Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When you'll be happy

[photo: Sherlock contemplates the news of the day]
I don't know about you, but . . .
wait. I do know about you. You're like me. You have a mental list of conditions that need to be met before you can be happy. (They can also be Conditions that Should Have Been Met, which is more rock-solid, because the truth is, no matter how much you pay the therapist, you will never have had a happy childhood. . . . "You will never have had." I actually wrote that. Some sort of fantastical verb tense like they have in French. When I think of all the time I wasted, years in classes, years with books and flash cards and dictionaries, trying to learn French - if only I had spent that time studying molecular neurobiogenetic macroeconomic fashion, I'd be rich today . . . ) But I digress.

That's my name, you could say; I am One who Digresses, who keeps wandering off the path to inspect a little white violet. I used to think I'd be happy when I got a handle on that sort of unremunerative impulse and got Normal and kept a clean house and ate right. But come to find out the world is full of people yearning not to be Normal. We call them human beings. There's the problem. It's not about normal or ab-. It's about that ability to yearn.

Human beings have far too much brain, and yearning is what we use it for. On the other hand, consider the cat. His brain is the size of a walnut. Half a walnut. He does not even understand emotion, let alone Art or commitment. Whenever he tries to meditate, he falls asleep. He has one simple drive, to survive. When the territory's all snug and there's food in the dish and water in the bathroom sink, and no other cats around, is he bored and restless? If so, he will devote himself to dashing out the front door when you go to get the mail. If not, he naps, storing up energy in case something to pounce on appears. Not that he yearns for something to pounce on, not really. He's just ready. It's his nature.

The thing about being human is, we are able to desire to be like a cat. Think about it. Don't you wish you had their simple, straightforward mind, the ability to be perfectly contented when lying in bed between your humans, shedding? To purr only if and when you felt like it, without hypocrisy or guilt? If only you could get rid of this thinking, worrying mind of yours and be like a cat, then you'd be happy.

Here's where I'm going with this, if I can be said to be going anywhere except offroad: That thing that would make you happy If Only - it wouldn't. How many examples do you need? Remember how you longed for high school graduation? Free at last! Or your driver's license. Or Love. Or then, to get rid of the guy. To lose ten pounds. To finally deliver that baby. To get that teenager out of the house. When the weather changes. You get the idea.

Once in a while, it is true, something actually meets our expectations. Recently I was reminded of how thoroughly I enjoyed my sixty-fifth birthday. I got to wear a big pink sombrero while lots of people sang happy birthday to me, and then I got toys and cake. For a moment there, I was the center of my universe. I've always thought I'd be perfectly happy if only that would come true. It did, and I was.

Those readers who are not cats are probably ahead of me here, thinking, Aha, all I have to do is get rid of my selfish, unrealistic desires, like the wish to always be the center of everyone else's universe. No, I wasn't going to say that. I can't cure your big brain that easily. All I know to do is make a list. Write down your preoccupations - today's will do - all those conditions that must be met for you to be happy. All of them. Don't leave things out just because they're impossible, like, to be young again.

Think about it. Keep adding to the list. At a later time, maybe, we will discuss how to invent a personally meaningful ritual to distance yourself little from some of these conditions. Crumple the list and eat it. Or throw it in a bonfire while walking counter-clockwise. Laminate it on styrofoam and throw knives at it. Like I said, I am a fountain of creative ideas. I can't help myself. Wish I could.

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