Friday, April 4, 2014

About People and Happiness

Part of the story of buddah is that after he left his home, a palace where all sick, old and sad people were forbidden, he began to study the various religious philosophies. It is said that he became a master in each of them.  Then, when they failed to teach him enlightenment, he move to the next one.

If you are only looking at the number of religious philosophies of India back at this time, such a thing would have been impossible. There were just too many to do that in a life time. And to try and attempt this today, on a global stage, it would require multiple life spans to accomplish.

Luckily, this isn't necessary. To paraphrase a proverbial way of looking at this, "You don't need to eat the whole cow-pie to know you have bitten into one." And likewise, one doesn't have to become a master or reach the highest or deepest level of a religion or philosophy to know if it will make you happy.

People just aren't built that way. As a species, we have a highly developed ability to recognize patterns. Its so advanced, that we sometimes find ourselves jumping to conclusions without enough data. I remember as a child, our family stopped at a gas station outside of Las Vegas, and the attendant gave us our change in quarters. (He did this to encourage us to put them in the slot machines of course.)

My mom decided to teach us the futility of gambling and gave my brother and I each two quarters. So I put mine in, and on the second pull, I got back 6 quarters. I was excited and my mother was less so.  My brother put in his quarters, and on his second pull got back 10 quarters.

Well I quickly declared, that we are winning on every other pull and we should put our 2 quarters back in that we each started with to get even more money. Of course neither of us won again, but we did walk away with a bit more than we started with, and a mother that worried she had not taught the lesson she had intended.

My point is, that even as children, we are seeking and recognizing patterns. Patterns are all around us, and we follow them to get the results that we are looking for.

When the result is happiness, we don't have to try and experiment with every form of entertainment, drug, religion, family arrangement, or occupation to find out what will make us happy. We can follow a pattern that leads to happiness simply by looking at other people and determining if they are happy, and what their lifestyle is like.

Lets start with some extremes.  Last time I was waiting for a bus downtown, I saw some homeless people in the park. They had slept there. I watched them and was quickly able to determine that that lifestyle was not one that would make me happy.

This year, I saw a youtube video of a couple that moved to California so they could grow pot. The police had taken their children and they had all sorts of legal troubles. They had a nice house and a great view, but I don't think this lifestyle will make me happy either.

This has been going on my entire life. And I have been gathering as many of the lifestyle attributes as I can to make me happy. This is why I have a wife. This is why we have children. This is why I go to work everyday. (I tried starting my own business a couple of times, but the pattern that starts a business and makes me happy at the same time is still a mystery to me.)  I go to church almost every week.  I pray with my family. (I eat with them to around the table.)

And I confess, I am happy.

Someone tried to sell me on Amway. (This didn't make me happy. But I got through it.) And one of the things they kept trying to identify was something that I wanted. A big house. A big boat. A big check. All of these things may be nice, but I had to tell them over and over that I wasn't just being resistant. (I was being resistant but not only.) But that I really had what I wanted out of life.

My wife and I sometimes have looked at our life with wonder. How did we get to be so lucky. And I think I know.

We didn't try and find a brand new, experimental way to live and be happy and prove to the world that we were smarter than everyone throughout history.

We did follow all of the best patterns available of people that had happy lives and happy marriages and happy families.

Happiness is a pattern. You just have to follow it.

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