You hear it all the time.
“This is the problem with the world!”
That’s the line they like to say. And the word “this” applies to anything they can lay their hands on. A lot of the time the “this” is Republicans. And to others it’s Democrats. To some it’s inequality. To others it’s too much equality.
And the list goes on. Each person has his own style of approaching the problems of the world, but the essence of the argument always stays the same.
And then we start to hear the solutions: “End the war!” “Free healthcare for all!” “Lower taxes!”
The words ring through the air. They make up the majority of any newspaper you’ll read. The serious people of the world grumble and nod and look thoughtful as they talk about it on Meet the Press. And John Stewart kind of jokes about it and looks angry every now and then about it. And PBS probably does some sort of documentary about it, and NPR gets a few people to talk in hushed voices around a table about it.
And sometimes the talk and the hushed voices and the grumbling all reaches a loud enough pitch that some dudes that apparently run our country do something about it. Laws are passed. Speeches are made. Everyone sits around a table as the president signs a piece of paper and then everyone looks around at each other and smiles and shakes hands as the lights from the cameras flash.
And then… nothing.
Things change, sure, and I’m sure very much for the better very often.
But, for some reason, people keep grumbling and John Stewart keeps making angry jokes and NPR keeps having hushed voices around a table.
And even worse, people seem to be less and less happy with the way things are going. We have this recession thing going down, but that’s not all. People are genuinely unhappy with the state of our country, with the state of the world.
And while people are generally safer today than they’ve ever been in this country, there is this general pessimism about the state of our country that just won’t go away.
But that’s weird! We keep having grumbling and arguing and whispering, and laws are changed, and people rallied and voices were heard. And yet… no one is happy. No one is satisfied.
What is going on? Isn’t there such a thing as progress? Aren’t we marching happily forward?
And now I’m sure there will be plenty of people will say, “Well, it’s because of this!”
But that sounds awful familiar. That word “this” again. Seems awfully cyclical.
People keep saying that word, and keep solving that word and then, somehow, there’s always another “this”. Always, always. And people are never happy. And John Stewart is always angry.
I wonder, then, if anyone ever stopped to think about the “this’s” of the world. Stopped to wonder why it didn’t make them happy to solve every problem around them. Why?
I wonder if people were ever honest with themselves and really looked at their unhappiness and their pessism and tried to look at it differently?
But the problem, of course, is that for most of us, there’s no other way to solve problems. There has to be a “this”! There has to be something we can blame all our problems on. Or else why are we unhappy? There has to be something, we think.
But maybe… maybe there isn’t a “this”. Or maybe there is, but the “this” isn’t what is messing up our lives.
What if… we’re the ones messing up our own lives?
What if being happy is a function of our own outlook at the world? A function of how we deal with every moment, whether there’s a “this” messing it up or not.
What if all the hushed voices and the serious rubbing of chins and all the laws passed in the world don’t make us feel better again?
I’ve known some people with horrible lives. They’re poor, they’re sick, the world has treated them unjustly.
And yet, they are happy.
And I’ve known some people with amazing lives. You know the kind. The ones that have it made in the shade. Money, parents with money, dogs with money, a good education.
And some of those folks are the least happy people you will ever meet.
The only difference I’ve ever seen between the two is that Mr. Rich Unhappy Man is always saying “This! This! This!”
And the poor, sick dudes are always saying something else. Something I’ve found to be much more beautiful, much deeper than that horrible hissing sound.
They say, “Me. I. Myself.”
As in, “What am I doing that’s making me unhappy? Maybe I should be focusing on myself?”
The happiest people in the world, it turns out, are the hardest on themselves. Well, not hard. Just… they realize that happiness, that optimism, that balance, comes from within. That they are the source of negativity or positivity in how they deal with the world.
They’re not stupid, of course. They know laws need to be passed and sometimes they may have to march on their dumb government or they laugh along with John Stewart.
But the “this’s” of the world tend to roll off of them. They look, they nod, they understand that it should be fixed. But the “this’s” don’t destroy their day.
Since day one, there have been evil, horrible, cruel people messing up the lives of us everyday folk. The beauty of America is that we’ve realized how important it is to fight back against the big, dark forces.
But the next step we need to take, the step any prosperous nation needs to take if it’s to be truly happy, is to realize that true happiness, true health, starts from within. Starts from deep, down in our souls.
And, thank G-d, we have complete control over that. No activism necessary.