Morality Series: Glutony

I seldom eat the whole pizza any more, at least not in the same evening. My wife may have one slice, but not always. Still, why do some religious folks insist that if, per chance, the wife wants none, I’ll go to Hell?

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Am I gluttonous? I eat more than that guy, but less than that one, and maybe about the same as the other dude. When does eating and drinking become one of the deadly or capital offenses? Where do we cross the line that assures our trip to the inferno?

I’m not going to argue that overeating is good for us. We all know it’s not. But the reason is biological, not spiritual. Besides, I do it more than I care to admit. I don’t think I am alone in my gastronomic fault. In fact, for an American, I’m probably about average.

glutony-1In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas said, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.” Inordinate? I only know this limit after I am well past it.

Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft says those who commit the sin of gluttony are punished in Hell by being forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes. Are they cooked or raw? Do we get hot sauce? Since these are eaten by people around the world every day, I feel so not threatened.

I posted about Epicurus back in the Spring, so I want to invoke him here. His name and philosophy has been incorrectly associated with glutinous behavior for centuries. I had it a bit wrong. Further, we’ve also bogarted his name to be associated with fine dining.

The word epicure is linked to indulging the appetite, but that is not the teaching of the man to whom we owe the word. That ancient Greek philosopher taught of simple pleasures, friendship, and a secluded life. He believed in the pursuit of pleasure (as do I), but pleasure for him equated with tranquility and freedom from pain (Dude! Try this plant.) – happiness.

Cannabis

Cannabis

Detractors of Epicurus misrepresented his notions of pleasure to material and sensual gratification. When epicure entered the lingo about 500 years ago, his philosophy had been trivialized. Epicure or epicurean became synonymous with “hedonist.” Way back, he showed a lot of wisdom.

“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.” —Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

His philosophy combines a form of materialism with ethics that emphasizes moderation of desires and cultivation of friendships. His world view was optimistic, stressing a philosophy of not fearing death or the supernatural. It can teach us how to find happiness in almost any situation – without moaning after we’ve eaten the whole thing.

glutony-4The opposite of gluttony is abstinence. Once again, from one extreme to the other. Abstaining from food can be a diagnosable eating disorder. We know how much, and of what things we should eat and drink. We must eat, but not too much; we must sleep, but not too much; we must drink. But there’s no such thing as too much fun.

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eating is an essential part of life.
Eat well, be happy, and enjoy all that life offers.
If we mind the gaps and look both ways, we’ll be fine.

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Morality Series: Sloth

Intentions Count

Intentions Count

Other than writing about it, does anyone ever use this word except for the animal or when referring to the sin? Do we know what sloth means? Is it laziness?

Sloth is the most difficult of the seven biggies to define precisely. An old-fashioned definition might sound like defiant sorrow turning away from God’s good intentions.

Is it really a bad thing? Is the problem its tendency to lead to other problems? I knew it fit with laziness, but it also goes with apathy and a list of other goof-off words.

Thomas Pynchon wrote a great piece about how sloth is tied to writers. Read it all here. I like this paragraph:

“Writers of course are considered the mavens of Sloth. They are approached all the time on the subject, not only for free advice, but also to speak at Sloth Symposia, head up Sloth Task Forces, testify as expert witnesses at Sloth Hearings. The stereotype arises in part from our conspicuous presence in jobs where pay is by the word, and deadlines are tight and final — we are presumed to know from piecework and the convertibility of time and money. In addition, there is all the glamorous folklore surrounding writer’s block, an affliction known sometimes to resolve itself dramatically and without warning, much like constipation, and (hence?) finding wide sympathy among readers.” ~ New York Times, June 6, 1993, “The Deadly Sins/Sloth; Nearer, My Couch, to Thee”, by Thomas Pynchon

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If this is a sin, it’s not one we commit. In fact, it seems we commit nothing, we do nothing, and we don’t much give a shit about anything. As I understand it, sloth refers to our mental, physical, spiritual, and pathological states, usually with a strong religious twist. Even the Buddhists have their five hindrances, of which Sloth-torpor is one defined as a heaviness of the body and dullness of the mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression. That sounds like it needs a DSM IV diagnosis.

With greed, I wrote that we know it when we see it. I’m not sure sloth is as easy to identify. I don’t take the word sin seriously, but sloth is one item that may not get enough attention. Like the others, it is not healthy if it’s a person’s choice for a way of life. I can accept go with the flow, but like many of the big seven, it can be unhealthy when taken to a wrong extreme. And, it can lead to other behavior that is even more damaging. I think that much of what we might perceive as sloth, in others or ourselves, is either a medical problem like depression, or an existential crisis. Here is another example from Mr. Pynchon:

“Any discussion of Sloth in the present day is of course incomplete without considering television, with its gifts of paralysis, along with its creature and symbiont, the notorious Couch Potato. Tales spun in idleness find us Tubeside, supine, chiropractic fodder, sucking it all in, re-enacting in reverse the transaction between dream and revenue that brought these colored shadows here to begin with so that we might feed, uncritically, committing the six other deadly sins in parallel, eating too much, envying the celebrated, coveting merchandise, lusting after images, angry at the news, perversely proud of whatever distance we may enjoy between our couches and what appears on the screen.” ~ New York Times, June 6, 1993, The Deadly Sins/Sloth; Nearer, My Couch, to Thee, by Thomas Pynchon

I like saying that I’m lazy, or that it’s a lazy day. I should say relaxed or comfortable, but lazy adds a pinch of ironic guilt. That troubles some folks, but I think it natural. On my calling card, the leading skill is Leisure Aficionado; a reference to many of my goals in retirement. It got less attention than Pleasure Seeker did.

Sure. Sometimes.

Sure. Sometimes.

The opposite of sloth is said to be diligence: careful and persistent work or effort. I have always liked persistence, and for a long time, I liked some work. Maybe it was the doing that I liked – my ability to make something happen; or maybe it was the fruit of my labor that was my reward. My writing is kind of both, but mostly my reward is the result. That is also my motivation to do it again. For about five years, I ran – anything from five kilometers to marathons. For marathons, diligent training and persistence are keys to success without much injury. I’ve met no slothy runners. To endurance runners, any day with less than five miles is slacking off.

Is it sloth or depression?

Is it sloth or depression?

One more issue regarding sloth: this whole concept that people who choose to be lazy or sloth are deliberately committing sins is nonsense. People want to feel good, to contribute, to have purpose and success. That is what is normal for humans. We’re unaware of other’s mental, physical, or spiritual health. So, we should focus on ourselves and what’s best for us. If anything is a sin, it’s judgment.

 

 

The song Alphie by Lily Allen is a hoot, and refers to the pot induced lethargy of her younger brother. Yes, the Game of Thrones actor – same guy. But it could be sloth. This Youtube version is a bit edited, but worth a look, nonetheless.

We should look upon our own sloth with a critical eye.
Too little or too much may be unhealthy.
Live life to the fullest as long as possible; always look both ways and mind the gaps.

DEATH

The inevitable & unavoidable conclusion to life.

The inevitable & unavoidable conclusion to life.

During late October many cultures begin preparing for the first days of November. They remember the dead, acknowledge the end of harvest, and prepare for the dark days of winter. It begins with Halloween, then All Souls’ or All Saints’ Day, The Day of the Dead, and Samhain. Many believe it’s the time of year when we’re closest to the other world and death itself. The Fairy Tree story that ends this blog tells a wee bit more.

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It’s our only certainty—we die. Beliefs about what follows the end of human life range from nothing to Paradise and 72 virgins or reincarnation. Let’s not forget the whole Dante’s Inferno thing. Our beliefs about an after life affect our choices while living.

While no one has told of their experience following permanent death (we have near death accounts), there are stories with bits of information. Little of it is dependable or useful. Theories abound, but the database of the deceased is void of demonstrable facts. Only the dead know, and they’re not talking.

Efforts to resist death seem logical, but are eventually fruitless. While many consider death a condition leading to afterlife, most people (not all) avoid dying as long as possible. An exception is when living prolongs a life of hopeless suffering. Others choose death through martyrdom. We disagree about our right to die (whole other blog) and we normally work hard to keep living.

death4In the United States, more than two-million people die each year. The CDC reports the top four causes as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and accidents. I say, smoking, smoking, smoking, and driving plus illicit drugs because they are the major producers or triggers of those four “causes.” The root cause of most preventable premature deaths in the USA is smoking (so quit).

It can be difficult to determine the difference between a still living or recently deceased person. Without more information, we can only define death as an absence of life. Our legal descriptions require a physician to certify the time and cause of death. While absence of all brain activity normally defines death, court cases fog the legal definition. When there are uncertainties, we gain information through autopsy.

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While we’re fascinated with death, many of us avoid serious discussion of it and find it morbidly unpleasant. The death of friends, loved ones, and people we hold in high esteem represent the ultimate, painful loss. Our own death signals loss and aloneness, which is sometimes comforted by religious beliefs.

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Yet, we sing of death, we write about death, and we (should) discuss it. We often honor death’s inevitability with both art and science.

Since first hearing it, I’ve liked Ralph Stanley’s (died, June 2016) rendition of the song, Oh, Death, which is a plea with the Grim Reaper for another year of life. It was made famous in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Hear a short version by clicking here.

From a list of ten poems about death, I selected two by famous poets. All ten can be found here.

“Death” by Rainer Maria Rilke (died 1926)

Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.

From Queen Mab, by Percy Bysshe Shelley (became famous after his death in 1822)

How wonderful is Death,
Death, and his brother Sleep!
One, pale as yonder waning moon
With lips of lurid blue;
The other, rosy as the morn
When throned on ocean’s wave
It blushes o’er the world;
Yet both so passing wonderful!

death1Life is the time made precious by our inevitable death. May we fully enjoy the many pleasures and loves discovered and experienced while living. And may we all “…lift Life’s red wine to drink deep of the mystic shining cup…” because death is next for each of us.

Life is uncertain, look both ways.

Who Forgives Whom?

Here I go again—trying to write a short blog on a topic suited for a book. I’ve taught classes on forgiveness, so I gained some insight. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than others at forgiving–I’m not. Two short stories for you, one related to the other.

First, as I was listening to a minister talk to his congregation about topics to teach in adult classes, he rattled off some that he thought his flock might struggle with. A few hands went up with each topic, until he mentioned forgiveness. I looked around to see two-thirds of them requesting instruction on forgiveness.

I taught the series of classes. To those people, this was the topic most of them wanted to deal with. I suspect that it was the most important.

forgiveness4Then, as I was teaching and near the conclusion of that class, one man asked, “Do I need to forgive Madalyn Murray O’Hair?”

I looked at him as I ran snarkastic comments through my mind, working on being kind to those who might have missed the point.

I said, “She was an atheist who died a tragic death about ten years ago. Why would you need to forgive her? Did she harm you?”

He said, “She took prayer out of our schools.”

If standing and glaring while trying to maintain composure sends a message to the rest of the class, that’s what I did. I scratched me head, hoping to end this soon. Insulting and vulgarities seemed inappropriate to the church venue.

I responded, “Well, I feel certain that Madalyn could not care less. She never had power to remove prayer from public schools, but the Supreme Court did. However, that case was not hers. Official, sponsored prayer had been voted to be unconstitutional two years before her case was decided. Hers involved her son and forced bible reading. Do you want to make a list of the Justices who decided that case so you can work on forgiving them? You don’t need to forgive her. But I think you should know exactly what it is that you are not forgiving her for.”

I don’t know what he was after, or if I was as condescending as I felt. Maybe he was wanting to discuss people that we might all have trouble forgiving. Hitler was and is still available, if we want to include the dead.

Forgiveness1

When I’ve harmed others and I feel remorse, I’d like to be forgiven. I realize such forgiveness is not a dismissal of my behavior. For that, I’ll always be responsible. When I’m forgiven, the personal relationship may be open to reconciliation. While it’s forever changed, the relationship may be worth saving. If so, the burden is mine.

When I’ve been harmed, I don’t need the person who wronged me to want forgiveness. They need not apologize, although that helps considerably. I do need to know exactly what they did that requires forgiving. I’ve learned that forgiveness has no easy on-off switch. I must want to forgive; then I must begin the process of forgiving.

forgiveness3

Forgiveness may take considerable time. But forgiving gives me a personal freedom and comfort that I enjoy, not to mention it frees my mind for other uses. Forgiving doesn’t mean that the transgression wasn’t serious or damaging. If it happens again, discernment trumps forgiveness. I want to forgive because it’s good for me. Any benefit to the transgressor is supplementary to my own.

I am not preaching forgiveness. I’m advocating happiness. We don’t need to forgive everyone or everything. In the link here, are several articles on the mental health advantages of forgiveness. They also warn about some issues with forgiveness. There may be advantages to not forgiving in cases of sexual abuse, since anger and a demand for justice seem to empower victims. I’ll add victims of spousal abuse for similar reasons. There may be other situations where forgiveness needs to wait.

Finally, there must always be justice. We strive for life to be fair. When Pope JPII went to forgive the man who shot him in an assassination attempt, they hugged and the Pope made is forgiveness known. Then, the Pope left, leaving the man to complete his prison sentence.

 

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The power of forgiveness rests with, and benefits most, the person wronged or harmed. Forgiving does not mean it was ok. If we can get on with our lives and rise above harmful difficulties, we can find relief and maybe happiness.

May we all find the strength and wisdom to move toward forgiveness when and where it’s wise and we’re able.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Look both ways.

Recovery from Middle Age

When It Happened

Middle age is in my past. My t-shirt says, “Beware, second childhood in progress.” When people ask, I tell them it’s an old shirt. I’m long past that.

At 27, I knew everything (we all do). I would live forever. By age 40, I thought I might not live that long. Around then, I was sure that other’s opinion of me was paramount. I included everyone, especially any man who could possibly effect my life personally or financially.

Unfortunately, I often said what I thought – more than I would now. Today, I’m unlikely to answer personal questions. I may. But usually I want time to be calm and ponder consequences.

Back in the day, if my boss told me to do something that I felt was against my personal opinion, I would say, “No, sir.” Often, this happened in front of people. I enjoyed two things about it: watching him try to hide his anger (if he did) and some other middle-managers joining my mini-revolt. I wasn’t intentionally a trouble-maker. It just turned out that way.

recovery from middle age3What It Was Like

Looking back to my forties and fifties, a lot happened – both good and bad. But, I recall the difficult times well. In the 90s, I lived away from my family as a weekend commuter for two years. I drank way too much and began to ponder things that I’d never thought about. I was confused about life. I was not happy, and may have been clinically depressed. I was surrounded by others in worse shape than I, thus my problems went unnoticed. I was fine with that. Men do not have such issues, right? No longer did I feel safe. I didn’t understand the rules or what to do. I had morphed into a people pleaser, but I wouldn’t have admitted it.

Add to this, my wife had gone to work and was living as a single parent on weekdays (and nights). She had her issues too. And we had teenagers who’d aged up to their early twenties. Life was not easy for us or them – certainly not emotionally. Denial was my strength and maybe hers. Our dysfunctional family was extended and there were problems in that area over the horizon.

Possible Consequences

recovery from middle age1I’ll spare you details. But during the 1990s all hell broke loose in my life and I thought it had gone into the proverbial toilet.

I recall giving consideration to suicide. I also seriously considered homicide. To be clear, while I never seriously intended either, I considered both as solutions as I never had. But then, I made an important decision. I decided that I would try everything possible to get over it. If my life was not working, it would not be my fault.

If you type middle age American male in Google, you’ll find articles relating to suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction, and the almost inevitable consequence of death. Middle age male suicide is a bigger problem today than 20 years ago. But I can relate to middle aged men today who secretly struggle with something they don’t understand. Looking back over the years, I think I figured out a few things.

What I Did

recovery from middle age2I like to joke that I’m recovering from middle age. But, I am simply living my life. My life is good now, but recovery is an ongoing process. While many of my decisions may have been random, they seemed logical at the time. I was desperate, but knowing that I was not alone mattered.

I read books on self-help, mental health, and recovery – all were about mental and physical well-being. I attended counseling sessions for family members. I became active in a 12-step program. I started to learn about eastern religious thought and philosophy. I took a deep and detailed (analytical) look at myself. I did that twice, six months apart. This was much less about who I am and more about me being me, or me not being me, but being what others thought I should be. This may seem minor; it wasn’t.

My discovery was two-fold: I didn’t know myself, and I wasn’t being true to myself. I couldn’t be. This was important for me to figure out because the solution that followed was not complicated.

My change was from the inside-out, and from the outside-in. I simply was myself. While I could continue to be a good employee, a good friend, a reasonably nice person, and a willing family member; I no longer identified myself by what others thought I should be – what I should think or what I should feel. I was not only ‘okay’ with this. I was delighted. It was not a new me, but just me being me. That is the way I saw it. My motivation was inside and based on how I felt. But as I changed my behavior, that effected more emotional adjustments, which led to being more able to do more with my behavior.

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A short while after all this my son told my wife that he didn’t recognize me because of the changes. That was 20 years ago. I’ve hung onto that way of thinking ever since. Being comfortable as me (‘in my own skin’ is the cliché) did not change my life so much as it revealed my life to myself. Now, as a senior American male, I am still as wrong and as programmed as anyone. But when I realize my error, I’ve learned to admit it quickly.

How It Turns Out

As much as I like the phrase, it is what it is; I have my own motto: It is all about how we feel.

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Probably my most positive boost has been retirement. No longer subject to the corporate nonsense and politics, I feel “free at last” to keep moving forward with my life on my terms. Virtually all that drama is in the past, and there it shall remain (at least for me).

May you find a path through life that is long and revealing. While giving up is an option, may you never choose it as long as you have any others yet to try. May your days of light be long and may your dark days pass quickly. May you be constantly aware; you are not alone. We are one.

 

The Art of Aging

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Forty years ago tomorrow, I was the father of two boys: one age five, the other was two (two years later we added a daughter to the pride). Tomorrow would be my 30th birthday.

I was the navigator on a B-52 bomber crew. I recall that as I was taking a shower about fifty yards (roughly 45 meters) from a nuclear armed airplane cocked and ready to go blow the crap of somebody, I was quietly lamenting my age.

B-52D Navigator's Position

B-52D Navigator’s Position

I would no longer be in my twenties. I thought that I was not young and never would be again. I was knocking on the door of middle age, or so I thought. I was feeling down because I was turning the dreaded big three-zero. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” was the phrase. I still don’t really know what that means. I just knew it was bad.

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

Our society convinced me that I was getting old and that I should be sad about it. In four days, that five-year-old I mentioned turns 45. He and his 42-years young brother really are middle aged, and their baby sister is knocking on that door. I was not old, but I was depressed thinking that I was. Thanks to our shallow, f***ed-up, foolish American culture that values all the wrong stuff in people, my thinking was foolish (and not only about age).

birthday 70 1Is it all that important to be a thin, white, dark-haired, strong, male member of this country? We seem to think so. I hope that continues to change.

We have to pass laws to keep people from discriminating against older people, and the age in the law is 40. WTF? Forty is not old. Again, forty is not old! At most, it’s lower-middle aged.

And if you plan to call this foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, Fightin’ Texas Aggie, Irish-Welshman elderly; you best be certain that you can kick his ass. Because this one is standing straight-up and walking your way (in silence) to demonstrate that old is not elderly!

But, I will indeed become a septuagenarian at midnight tonight. In the game of life, I will be at ‘Level 8.’ I’ve literally been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it (which I wear proudly). I am on a first-name basis with my cardiologists, and if my peripheral vascular surgeon would do a better job, I would be running three miles a day, instead of walking. I ride a Honda Forza motor scooter because my 800-pound, 2007 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe touring motorcycle got too heavy to pick up (last year). But I still ride on two wheels. I’ve retired from the jobs that pay, but I work every day. I’m a writer and do volunteer work. My only boss is the one I’ve been married to for 50 years.

I like people and I want them to like me. But I also don’t give a flying f**k what anyone else thinks of me or my opinions, politics, religion (or lack thereof), foul language, or beer breath. I do not, and never will, wear socks with sandals. I remain a teenager of the 60s.

birthsday 70 6I am retired. All the shit/crap that I put up with for all those years of school (nuns-groan), yes, sir and no, sir; kissing up to very few idiot bosses (most were great), scrimping and saving and working – it was all worth it. As my wife would say, “Rave on, dog shit!” And so I do. Every day is a weekend and I can do what I want (with her permission—I’m old, not stupid) whenever.

I want to be happy and I am. My last meal will truly be a good pizza (my wife makes the best) and a fine stout brew. When the time comes, I want to walk into Dr. G’s office and say, “Time to shut it down, Doc. It’s been a great ride and I’ve loved it all. Let’s talk about the final git-er-done.” But that day is some ways off. Getting old is not dangerous, driving on our roads is.

Get ready big eight-zero ‘cuz here I come. ~ Me

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I toast the good health of my birth year (1946) peers: Cher, Barry Gibb, George and Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Linda Ronstadt, Sally Field, Ed O’Neill, Reggie Jackson, Daryl Hall, Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Green, Loni Anderson, Cheech Marin, and others. We’re still kickin’ the can down the road.

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May you have love that never ends, much money, and many friends.

Health be yours, whatever you do and may the universe bless you and yours. Rock on, my friends.

I’ll publish my promised blog on creativity this next Friday. I am also tinkering with one on recovering from middle age (men only, I am unqualified for the experiences of the softer, better looking, and smarter sex) because I have been there and done that too.

What do you want?

The first of three questions I think everyone should be able to answer quickly is ‘What do you want?’ I’ve always felt that few of us think about that. We may have short term goals or we may want some things to come our way. But the ultimate answer, while not illusive, is something we seldom ponder. I say this with the opinion that for virtually all of us, the answer is simple, easy, and nearly the same for everyone.

What Do You Want ?As I listened to an interview with Christopher Hitchens, I was surprised by something he said. I’ll get back to that in a minute. Frist, I want to talk about the genesis of the question and my answer.

Beginning about 25 years ago, my life began to take some very significant turns. Much significantly changed for me. My life was on track, then it was not. This life transformation continued for years. Much of it was unpleasant, disruptive, sad, and shocking. The unhappier and more miserable I became, the more I thought about what had happened and what all was going wrong. I’ll save the details for a memoir. Suffice to say, shit happened and stuff changed.

This led to a rather spiritually reflective time for me. I read a lot of spiritual books, studied religions (some more lightly than others), and pondered what I thought were important life questions.

I don’t recall when or how I came across the brochure. It was titled Oh Happy Fault! A Confession of Hidden Sin by Vinny Flynn. In the brochure, Flynn confesses that his sin was being unhappy. Silly as it seems, that resonated with me because I realized that I was unhappy, or depressed, or both. Either way, what had been going on inside me (where no one could see) was the same. This led directly to my reading three books and indirectly, discovering one other.

Fully Human, Fully Alive, by Fr. John Powell, SJ
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

About the same time, I also read, The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton.

Question One7

The result of all of this was that I made two decisions. Actually, I made many decisions and continue making them, but early-on I decided that I wanted, or perhaps needed, to be happy. I knew that I was unhappy. So I decided to be happy. More importantly, I decided that my happiness was up to me – that I could do something about it. It took a long time for my happiness to improve, but it did.

Jump ahead about six years. I found myself conducting classes for other very troubled people. They were not exactly unhappy (some were). They didn’t seem to have any focus about anything. In my opinion, they had no world view. One of the questions I would regularly as them was “What do you want?” Their answers sounded like a list of shallow, adolescent ideas about hot cars, money, and hot men or women. The blank stares and silence I got when I asked ‘why’ disguised their answers of ‘who the hell cares?’ With that experience, I have continued asking people the same question for years. “What do you want?”

Question One1

I’ve always thought everyone’s answer should be ‘happiness.’ During the Christopher Hitchens interview, he said that he did not think that he wanted ‘happiness,’ but wanted ‘satisfaction.’ I liked Hitch, but on this answer we would disagree. Maybe he felt that happiness was too much to ask for. Anyway, at least one dictionary indicates the words have synonymous meanings. There is a difference. Even though satisfaction implies having our needs met, happiness involves our state of mind regardless of needs.

Question One5

I’m skeptical of some folks wanting to be happy. Some people seem happy by not being happy, or not wanting anyone to know they’re happy. It’s like if anyone knows, they will set out to ruin my happiness; therefore, I mustn’t appear happy. Maybe they really are just waiting for something bad to happen, or maybe they seriously do not want to be happy. Maybe they think there is a happy tax.

Question One6A satisfaction tax would make a lot more sense. It seems like things may satisfy us, but we decide to be, or not to be happy. How would we measure and estimate a tax on feeling good?

Anyway, I hope you are happy now. I also hope that Hitch is satisfied and Mick Jagger (after all these years) can get some damn satisfaction. I mean, how long does a guy have to wait for that?