the good outweighs the bad. I can’t say I am happy about much of what’s happening in the world, but I maintain my hopefulness. After all, tomorrow is another day.

    Like

    • Thanks, Rose. There is so much wisdom packed into your comments it requires time to let it all sink in and permeate through our thoughts.

      Like

  9. From Ray: “… for example the admonition to eat all our food because children were starving elsewhere. I wondered, why not just send this stuff to them? After all, if I eat it they won’t get any.”

    Out of the common sensical mouths of babes – priceless and right to the core.

    Like

    • Thanks, Ray. Sometimes I wonder where the wisdom I may have once had has all gone.

      Like

    • Dana permalink

      Marco, that’s a good point regarding the admonition to eat all of our food. As a small child, such admonitions set me up for guilt feelings for having more than other children. It’s a feeling I’ve actually never been able to completely shed.

      Like

      • Thank you, Dana. I don’t necessarily think we should feel guilty when eating, but I’m appalled when at restaurants and seeing the mountains of food that go to waste. I think being mindful includes thinking of all the lives that contributed to our every meal, and the lives that will never have such meals.

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  10. Dana permalink

    Marco, I would say AwareMan’s superhero costume should be one of Zero Waste. But that might be difficult to pull off (or not, since the concept might leave him wearing nothing at all). It should definitely be made of post-consumer recycled materials.

    I wonder about my own happiness; sometimes I feel I’m overall a joyful person. At least that’s how I’ve often been told I appear to be. Out with a family member over the past few days, I was curious about what a P.I. might report after surveillance. “Dana seems to sing and dance at every place of business she enters, regardless of the music genre playing.”

    Maybe music is one of my main keys to happiness.

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. You’ve put a lot of thought into AwareMan’s costume. I originally thought of the saffron robe, but that’s long been taken. That did leave me with nothing, but I do agree with your specifications for sartorial decorum.

      I think you are on to something; music has a universal appeal, even to non-humans domesticated or wild. I remember being so taken by the title of one of Teillhard de Chardin’s books: Hymn of the Universe. It was only decades later that science discovered the universe does – or is – a hymn.

      You channel Oneness.

      Like

      • Dana permalink

        “…specifications for sartorial decorum.”

        Marco-isms that bring me, well – happiness. You’re just so darn funny and entertaining!

        Like

      • Dana permalink

        And thank you, Marco, for keeping up with your blog and the responses.

        I had to look up the saffron robe, and appreciate everything I’ve learned from you. Re-reading your blogs is also great for picking up on subtleties I might have missed, such as your sense of humor.

        “Hymn of the Universe” sounds enchanting. “Garden of the Universe” also had that affect on me – the title of an art exhibit.

        Dana

        Like

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