This is the continuation and conclusion of my discussion on my “live free and be happy” mantra and philosophy. As a brief recap, in the first part I discussed my ideas on the words “live” and “free” as I use them in the mantra. You can go back and read Part I if you haven't already. Use this link http://bit.ly/2dpUMJR.
I want to remind you that you're reading my thoughts, definitions and philosophies. I do not expect you to accept all or any of what I have to say as reality or truth for yourself. I offer it only if you're seeking answers to your own questions, realities and truths. If something I say is enlightening or inspiring, I'm pleased for you. If it sounds like a bunch of hooey or bullshit to you. That's fine! You are a different person. You have the right to accept or reject anything I say or anyone else says.
With that, let me move on to the second half of my mantra “be” “happy,” beginning with the word “be.”
To “Be” is a verb. At its most basic it means to exist. Let's just think about Shakespeare's famous line, “To be or not to be.” You either exist or you don't. So, on one level, it has some relationship with to “live.”
The very essence of our existence is simply to be or exist in a state of being. That may sound like I'm talking in circles, but it's the best way I can express my concept at this time. Again, in my humble opinion, this is really the most basic essence of all life, human or otherwise. To live the life we have, we are in a state of being until we cease to exist.
People have been seeking the meaning of life for millennia. We certainly aren't the only people who woke up one day and asked the question, “What is this life all about?” Or, you might be asking, “Why am I here and exist?” Or, “What is the meaning of life?” People have been asking and speculating the answers to these questions for thousands of years. I could tell you the answer is the number “42.” If you're not familiar with that explanation you can Google it to understand what 42 means.
In the case of using the word “be” in conjunction with “happy,” it is used as a command. One could say be happy, be sad, be careful, be smart, be quick, be helpful, etc. Being is the basic state, but to be any of the examples I just gave you simply takes your state of being and gives it direction or a more defined reason for being. As long as we are living we are all in a state of being.
As an aside, I've been doing some research into the physics and deeper scientific explanations of being, the meaning of life and how it all relates to the vast universe. However, while the study of this topic is engrossing to me, I'm far from qualified to expound on these vastly more complex and profound concepts.
Happy is basically a word describing an emotional reaction to something. It's typically, a pleasurable experience of some kind. I also like to say being happy is a state of mind of pleasure and enjoyment. Let's think about this for a moment.
According to all kinds of studies, research and philosophers, again, going back millennia, the two primary motivators of human behavior are pain (or punishment) and pleasure (or happiness). Humans will typically be driven harder, in most belief systems, to avoid pain or punishment with the hope and intention of attaining pleasure or happiness. Once, again, everything in life is about choices we humans make.
Let's, then, think about this in simple terms. Ultimately, by nature, do humans want to experience pain or any forms of punishment? My opinion is no, other than maybe a few people who may be masochists. Thus, we want to be happy. Happiness can be having a full stomach, having clothes on our bodies and a roof over our heads to protect us from the elements, time with our family and friends, time to relax, read, play, enjoy music, painting, hiking, sitting on the shore of a lake and taking in the beauty of the landscape, sailing on a boat and feeling the wind on your face. I'll let you add all you want to this list.
So then, why do I see people sitting in traffic congestion day in and day out for, many times, hours? Then they spend many more hours working in a factory making widgets or in an office full of people all busily doing “something.” Meanwhile, they wait for the clock to indicate it's time to get back in the traffic and reverse the earlier commute to get home.
I was my own slave master. I've always worked for myself. That's really a misnomer, of course. I actually worked for my clients. Just as a traditional employee works for a paycheck from his or her employer, I worked for a paycheck from my clients. A paycheck is a paycheck regardless of how you earn it.
In the pre digital, information, industrial and agricultural revolution eras, work consisted of hunting and gathering (and it still does in some primitive societies on the planet). In modern developed nations we do some kind of work and earn some kind of trade-able compensation. This compensation is, at the most basic level, simply a more complex form of barter. In simple traditional barter systems, we trade one or more things or services someone else needs for something we need.
In our developed societies, we have created a form of financial fiat we typically call money. We trade this money in the form of paper or plastic transaction cards or, in the most advanced forms, electronically as digital transactions that transfers the money from a storage place we call banks and trades it for the things we need to subsist or for other none necessities we want. We do our hunting in massive supermarkets, super stores the size of a city block and other such establishments. We also hunt by mail, telephone and electronically, on the Internet. Those places have done the hunting and gathering for us and we simply barter with our money for what we need or want.
Sounds rather simplistic, doesn't it? Think about it. It's really not much different than what our early hunting and gathering ancestors did for thousands of years. We've simply created a much more complex system for doing the same thing.
There's a kicker, though. Our ancestors' lives weren't easy or nearly as comfortable as most of ours in the developed world. However, when they had completed the hunt for the next few days or the harvest was in and stored, they didn't have to commute back to the hunting grounds or the fields until the supplies were running low. They might have a few days to play or relax or whatever they did when they weren't hunting and gathering. Life was pretty darn simple. They had a limited shopping list and a limited number of places to get it.
Compare that to the earlier scenario with the commuting, making or doing something in a factory or office (or numerous other work environments), receiving money to put in a storage facility and then going to the various and, far too many, sources of supply to gain what is required to subsist or procure for some reason other than necessity. However, our system typically requires the commuting time, eight or more hours of “work” each day for five to six days a week and then doing all the necessary domestic chores in addition to child rearing, for those raising families. And, this goes on four or five decades, or even longer in some instances.
I love hearing people tell me they love their job and they're happy doing what they do to earn their barter-able money. In my opinion, they are all lying to or, at the very least, kidding themselves. I don't mean to offend you if you believe you love your job and are happy when you're working. However, I would suggest this is societal conditioning.
Now, sure, if you love surfing and you can make a living surfing that's one thing. If you love playing beach volley ball and you can make a living doing that, great. If you love painting or sculpting or writing or composing music or performing music, etc. and you can make a living doing it on your own time and terms, that's fantastic. Consider yourself in the fortunate tiny fraction of the world population who have such a luxury.
That's not reality for the vast majority of people, though. But, once you're in the system, you're likely locked in for life, a life sentence, if you will. Once you've been convinced you'll be happy with a home that will take 30 years to actually own, you'll believe you'll be happy. And then when you get that great vehicle that will belong to the finance company for the first six years you drive it and until it's in need of replacement, you'll be happy. When you get the latest fashionable clothes, the motorcycle, the RV, the membership at the spa, the 2.3 children, dog, cat, white picket fence, etc., you get the picture, then you'll be happy, right? Only you can answer that question for yourself.
Here's the deal. In my book, again, my opinion, the ONLY reason any human life on this planet should exist should be to be happy all the time. Okay! That's a little too Pollyanna sounding and unrealistic. But, really, the average person spends such a small part of a lifetime doing the things that release endorphins and feelings of happiness. The majority of life is spent in some form of work and toil, including maintaining and repairing that house that takes 30 years to own.
Additionally, we're sold a bill of goods that says the more stuff we have, the happier we'll be. So, we invented credit, credit cards and now we use that smartphone to spend money we don't have and borrow. It reminds me of the parody of the song the 7 Dwarfs sung in the Disney animated Snow White movie. “I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go.”
Once again, we live our lives as products of the system of education and conditioning from those who brought us up and taught us. Then, beginning as children, we are exposed to a barrage of, on average, 5,000 product messages each day 365 days a year.
So, here's the plan: work hard, get stuff, supposedly, be happy and die. As Peggy Lee sang in her 1969 hit song, “Is That All There Is?” It also reminds me of the person who quipped, “eat healthy, exercise regularly, get lots of rest . . . die anyway.”
None of us are going to get out of this life alive. We're all terminal, most of us just don't know when our termination date is. Why are we not spending our lives focused on being happy instead of laboring 40, 50 or even more years?
Live Free and Be Happy
There you have it. That's what was going through my mind as I walked by the river listening to music on Pandora enjoying the beautiful day.
Yes! I'm guilty of everything I pointed out in this post. Yes! I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself (and the words of the song have haunted me since 1969), “Is That All There Is?” Yes! I've recited Thoreau's quote countless times, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
I've experienced some of the good life. Nice homes, luxury cars, good clothes, stays in fine hotels and resorts and more. I don't regret any of it. Even if I did, I can't change it now. Here's the rub. I can't say that any of it made me happy. I wasn't free (by my current definition) all that time. I was living and I was being. But, was I true to myself or had I bought into someone else's value system? Had I been drinking the “Kool-Aid?” Do I wish I had more time to live free and be happy? Absolutely!
If I could go back would I change things? I don't know. That's like asking questions like suppose we didn't defeat Hitler and didn't drop the two atomic bombs on Japan. What would our world be like today? What if the automobile or airplane had never been invented? What if computers weren't invented? The answers are unknowable. So, it's an exercise in futility to even go there. The only time I have, we have, is now and whatever unknown future we have.
I do know this for sure. However many of you are reading this, whether in the U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, China, Russia or wherever you are, we are very small number in relation to the world population that continues growing by the second and is accelerating. Most people, probably 97% or 98%, will continue down the same road and lead lives of quiet desperation and one day sing the refrain, “Is that all there is?”
Living free and being happy is a choice. If you're reading this blog, you are seeking something more than you currently have. I only offer you my observations and opinions. I don't expect anyone to model themselves after me. I only hope to inspire you to continue your journey and seek your own freedom and happiness. If I've inspired you in even the smallest way, I'm fulfilling my mission and destiny.
So, I leave you, as always, wishing you to live free and be happy. EH