Do You Know The Real You? Can You Make That You Happy?
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
- Lao-tzu, philosopher of ancient China, considered the founder of Taoism (6th century BCE)
Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand. Return to the root and you will find meaning.
- Chien Chih Sengtsan, Third (Chinese) Zen Patriarch ca. 600 CE
Like most people, you probably have wondered, from time to time in your life, why you are here. What is the purpose of life? Where did it all begin? Or has everything that exists always been? Is there something greater, that is beyond our understanding, that made everything?
If there is something greater and it used matter and energy to create what is today, what is that greater entity made of?
Questions of this nature that go beyond these enter the realm of religion, which is not part of the objective of this article.
Most of us want to know how whatever is greater than ourselves, that is out there somewhere, relates to us.
Scarcely anyone asks themselves what role we can play to fulfill whatever objectives that greater power had. For the purposes of this discussion I ask for a leap of faith, that at some point in the past there was nothing, then there was something. It defies logic to believe that nothing produced something, that a void transformed into matter and energy. The "hot dense state" that began the Big Bang Theory didn't develop by itself. Physics allows for transformation, but not for creation of something from nothing.
The universe operates with what we call physical laws, which allow everything to be the way it is. "What is" is remarkably well organized, even if we don't understand it. There was some reason behind the organization that made it all happen.
Throughout human history we had slavery. Everyone expected slaves to follow their master's orders. No one expected a slave to demand that the master explain himself. Yet Christianity, as one example, speaks to God as "master," then expects the master to do all kinds of things, to answer all kinds of questions, to produce all manner of miracles for Christians.
If you are employed, it's likely important to you that you do what your boss wants you to do. For some reason, many of us believe that the power that is greater than us--that created everything, including the laws that hold it all together--should account for himself (itself), should answer their questions, should help them when they have needs, should do this and should stop others from doing that.
An increasingly popular acronym among Christians is WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) The people who ask this believe Jesus is a divine being. They wonder what a divine being would do when facing a problem in a material world. While the thinking process itself is noble, I would ask these people: Why should Jesus even care about your problem? If you believe you were created by a divine being, should you not as asking what you could be doing to satisfy that being?
It's all well and good to ask ourselves what life is about. But if you knew, what difference would it make to you? If you knew the exact purpose that the divine being had for creating you, would you devote your life to fulfilling that purpose? If not, you should ask yourself what business you have in asking the question.
You live in a society with laws. Yet you and everyone else breaks those laws from time to time, without feeling any pangs of conscience. You live under a government structure you expect to protect you, to keep you from harm, to help you in times of natural disaster, to guide your life course when you lose your job, your spouse or when you are trying to recover from an addiction. What do you do to acknowledge the important responsibilities you have given to your governments? Do you cheat on your income tax? Do you report others you know are breaking laws? Do you help others so they do not find themselves in the position of feeling they have to break laws?
If you are married or in a committed relationship, you likely expect your significant other to remain faithful to you. This despite the fact you know that over half the marriages in North America fail, 85 percent of married men have sexual experiences with other women at some point in their marriages and 65 percent of married women find sexual gratification outside of their marriage at least once. How "committed" is that? A large majority of us aren't even prepared to delivered what we promised in a legal document.
But we want a supreme being to perform at our will.
OK, smart guy, you say, what should I be doing that I don't do now? Thanks for asking, I hoped you would. If I could offer you a way to find happiness for the rest of your life, would you be interested?
We believe all kinds of advertising that promises if we spend money we will be happy. Turns out we get short term thrills, not long term happiness.And it costs money while using up life time and energy. Not much left at the end of the day. As the saying goes, I began life with nothing and I still have most of it.
Before you consider a way to make you happy, you should be clear in your mind what or who the real "you" is. Most of what you believe about yourself comes from your experiences in life and what others have told you. What you believe about almost everything likely comes from others, not from your own thinking.
If suddenly you found yourself alone, the last person on earth, would you still be the same you? I submit that with no one to tell you who you are, you would become (or revert to) the real you. How would you treat other animals, plants, the air you breathe, the water you would require to sustain your life? If you were alone on an island, a real life Robinson Crusoe, everything you did would impact your long term survival. You would be totally responsible, accountable for your entire future. The real you would inevitably emerge.
In your present life you leave responsibility for your future existence to others, to governments comprised of self-interested politicians, to big corporations that have proven themselves to be sociopathic, to your employer, to the leaders of your religion, maybe to your children, your parents or your spouse. The real you that would act in the best interests of yourself and your total environment you allow to remain buried.
You need to resurrect that real you. You need to take those Crusoe-like responsibilities seriously in your life. You need to take yourself seriously, take responsibility for how you impact the people, other lives, other living things and the world around you. That is the only you that you have a real chance of making happy.
In itself, taking full responsibility for yourself and your position on the planet will not make you happy. It will, however, clear your conscience of the fear that you are doing wrong, wrong that may be socially acceptable and encouraged by corporations. It will put you at peace with yourself.
Let's look at the only people in the world who are truly happy. Never mind those who get thrills, as that's not lasting happiness. Never mind those who indulge themselves in addictions, even "mild" ones such as shopping and marijuana use. They are short term and usually bring consequences that offset the temporary pleasures they deliver. A basically unhappy person does not become happy by donning a happy-face mask. The only people who live their lives with enduring happiness are those who help others.
It sounds counterintuitive. Give of yourself to help someone else and it will make you happy. No corporation teaches that. No TV commercials deliver that message. But connect the dots. The only truly happy people in your society, people who are happy virtually every day of their lives, are those who help others in some way.
Though Bill Gates is better known as co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, today he gets more joy out of life from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds medical research, puts computers into schools that can't afford them all over the world and supports charitable groups that would not exist in the same way without the foundation's help. The world benefits from the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates is a happy man because of it. Other more financially confined individuals work full time at charities, shelters, group homes and many other public functions and are every bit as happy as Bill Gates.
What many find strange about people who help people (and other life forms) is that while they work to make other lives better, their own improves at the same time. It makes them feel good to do good, no matter if income is involved or not. No other endeavour in life works like that. There must be something built into us that gives us that kind of extraordinary pleasure, peace and happiness.
Those who ask what the purpose of life don't have to look far. The answer is inside every one of us.
That reward mechanism didn't come in our DNA when we were conceived. It had to come from somewhere. Otherwise it would be something created from nothing, which the laws of physics do not accept. Science can prove that we have it, that it works, and it works well. But science has no explanation. Happiness, like many other important things in life, is beyond the understanding of science.
No, the best things in life are not free. They require some effort. But what a reward.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to raise children who are well balanced and will not need to turn to self destructive behaviours as they get older.
Learn more at http://billallin.com