We know what makes us happy (at least, in theory). If you’re not sure, just watch little children or read about elves and hobbits.
First, you enjoy something simple – preferably something in the natural world – and then, you, as an egotistical critic, get out of the way and let happiness happen.
How you value the world leads straight to enjoying it. With the right use of your senses, you can enjoy the world and accomplish a purpose for being in it. Without thinking about what you want or don’t want, you can convert a material world into a spirit of happiness.
People try to make themselves happy. When Judy Garland sang “Get Happy,” she did her best, but the song didn’t take. She was tired. She struggled to escape herself and died of an overdose at 47.
A clue as to why is in something she said, “I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. SO WHAT!”
Judy wanted something magical to come from outside herself to make her happy. When she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, she saw happiness as somewhere out there – over the rainbow, way up high – but it’s not. Happiness is here. Beyond joy and sorrow, utopia is now! If only Judy could have experienced the world like it was when she was a baby. Then no crying she’d make.
You become an act of happiness by losing self-consciousness. Happiness is not in the intellect. It’s in the light that you see by. Let your eye and the object you see complete each other.
Imagine that you are a cloud seeing and replace a dead mechanized world bound by selfish motivation, mental manacles, debt and scientific manipulation. Recreate it with your sense of enjoyment.
Think about how a rainbow appears. It’s your eye at the right angle combined with sunlight and water drops. Without you to see, a rainbow doesn’t appear. But a rainbow is more than light refraction. It isn’t a symbol. It has no reason for being. It’s light playing. It’s fun. It’s beauty.
It’s a miracle! It’s you seeing!
Imagine yourself as a child. You are fed and content. Your world is not filtered by custom, interpretation, and analysis. The world is new. Imagine seeing a butterfly for the first time!
A child without want is as free as a bird or flower. No regrets or worries. As a child of whatever age, you are as you are and in this, you are humility and humility is happiness.
In The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, Gregory Bassham lists six lessons in happiness we can learn from Tolkien’s elves and hobbits: 1) Delight in simple things; 2) Make light of your troubles; 3) Get personal (cultivate friendships); 4) Cultivate good character; 5) Cherish and create beauty; and, 6) Rediscover Wonder (it’s not just bread).
We know that we should live a simple life. We should find hope and humour even in dire circumstances. We should have close friends. We should have good morals. We should clean our psychological window so things don’t look drab and familiar. We should be less self-interested and more amazed by the world.
Even though we know what we should and shouldn’t do, something invariably happens to complicate simplicity and sour generosity. Irritation, frustration and sadness can shred good intentions.
We can remind ourselves to be wise and live uncomplicated lives like a hobbit in the Shire, but something in the outside world can happen to shatter our plan.
By the end of the day we’re tired. We wind up flaked out on a chair, covered in cheesie dust. What went wrong? We tried, but therein is our problem. Who was the one trying? Was the spirit willing and the flesh weak? Remember Dr. Schwartz’s scientific dictum, “You are not your brain” (see: It’s Not Me. It’s My Brain). A person must be detached enough to see himself objectively while at the same time committed to his own values (Kierkegaard).
Our brains can be like a Siren song luring us like sailors to shipwreck on a rocky coast. Thoughts become habitual through repeated pleasure-seeking and dopamine. Our heart may say, “No-no,” but our brain says, “Yes-yes!” Our brain often urges us to do what we probably shouldn’t.
We may have more luxuries and conveniences thanks to the magic of technologies, but that doesn’t mean we’re happier. We’re busier. We now lack time to focus on things that produce a quieter happiness.
What’s to be done? Nothing much. Just some rewiring of our brains by forging new pathways and enjoyable singing of a Tom Bombadil song.
Henry David Thoreau said in Walden: “Our life is frittered away by detail… But men labor under a mistake.
“The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before… Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Ch. 1) …a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone” (Ch. 2).
You don’t have to build a cabin in the woods to live deliberately. You can live deliberately anywhere. Randomly stop what you’re doing. Freeze! Take the world in and move your eyes to gaze and listen.
All it takes is an ever so slight shift in focus, not to see what you think is there, but to see what is and isn’t.
For little friend Timmy. Who enjoys a good thunder storm.