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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Collage- Happiness and Shithouse Luck

This week I read an article about the ten happiest countries in the world. Here's a newsflash. The U.S. wasn't one of them.

How could that be? We have the perfect form of government and the capitalistic success story. Right? Don't we make all the dough? Isn't that happiness? Isn't that the meaning of success- to go out and screw as many people as possible out of their money? To have private jets taking us to our vacation homes in France? Ivy League schools and people kissing our asses just to get a job? Won't that make us happy?

Look at that big bundle of joy, Warren Buffett. Ain't he just a peach? 

How could this great country of ours- fail to make the top ten list of happiest countries? So here, before we go any further- let's address the obvious house cleaning now. Some of you will actually dispute the poll's findings. You will call the poll arbitrary and subjective. Because the nationalist in you doesn't want to admit the cold, hard, truth. We aren't in the top ten. That we found our way to the 11th position surprises me. I don't think we should have been in the top 25. And oh, by the way, I don't think we are trending up  either.

The beautiful thing about this particular topic is that I have had all week to ponder it. And if it were, that I were never to write another thing, this piece would be a perfect place to stop.

Let me say one other thing before we start. Nothing of great value was ever learned because it went the way it was supposed to go. We expected that outcome. When things go bad, we learn harsh lessons. We pass those harsh lessons along until we get an outcome that is expected. That is how we learn from mistakes. However, an absolute tragedy occurs when we make mistakes, receive harsh lessons, and yet fail to learn something. It's when we justify, rationalize, ignore, and become indifferent to our mistakes- when we fail to practice rigorous honesty- that is when our culture begins to unravel.

The problem with being happy is that nobody knows what the hell that is anymore. Individually, people have been sold a belief system that is entirely fictitious. Our capitalistic society has been bombarding us with marketing to such a degree that it has overwhelmed us. We actually think that money, boob jobs, planes, jets, fancy cars, vacation homes, designer clothing, and room service is going to make us happy. We covet the people that have all of that. And rather than tell the truth- the people with all of that stuff pretend they are happy because that is part of the fictitious belief system. We fall for that big lie. The lie that our capitalistic, marketing, world wants us to desperately believe. Oh and we do believe. Somehow when we get those things- we will be happy.

It is a big lie that has been sold to us by these professional marketers. Intuitively, we know better. We know that things don't make us happy but the marketers do what they do. We falter and waffle just a bit. Maybe... they are right we think. We just don't want to admit that we don't know what makes us happy and we are vulnerable. So we pretend to be happy. We tell ourselves and others that we are happy- but mostly we aren't.

And for an old lie catcher like me- I know most of those "happy" people are full of shit. I bought into that mirage once too- along with every friend, co-worker, banker, and trust funder friend that I had. If you'd have asked me the question back then, "Are you happy?" of course I would have lied and said I was happy. We do that because our society expects us to say that. And we damn sure know not to say, "Well actually I am really depressed because my boob job isn't attracting any attention and my Jaguar runs like shit." So we conjure up some smile and we fib.

And then I think about what we do.

How the hell can you be happy stealing from people? How can you feel good selling people medicine for thousands of dollars when it costs just a few dollars to produce? How can a dentist feel ok charging 1000 dollars for a crown made of porcelain? How can a lawyer feel good while stealing half of an award on a contingency? How can a car salesman feel good ripping off a customer for full sticker price, stealing the trade in, and selling the loan for an interest rate 4 points higher than the bank sells the paper to them? How can the investment bankers continue to steal from investors or taxpayers with impunity? How can the government continue to look the other way?  Or go fight some more wars, kill some more civilians?

In short, why would we be happy? What in the hell do we do- that anybody would feel happy about? And since we don't practice rigorous honesty anymore, we view all of this with a kind of indifference. So it is...we can't get any better because we can't even admit we don't know what the hell we are doing anymore. We don't admit mistakes. We don't learn. We are unraveling.

Under the current circumstances, happiness just becomes some bullshit word. We throw it around because everyone else does and even if we don't know what happiness really is- maybe that guy with the jet and the mansion does. Maybe we think, all of that success and money gives him some credibility. Psst... I got a secret for you. Chances are that he doesn't know anything more than you do about being happy. Unfortunately- he is substantially more invested in the illusion than you are- and more likely to wax poetically and thus untruthfully- about happiness.

I fell for all of that once. I really did believe the rhetoric. In fact, I thought I was entitled to happiness.. their style of happiness. And then one day, the greatest thing that ever happened to a man, happened to me. I lost it all. And I had to get real honest with myself about what was important in my life and what was going to make me happy. I think humility came before gratitude. Then I became conscious. I began to embrace honesty and rather than deny my mistakes- I embraced the lessons that those mistakes taught me. I did not view mistakes with indifference. I began to evolve into a state of happiness that continues to enlarge.

Shit house luck. I fell into the toilet and came out with a trout.

So yea, I don't see the USA as this big happy place. But we should be. We are the luckiest bastards on the planet if we don't keep fucking it up. We are as fractured and polarized as we have ever been. We are confused. We have a long, long way to go. And if we have to lose everything- to gain something- I guess that's just the optimist talking in me.

Speaking only for myself and my interpretive spirit guide, I don't think that I could have figured any of this out had I not traveled the path that so many others are currently on. I would not have gained anything had I not lost everything. Having lost everything caused me to examine my life with the urgency of a drowning man. It has also caused me to re-examine those folks who purport to be happy. Not that their business is mine. It's not. It's just that I have a decision to make every time the capitalists or their crony believers whisper a promise of happiness in my ear. I tend to see things a little differently now.




Anonymous said...

???? You worry me sometimes, my friend. If capitalism is so bad in your mind, what is it that you think is better? If you really think those countries have a lock on happiness, you should love Obama because that's where he wants to take this country; European style socialism.

Brian said...

Jim, I love you.

We don't practice real capitalism Jim. We haven't for years. We practice some mongrel dog, lobbyist driven, cronyism, fleece people with impunity, greed driven ugly thing. But what we sure as hell don't practice is "Free market capitalism." That shit left the building decades ago about the time we quit enforcing the rule of law.

There is a piece of me Jim, that wants Obama to win. Really. I don't think this can get better without getting worse- first. I don't think Romney is much of an upgrade.

But I do have a question for you. Why do you live in Venezuela and do you like it? What's the healthcare like? I mean that. I would love to see you write a piece on this.

Brian said...

Ohh and more succinctly...I wasn't saying capitalism is all that probably is better than anything else. It's just that capitalism and materialism, which I see as synonomous things...are not going to make you happy.

Anonymous said...

This blog/rant makes me feel the need to comment but I am at a loss of words.
Brian, knowing you as I do, you seem happy. And with that happiness you also have stuff. Stuff from companies that support American capitalism or as your put it "mongrel dog, lobbyist driven, cronyism, fleece people with impunity, greed driven ugly thing". So are you claiming that without all of that "stuff" you would still be just as happy as you are now? Honest within ones self is the most noble of ideals with few followers.
As usual, you are a walking contradiction which fascinates me.

Brian said...

I have often thought that if I just had some form of transportation, maybe even a horse and a cabin in the woods- I'd be fine.

Tolle talks at great length about this incessant wanting and coveting sickness that we have as a society. I think we are feeling the effects in the extreme in terms of debt. Acquiring stuff will never make you happy. Ever. But that doesn't mean you can survive without some stuff. The harsh reality is that we have to play by the rules...rules that you and I didn't dream up. That might seem like a contradiction but I don't really think that it is.

Happiness doesn't have anything to do with those things. As a matter of fact- I am happiest with my friends- like you.

Anonymous said...

I hear you and think the same Brian. AE

Brian said...

Thank you.