Last summer I attended a free concert here in Boulder. Called
“Band on the Bricks,” the event was a gift of the City of Boulder. That evening
there was a Beatles cover band. They weren’t fantastic, but they were good. And
of course the Beatles’ music was and is great. Cedar and I went along with my
younger daughter, Christine, who was visiting from New Hampshire. Not only is
she a Beatles fan; she’s a Beatles scholar, with a communications Ph.D. focused
on Mod culture to prove it.
Anyway, there were between 500 and 1,000 people on hand,
from babes in arms to oldies like me who had been young professionals when the
Beatles first became famous in the States.
Here is how I think of happiness.
First, you can’t find it head on. Despite the Declaration of Independence, happiness
cannot be successfully pursued. Rather, live a meaningful life—one that
benefits you and others—and happiness will pursue you. So what is happiness? I’d
use terms likecontentment,fulfillment, or even that 12-Step
favorite,serenity. It’s a feeling of
enoughness: The fancy term issatiety.
It’s how you feel after good food, good sleep, good sex, even a good workout. Happiness
also seems to result from the satisfaction of a job well done.
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. . . .”
That’s how Dickens begins his fictionalized account of the French Revolution, The Tale of Two Cities. I suppose one
can say the same about any era, since there will always be pros and cons. Nevertheless,
we’re living now, I’m convinced, in a Dark Age. Yet the good news is, we are on
the cusp of a new Renaissance. On that premise, my wife Cedar, her friends
Marni and Nancy, and I brainstormed 25 characteristics of this born-again
better world: 5 individual and 20 social. I hope you can improve on our
phrasing and/or send us some additional characteristics of your own. So, at the
individual level we see people moving from . . . boredom to a sense of wonder,
reliance on the intellect to greater use of their intuition, fear of the other to
interest in them, culturally sanctioned learning resources to learning from
everything, and psycho-spiritual disconnection to psycho-spiritual integration. At the social
level, globally, there will be a fair distribution of wealth, peaceful conflict
resolution, universal health care, sustainable energy usage, sustainable
lifestyles, person-to-person versus technology-based friendships, an ethic of
sufficiency versus materialism, need-versus-profit-based enterprise and
marketing, a need-versus-want-based culture, effective world governance instead
of chauvinistic nation-states, community-oriented populations versus rampant
individualism, more natural approaches to healing replacing drug-based
medicine, “Jesus” versus Wall Street ethics, the right use of power and
influence instead of their widespread misuse, gender equality versus
patriarchy, a prejudice-free society not a spectrum of isms, non-polluting
versus polluting industry, fulfilling instead of soul-killing work, and soul-freeing,
inclusive religiosity versus the exclusivist, shaming/blaming kind. In future
blogs we’ll consider the parenting, education, and religion needed to create
such a world. For now, I’d love your comments.
Freud thought biology was destiny. It was not an idea likely
to find favor among feminists, and it didn’t. Freud also introduced the concept
of penis envy. Clearly, to his way of thinking, women could never be kings,
only queens, and the latter were, for the most part, consorts rather than
rulers. If gaining worldly power was the name of the game, the fairer sex had without doubt been disadvantaged. They had every reason, he thought, to be envious. For my part, I prefer the idea that attitude,
rather than biology, is destiny.
Last week my writing group asked me to lighten up the
writing prompts. Too much death and dying, among other serious themes. What’s good
for the goose is good for the gander. This week I’ll spare you Latin-embellished
deep thoughts too. Instead, even though January and New Year’s resolution time
are past, how about three tips for better living?Go work out;twist and shout;
andjust get out. The first relates
to one of my resolutions—to exercise regularly. While Cedar and I were still
courting, we lived 15 minutes apart by foot.
Recently a great teacher died. He was, directly and
indirectly, responsible for improving the lives of tens of thousands of people.
He is assured of a continuing presence in Wikipedia. Yet he was also tragically
unable to acknowledge the love and respect of his students and was hurtfully
dismissive of those who offered him constructive criticism. In short, with all
his virtues and contributions, he was a less-than-perfect human being. Just like the rest of us. The beginning of
wisdom is knowing, really knowing, that we are not God.