In an age when unhappiness is so widespread, it’s hard to believe that happiness is our natural state of being. When we are unhappy, we’ve fallen into an unnatural state based on holding in our minds beliefs that are not true. Remembering the truth sets us free of unhappiness into awareness of our natural state of joy. We sometimes encounter brief glimpses of joy and even some stretches of happiness that seem like happiness is cruelly teasing us (again!) before it vanishes like smoke. Few of us manage to experience sustained substantial happiness or joy for long because we fail to keep our minds steadfastly focused on what is true and instead allow our minds to drift off focus to entertain (often again) beliefs that are not true. Many of us have come to accept as if it’s fact that unhappiness or despair is our natural state of being. There is a reason for the lack of sustained substantial happiness in modern society. Let me share some ideas about why our individual and collective happiness is neither sustained nor as substantial as we’d prefer it be.
What I said in the first sentence bears repeating. Happiness is our natural state of being. A loving God created us to be happy by sharing divine happiness as our natural condition. Some call that condition “joy” while others call it “bliss,” “joie de vivre “or a care-free state of uplifting emotional “ecstasy.” This is the substantial happiness we crave beyond fluffy, frivolous and fleeting fun, funniness and flattery that the ego offers as poor substitutes for divine happiness. It is substantial because it expresses the nature, scope and qualities of God, the Most Substantial Being in the universe. And it endures throughout all stages and conditions of life because it expresses the timeless quality of God – Eternity. God’s eternal divine happiness contains no artificial sweeteners and needs no unhealthy preservatives – and it knows no limits to its capacity to bring us infinite energy not measurable in calories. It’s the organic, sustained and nutritious feast that deeply satisfies our souls. It is the uplifting energy that heartfelt, full-bodied laughter expresses from our hearts when laughter proves to be the best medicine. We are all native citizens in this state of bliss but many of us have allowed ourselves to immigrate or be exiled from our native land into an alternative state in which we are not true to ourselves or to our divine origin and cultural heritage.
Why do we not encounter on a sustained basis this substantial, soul-satisfying experience that is natural to us? The answer to this puzzling question is simple. We don’t because we’ve been offered, accepted and adopted the unquestioning “thinking” of a society that is based on assumptions (beliefs) about human nature in general and ourselves in particular that simply are not true. For example, under the influence of the industrial/technological revolution, for several centuries these mistaken assumptions have included the idea that individual humans are undifferentiated, interchangeable components of a mechanical system whose minds can be trained to perform like machines or automatons within a materialistic economy (or a government bureaucracy, military unit, corporation, religious or educational institution or any of civilization’s other institutions and social systems) for the “good” of the group as “good” is defined by the trainers.
Social conformers train us to set aside our innate capacity to think creatively and instead to adopt the mental habits needed to survive in conformity to social standards by which we are rewarded like caged rats pressing levers for food. Our minds reflexively press the levers of our habits in order to receive the reward of social acceptance, approval, admiration, affection and adoration for which society keeps us ever starving and insecure about receiving. Having a natural, legitimate appetite for these A-list rewards, we are vulnerable to being manipulated by our trainers into seeking them through social conformity because society does its best to deprive us of them if we fail to conform. (Our habitualized nonthinking is supported by traditional systems of “scientific thinking” too. The logical progression of such thinking is to envision creating “artificial intelligence” that governs robots who replace humans entirely. Ironically, by following this line of habit-subjugated false “thinking” we’ve subordinated the human mind to focus on continuously upgrading artificial intelligence in hopes of equaling and perhaps even exceeding human intelligence. As a result, we’ve managed to replace our natural “native intelligence” in many humans with artificial intelligence of such conformist, mediocre and inadequate quality that we’d ridicule and reject if it turned up in robots. And we’ve failed to cultivate our natural genius for creative thinking in our collective development of more satisfying experiences for all of us.)
Most of our socially oriented mind-trainers are not concerned about what is natural for humans to experience. They are themselves trained to believe in mistaken assumptions about the need to overcome human nature by replacing what is natural with what is “superior” to natural. (Some trainers go so far as to believe that human nature is, at its inception, naturally defective, sinful, immoral, irresponsible and depraved. Because their thinking begins with these false ideas, they mistaken interpret the adverse “effects” of social conformity as the “cause” of what they believe is true. Conformist thinking reverses the roles of cause and effect in order to rationalize the losses humanity suffers on account of our conformity to modern society’s artificial standards.) As a result of their past training, social trainers now unwittingly past along their thinking’s internalized systemic fallacies. By definition, what is “superior to natural” means what is “not natural” – or in other words, what is “artificial.” Whatever standards trainers use (as those standards change from time to time and from culture, society or group to culture, society or group) all recipes for “superior” are artificial standards. To keep their social privileges and gain promotions, recipe-developers often formulate and justify their recipes for “superior” based on comparing short-term performance outcomes between one person and another person or between one society, subculture, organization, team or group and another and seek to advance the status of the group with which they identify over any other group with which they don’t identify. In this competitive orientation of group against group, the welfare of the whole of humanity is overlooked.
When humans impose short-sighted performance standards to override human nature in order to make it a priority to achieve relatively short-term goals set by humans in competition with other humans, the quality of life declines as the reign of artificiality takes over all aspects of planning for the social lives of human. In this seductive manner, short-sightedness that caters to the ego’s appetite for instantaneous gratification takes precedence over long-term sustainability. Short-sightedness, taken to the ultimate extreme towards which all ego-addictive processes progress, imposes such lack of foresight as to become the equivalent of blindness to our own good. Along this path of artificiality’s progressive dominance, modern society has wandered farther and farther afield from the reality of genuine humanness and genuine happiness. In place of genuine, natural humanness, we’ve adopted artificial substitutes for humanness to which we humans now expect ourselves to routinely and rigorously conform regardless of conformity’s harmful effects on humanity and all other forms of life. We adhere to conformity that is now self-imposed because we are afraid to even consider an alternative for fear of the social consequences of nonconformity. As a logical outcome of this downwardly spiraling progression, we are now experiencing humanity’s dehumanization as people treat each other less and less humanely. As a result, we now routinely inflict pain on each other rather than promote shared happiness and create deep emotional wounds that we bear for life because we are not encouraged nor give opportunities to grieve and recover from these wounds. (That religions, while purporting to espouse God’s viewpoint, have, in the main, justified our acquired distrust of (and disgust for) what is natural to humans and failed to promote healing of our hearts’ wounds is a topic for other blogs.)
Happily experienced humanness is sustainable only if and when we dare to be true to our natural, native, created Self at every step along our life’s journey – throughout every phase of our natural development as whole human beings designed by God to express all that is heavenly while yet living bodily on earth. By God’s grace we can always return to our natural state of happiness any time we choose to set aside our conformist mind-training and resume listening to our hearts and thinking with our minds’ full capacities. It’s impossible to sustain joy when we deny our hearts and pretend to be someone we are not. Pretending in this manner distorts – and may even arrest – our natural development and definitely derails our natural happiness. No matter how popular we may become in an artificial society by adopting more artificiality (for example, by materially reconfiguring or chemically augmenting our physical features, expressions, images and activities to be more charming, appealing, entertaining or profitable or to maintain a youthful appearance or performance), we’ll not experience divine happiness while adopting pretense and artificiality as our way of life.
In the social context of a tightening downward spiral of unhappiness, happiness is hazardous to one’s social approval rating because, by conflicting with the preservation of the social status quo, happiness invokes the penalties a conformist society automatically imposes on controversial nonconformity that questions the value of society’s downward spiral. We all hunger to belong among other people because our true nature includes our friendliness and desire to generously share our happiness along with all the A-list qualities of life. We are by nature social beings who enjoy sharing with utter generosity a quality of life flowing with A-list experiences. We want to share ourselves and our lives with others as God lovingly shares with us. Against the grain of our heart’s desire, the society we are currently enduring pressures us to abandon our authenticity and our native capacity for heart-to-heart connection and honest, open, generous sharing in order to fit into the artificiality, independence, reluctance to trust and share and resulting loneliness our society promotes as “normal” and wants to convince us is “best for us.” As a result, the quality and sustainability of our relationships decline along with the decline in the quality and sustainability our happiness. Relationships are the field of shared experiences. As our faith in sharing generously within bonds of trust fades, relationships become pointless.
In this age of artificiality, in an attempt to satisfy our natural desire to be connected with others and to share, we come to believe that we have to abandon being true to ourselves in order to participate in this society as a “socially acceptable” person on society’s unnatural terms. The only price society asks us to pay for our participation on its terms is our happiness. If we are willing to give up being happy and learn to be less humane, we can fit right into this depressing society’s way of surviving without thriving. This dilemma is a natural consequence of living in fear of being authentic and instead adopting the mask of an ego as our false social identity in order to win social approval and belong as best we can by passing ourselves off as someone we’re not. That’s how most people learn to survive but not thrive throughout all of their lives.
As diverse as we may make our egos’ images appear to be so as to fabricate the illusion of diversity, there’s still one core conformity that’s operative at all levels within a materialistic society – conformity to the ego’s determination to rob us all of our happiness. Our claim of social diversity is one of ego’s most masterful illusions. The ego hoodwinks us into believing that our society honors diversity while the truth is that we demand conformity to universal unhappiness as the price of participation in society. Ego permits diversity of superficial images but demands conformity to unhappiness at our core as our common ground. Society exiles truly happy people just as surely as it exiles all other “undesirable uncooperatives.” Anger and envy directed towards happy people reflect society’s judgment that “too much” of a natural high is somehow wrong, perhaps even irresponsible. Society prefers to market myriad versions of artificial (often chemically induced or enhanced) fun, funniness, flattery and other “highs” that make money while condemning as childishly naïve the idea that happiness can be experienced naturally. The truth is that we are more likely to be deeply aware of happiness at our core when we lack financial resources to purchase temporarily escapist distractions from our unhappiness. In the context of financial poverty we are more likely to encounter our spiritual prosperity. So long as we remain aware of our spiritual prosperity, our increasing financial prosperity will no deprive us of happiness no matter how wealthy we may become. An adverse risk of financial wealth is that making its maintenance a priority distracts us from the joy of sharing all we are as well as all we have.
To remain true to our ego and the egos of others we must remain false to our true nature and accordingly accept our need to give up being happy. Give up being happy and the ego wins. Your ego will feel proud but your heart will feel grief. Grief is a natural response to all the losses we suffer under ego’s dominion. Which do you choose to honor – your ego or your heart?
If you fail to honor your heart and fail to discover within you the courage it takes to be truly who you are, your happiness will fade away because happiness is only sustainable when you honor and like yourself. If you don’t honor your True Self, you’ll not like yourself and you won’t like how others treat you either. In fact, you’ll come to hate yourself for not having the courage to be honest and stand up for what you believe in no matter how your beliefs may conflict with society’s beliefs. Once you come to hate yourself enough, you may even invoke society’s capacity to punish you for secretly being you.
This cycle of dishonor, self-distain and self-punishment can spiral radically out of control to express itself in violence and self-destructive behaviors. Dishonoring yourself attracts others into your life who will agree with you, dishonor you and invite you to dishonor them too. Within this cycle of shared unhappiness, mutual devaluing leads to habits of neglect and abuse directed both towards ourselves and towards others, perpetuates the ego’s dominance over our decisions and produces the illusion that there is no other option. The alternative of being true to ourselves seems so farfetched, unrealistic and impossibly out of reach as to be too risky for most people to contemplate let alone implement. As this downwardly spiraling cycle progresses, we feel increasingly powerless to live in any other manner because, as our minds become blinded by pain, we lose track of our vision of a brighter future and become trapped in recycling pain from humanity’s collective past.
Why risk the hazards of being unwanted and unwelcomed in ego’s society when hiding behind the masks that society teaches us to wear seems to be so easy? – or so the ego argues. What’s the big deal about being happy anyways? Happiness, the ego contends, is just a myth, a child’s fairy tale and a figment of children’s imagination. When we grow up, the ego counsels, we’ve got to stop trying to be children and learn to be like the “real” grownups who have raised us to strive with utter futility to be happy and successful on society’s terms even when they are not happy trying to live that way. An artificial society teaches us the way of futility and then expects us to put up a believable, polite front while we smile and pretend to enjoy ourselves. Ultimately our society then expects us to train the next generation to do the same thing all over again.
Is it not strange that adults who have failed to be both happy and successful on society’s terms continue to teach children to model their lives after unhappy and unsuccessful people such as their parents, teachers, celebrity figures and others who conform to the ego’s demands for surrender of joy as the cost of success? We sacrifice our children’s hearts (and our own) on the ego’s altar of fear in order to win social approval and not feel alone. And ironically even while complying with the ego’s terms of conformity in order to fit in, we feel alone. Why is that? Such loneliness is caused by our egos’ refusal to allow us to make heart-to-heart connections, the only kind of connections that will ever relieve our loneliness. The ego aggravates our grief layer by layer as it entombs our hearts beyond reach within the ego’s supposedly protective walls. That’s our real choice: on the one hand, perpetual and ever-growing grief and on the other hand relief and rediscovered happiness.
The hazards of happiness include being rejected by those who choose in favor of preserving their egos and maintaining their pretense of happiness instead of joining in the restoration of their genuine, soul-satisfying happiness along with us. For the time being at least, they think that they prefer to envy our happiness and try to tear us down again instead of lifting us up and joining in our rise beyond the ego’s pathetic playpen of immature rantings and ravings about the unfairness of life. Letting go of the ego is the same as reaching for greater maturity so that we can live happily ever after.
Ever after what? Ever after the times when we allowed the ego to rule and ruin our happiness and progressively learned to substitute pride for happiness, ambition for hope and temporary political arrangements for lasting peace. Pride, ambition and negotiated temporary truces offer us nothing of the divinely enriched happiness that plants its roots deep within our souls and lasts a lifetime.
I invite you to set your heart and mind upon the path of courage and compassion that allows you to be true to yourself and encourages others to do likewise. If you do, you’ll find joy and all life’s A-list qualities waiting all along your journey. By so choosing, you are electing to value the quality of life you encounter over the quantity of material things you acquire and popular opinions that agree with your choice. As unpopular as your choice in favor of happiness (and your own natural humanness) may appear to be, you are not alone. The ego merely wants you to believe you are alone to keep you hostage within its walls and convince you by its illusions to believe that there is no escape and that any other alternative is too risky to consider. It’s true that the ego’s way lacks risks. It lacks risks because it is guaranteed to kill your happiness and make you wish for extinction. Life’s only truly risky route awaits you beyond your ego along the adventure of humility that is the only true alternative to the ego’s futility. That’s another way to frame our choice: on the one hand continued risk-free futility or, on the other hand, courageously hazardous humility within which we discover joy-filled freedom to fully participate in life’s grandest adventure as it continuously unfolds before us.
Note the word “us” at the end of the last sentence. The false belief that is the root of all unhappiness in the depth of our hearts is the belief that we are included in no “us” we can trust to stand with us through thick and thin – in sweet times and in sour and all mixed times in between. When we believe ourselves to be utterly alone, we are sad in a way that seems beyond overcoming. We have the power to recover the happiness we seek that will last beyond this lifetime by adopting the alternative belief that we are all connected as one worldwide “us” and that smaller squads of “us” are swarming everywhere hoping to find and include each of us. Learning to trust again is key.
In the middle of the word “trust” is “us.” It is bracketed by “t’s” on either end that embrace “us” with an “r” that leads before “us.” Each “t” stands for “truth.” The “r” that leads “us” stands for “raises.” The “r” points “us” in the right direction – upward in reversal of our previously downward spiral through steadfast reliance upon truth that was in the beginning and ever shall be in the future. Both T’s are not actually ends but rather T-intersections or links with eternity. The truth always links us to eternity because that is where it comes from. Truth Raises US to Truth = TRUST. In God we trust is our most gracious privilege and most enduring and rewarding wisdom.
© Art Nicol 2013