happiness

The Goal (Or Not)

What I’m searching for is bliss. Fully present, fully focused, live in it, grow in it, bliss. And not as an end goal, because that is a fallacy and a fool’s errand, not to mention unrealistic.

I used to think, like most people, that happiness is an achievable place in time, an end point, a platform, that once you reach it, everything’s good. Capitalism teaches us to think of happiness like an end product. Once that product is built, it’s good, you’re done. All your life, striving toward this one perfect moment, this product launch that allows you to finally be at peace, joyous, and then you just relax and reap the dividends, right?

Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t true. Products that don’t evolve, die. Even the fossil fuel industry, regressive, planet killing, war mongering murderers by proxy that they are, had to engineer cleaner fuels, despite all protests and lobbying to the contrary.

Bliss isn’t a destination you reach. I may be happy when I get where I’m going, so to speak, but that doesn’t mean I have to be miserable the whole way there.

Putting in a thousand hours of misery to achieve one hour of total joy isn’t smart math.

It’s business math. It’s government math. Religion math. Suffer now for a pretend (and only potential) eternal bliss later.

But do we really believe that people reared in unhappiness, who are taught to defer happiness to some random point in the future, always the future, are going to understand how to be happy when they get there?

It’s like training for basketball your whole life so one day you can play hockey. Or working the line of a factory and suddenly, one day, without ever having picked up a paint brush, deciding to be Rembrandt.

It’s a lot like being a Trumper, raised in a red state where the education system has been intentionally gutted to keep you voting against your own self-interest, suddenly being forced to think critically and cite logic and actual proof for your claims. You aren’t trained to do so, so your brain shuts down. Ad hominem attacks, repetition of deceitful talking points and head-in-the-sand rationale begins. Avoidance of how things really are and/or should be takes place.

It’s the same thing with happiness. Having been taught that misery is the path to joy, in the face of how to achieve actual joy without misery, we’re helpless. We revert to conditioning and past experience, often without thought or self-awareness. We go to the well from which we’ve drank. We go to what we’ve been taught.

There may be some things that translate, if you’re lucky, but for the most part, you’re going to have learn a whole new set of skills. And say, forty or fifty years in, or on the verge of retirement, what is the likelihood you’ll be able to subvert an entire lifetime of conditioning?

And realistically, we can just decide to be happy. It requires an adjustment and a focus and an understanding of what happy is, for us specifically, but it’s there for the taking.

The problem is, it’s often only there when we’re conscious enough to realize it. How many of us are that conscious of our states and behaviour to be able to counteract our conditioning all of the time?

If you are, congrats. I’m assuming your name is Buddha.

For the rest of us, conscious awareness of our selves and our current states and conditions, in a calm, reasoned manner, is a part-time job.

For most of the world, as far as I can tell, it’s a rarity or worse, non-existent.

The trick is re-conditioning ourselves. That’s what I’m working on. If posts have seemed a little gloomy lately, I’ll admit I’ve been in a much darker place than usual. Not only is the book I’m working on specifically about depression (mostly in hopes of better understanding and potentially, exorcising it from my life), but my environment has never been one that’s particularly supportive.

If you want a supportive environment filled with people that reinforce positive beliefs and engage with others in a calm, reasonable manner combined with empathy, kindness and motivation, telecommunications is not the place to be. Neither is a call centre, tech support or most other businesses in the 21st century.

I know any change starts from within. I’ve been forcing myself for months to take little steps to increase perspective and cut out rushes to judgment. It’s a slow process, because forgiving everything seems to allow for bad behaviour to flourish. Freedom is a function requiring personal responsibility. There must be accountability and giving out free pass after free pass only reinforces the idea that there are no consequences for shitty behaviour.

It seems to me that happiness is a process, not a product (skewing Thomas Sterner), a skill that must be learned, to counteract decades of cultural conditioning designed to make you forget it’s our natural state.

The goal, as it were, is less of a goal and more of a state. I don’t want to reach my destination to be happy; I want to be happy now, here, at whatever point in the path I’m at.

That’s the goal. That’s the process.

And maybe that means environmental change. It almost certainly requires a change in personnel.

First though, it starts with me.

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