There is a better place. It exists and it’s just as real as this one.
Because it is this place. We’ve already arrived, but for some reason we didn’t hear the conductor announce our stop.
Any time we waste fretting or scheming is time just as fully wasted as if we had been playing an inconsequential video game. It’s not a bad or good action, just a wasteful one.
Learn to cultivate gratitude. That often works when nothing else does. Take a genuine interest in the welfare of those around you. If you can get out of yourself, you’ll have less time to fall into self-pity.
I knew a man who got burned by gasoline while filling his lawn mower in his garage. He was in the hospital and they were giving him pain medication, but he was never really pain free no matter what dosage they gave him. The only way he could forget about his pain was to visit other people on the burn ward and try to cheer them up. He found that if he read stories to burned children, he forgot about his pain, but as soon as he went back to his room, it returned.
His case is not unusual, for most people who are not only content but often happy have something bigger than their own comfort to live for. You can’t pull off avuncular if you’re simply looking out for yourself, pressing your advantage whenever possible, and getting away with whatever you can.
Slick operators are rarely well thought of, even by themselves. The brief triumph of pulling something over on someone else doesn’t create lasting satisfaction. We can learn through suffering or we can learn my imitating others who have what we want.
This is school. Nobody really likes school much. We’d much rather be using the skills we learned our in the real world. We’ll get there, eventually, but whoever designed this decided some of us needed to be schooled first.
Avoid the Deliberate Manufacture of Misery
Since happiness is largely a decision, and cultivating gratitude the best way to make that decision on a daily basis, why are so many people not happy most of the time?
We must be manufacturing our own misery. Why?
There must be some hidden benefit which we aren’t eager to admit. Teenagers often sulk because they think it makes the look cool. Twenty-something artists look on the dark side whenever possible because they think it makes them seem profound. But what about the rest of us?
Blaming others or your circumstances for your misery is obviously a zero-sum game. If it’s all up to us, why choose misery?
We’re probably afraid of something we can’t admit to or recognize. Habitually looking outside ourselves, we can’t see the benefit we’re “enjoying” of not being truly free and happy.
Why risk self-employment when blaming your job is so much easier? Why risk being with someone you really want when
feeling trapped by someone you don’t desire protects you from the risk of real loss? Think how much it would hurt if someone you really wanted rejected you!
We can see that this pattern started a long time ago and has continued habitually ever since. By the time we recognize it and snap out of it, much of our life may already have passed. Too bad, but it isn’t the kiss of death. Not yet.
Nobody Knows What’s Going On
The fact is, everybody’s faking it to some degree. Some of us do a better job than others of pretending to be in charge of our lives, of knowing what’s going on, of taking decisive actions based on careful study of the facts, but most of that is theater.
We’re all puppets in the same play. The puppet master is clever and kind most of the time, but every once in a while he shows his dark side.
I live in a Buddhist country, and if I get up early in the morning, right before dawn, I can see monks of all ages walking barefoot down the streets and lanes, begging for food. On cold mornings it looks uncomfortable. They do this to practice total surrender to the benevolence of others.
A business man in a high tower, lounging about in a thousand-dollar suit and making what he assures himself and others are good decisions and taking decisive actions would have a harder time seeing that he is floating on a cloud of grace.
But, as the sorry little priest in the film Diary of a Country Priest whispered just before he died, “Grace is everywhere.” The film Babette’s Feast makes the same claim. There’s no point in trying to take credit for your successes or failures, it all pales in comparison to the majesty of God’s grace.
So if it makes you happy to think of yourself as a go-getter, a successful whatever-you-think-you-are, then go ahead and do it. Likewise, if you get some sick pleasure out of blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault, that’s OK, too.
It doesn’t matter in the long run. Things are the way they are and how we interpret them only matters to us, and from a distance, even that not much. Tears will dry. Memories will fade.