Quickly! Go be miserable for 40 hours a week so you can sit on the couch for 2.8 hours a day and learn about how terrible the world is for another 30 minutes. While you’re at it, you might as well spend most of your time complaining about how much your job sucks while not doing anything about it, and how you think the world is incredibly unfair and that you are completely powerless. Also, don’t forget to poop!
The way we spend our time fascinates me. What are we doing with our lives? And what do we really care about? I think it’d be hard to say that we actually care about other people, given that we allow around 20 million people a year to die from from preventable causes like malnutrition, dehydration, and starvation. Meanwhile, we care enough about clothing, electronics, food, and cars to nearly spend all of our income acquiring these silly inanimate objects that we think might be imbued with mystical powers to bring us eternal happiness. Sometimes I picture us as a bunch of chickens running around with our heads cut off. We don’t have a clue about how to live fulfilling, joyous lives – or better yet – we know exactly how to live such lives, but are too afraid to accept the truth of a joyous life because it goes so utterly against everything that culture indoctrinates in us from an early age.
The TV will never tell you to just be happy. The TV tells us to want things and work to buy these things that will then bring you some sense of fulfillment in life. The TV, in many ways, provides purpose and meaning for people’s lives. Without a TV, who would tell us that we should work hard and suffer so that we can afford the latest tech gadget, flashy watch, or Ben & Jerry’s? The TV fills us with ideas of all these things that we don’t have, and thanks to hundreds and thousands of people who are paid to conspire together in rooms to figure out how to make us consumers want to buy these products that essentially have no purpose but to fill the space in our oversized houses and apartments, we think we not only want these things that companies sell on TV, but we need them.
If you look to people who report the highest levels of happiness in the world, my guess is Buddhist monks will be right near the top. Similarly, I think monks are one of the few people aliens would not dismiss as absolutely bat-shit insane. They have actually found peace in their lives and do not look to the physical world to provide them with their sense of happiness and fulfillment. They cherish the gifts that were given to them free, at birth. I’m not saying we should all become Buddhist monks, however I do think that we would all benefit from baby-stepping in that direction.
How do Buddhist monks live? I don’t really know. I’m not a Buddhist nor have I ever met a Buddhist monk, however I think we can all conjure up a general representation of what they do on a daily basis. A founding principle for most of them is simplicity of living. They do not find their joy and value in worldly things, but instead spend time connecting with the inner-most part of themselves, others, and the universe. They flow in harmony with Peace. They do not indulge in food, because they understand that eating is a nourishing ritual rather than a poisonous one, and they move deliberately in the moment, not dwelling on the past or future. Whatever comes their way in life, they accept it. Loving kindness and compassion are core Buddhist virtues.
Do you have core virtues? If so, what are they? If not, maybe think about it some more 🙂
One of my favorite monks out there, Thich Nhat Hon, simplified his motto for life down to 4 key words, “Smile. Breathe, and Go Slowly.” Compare that to a traditional American motto that might read something like this: “Work, Buy, and Vegetate.” We need much less than we think we do. Really, I don’t think we need anything to enjoy this present moment. Just make the decision to enjoy what is, and you will!
Those aliens would have a lot more respect for us if we stopped poisoning ourselves, letting our fellow humans die from preventable causes, and if we found joy in life instead of operating from some cultural delusion that tells us worshipping the mighty dollar is the only source of happiness. Let’s maybe cut back the dollar worshipping just a little bit, eh? Sit down, breathe, and experience Peace that is with you here and now.
This morning my dad shared some words of wisdom with me. He said, “Be thankful for all things.” Amen.
Thank you for being!