[This is a continuation on my Happiness discussion. Part 1 discussed quantifying happiness vs knowing joy and can be found here. Part 2 will discuss cultivating inner stillness and joy. Again, fair warning, this is not a quick read.]
I was born nameless.
I have been known by the following names: Benjamin Teng, Teng Ming Tao, Ehb, Wu-Teng, Mr. Puzzle
When the I is gone there shall remain the nameless.
When I was born, I knew joy
When I was named, I learned to create happiness
When the nameless remains, I return to joy
You’re probably wondering just what in tarnation I’m talking about:
Each one of us has applied certain conditions upon ourselves. We have cultivated or learned from others and our environment certain personality traits over the years and by doing so learned how to quantify ourselves in certain ways. Through this route we have also tried to quantify our personal happiness. It has become a pursuit…an endless pursuit.
What if we could unapply everything we think we know about ourselves? What are we left with?
The possibility to know inherent joy is within all of us. However, we tamp it down within and replace it with quantified happiness. It’s not only about quantified happiness, though. By stepping away from knowing inherent joy we have also developed behavior that takes us further away from cultivating joy. We have cultivated the fear of not being happy and missing out by:
– categorizing emotions into positives and negatives
– fostering doubt in our own inherent value and worth or overcompensating
– teaching ourselves to avoid the negatives in life
– conflict avoidance
– forming unnecessary absolute world views and abiding by them
– turning unkindly inwards within ourselves instead of focusing on inner and outward compassion
How do we counter all of this and put ourselves on the right path? I do not hold all of the answers. Much of it must be discovered at an individual level. However, there are certain guidelines we can follow:
– Think of emotions as a neutral spectrum that can be applied both negatively and positively. This is important because when we overly qualify certain emotions we tend to overcompensate and seek them out like drug addicts. We also become fearful and dismissive of perceived negative emotions. Examples:
Love is not necessarily a positive emotion. You can love someone too much and suffocate them. It becomes a negative.
Anger is not necessarily a negative emotion. Anger can propel us to action to correct egregious mistakes. It can be a positive.
If we can begin to understand emotions for what they are in an empirical manner instead of preconceived manner, then we find balance and less emotional swings and conflict within. We cultivate stillness which leads to joy.
– Understand we all have inherent value and worth. We all have inherent value and worth. I try not to make absolute statements, but this is an exception. Too often we try to qualify our own and each others’ value and worth against preconceived criteria. If you are disinterested or unaligned with someone, are they of less worth to you? If you’re life is not comparable to someone else’s, is your life worth less? Is your economic footprint less than someone else’s? None of these questions apply. Asking these questions are egregious errors that we make and subjugate ourselves to. Value and worth is naturally inherent in all and it is up to us to learn how to look for and draw it out of each other. This leads to reflections of love within each other which leads to a bond of joy.
– Avoiding perceived negatives breeds inner dissonance and less understanding. Sadness, anger, pain, death etc. These are all quintessential to experiencing, understanding and appreciating life. I am not suggesting that we seek these experiences out, but instead to have a healthy outlook towards them. These experiences are naturally occurring phenomena and here to stay in our current evolutionary incarnation. We cannot numb ourselves to them and hope to live charmed lives. This is unrealistic. However, this is what we are teaching each other. That somehow we can live lives devoid of pain and suffering. We should instead be comfortable with the natural course of life. These occurrences help us have a greater appreciation for joy. Without them joy is meaningless.
I will quickly contradict myself and say, yes, we can live lives devoid of pain and suffering. However, I am only applying this to transcendent living and not everyday societal living. There is a distinct difference in transcendent outlooks that negate pain and suffering as non-existent, but this is a state of achieved conditional emptiness that is best left for another post to explore.
– Avoiding conflict also breeds inner dissonance and less understanding. I have noticed that societies that habitually avoid conflict or proper conflict resolution develop an unhealthy language of passive-aggressiveness or over-aggressiveness. People in these societies have tamped down the natural expression of conflict language. In return, they become meaner, less trusting, and more pessimistic and cynical. This is incredibly unhealthy. Learning conflict resolution language is balancing and gives people a better sense of well-being because they can fully express themselves. Of course, self-expression also needs to be disciplined at times. However, when to show restraint cannot be learned if we always avoid conflict. With a balance of less fear of conflict and proper conflict resolution training we can build a more joyful self and society.
I do want to point out that sarcastic humor can be part of the conflict resolution language. However, increasingly passive-aggresive behavior is being veiled as sarcastic humor. No one is laughing when you are simply being mean.
– Absolutes are dangerous. Absolute thinking and absolute morality is what causes most wars and violent conflict. Do not mistake this as me saying there is no baseline of morality to draw from. I believe in virtue, rational virtue. It is the irrational absolute moral authority that is devastating and damaging. This type of thinking does not leave room for possibilities or options. It can quickly takes on authoritarian, totalitarian, elitist and fascist tones. When this happens it causes great internal dissonance and becomes very hard to reconcile which leads down a road of darkness and great conflict. If you ever find yourself making an absolute moral judgement, ask yourself, “There are over 7 billion people in greatly diverse cultures on this earth. Is it humanly possible to make everyone live the same exact way?” A path of non-judgement, openness and mutual respect leads to joy.
– Compassion needs to be cultivated inwardly and outwardly. Again, this is a balance issue. Most people live between two schools of thought:
I must take care of myself first before I can take care of others. This produces an imbalance towards more selfish behavior and less empathy and compassion towards others.
I must take care of others first before I can take care of myself. This produces an imbalance towards others and can quickly lead down a self-destructive path.
Either way is damaging and unbalanced. A healthier outlook is: By elevating those around me, I thereby elevate myself. This satisfies both the self and others. Compassion should be cultivated as a balanced outlook as kindness towards oneself and others. Throwing this balance off dissipates true compassion into perceived compassion which is delusional and unhealthy. Without true compassion there is no true joy.
I’ve covered quite a bit here and it can be hard to digest at first. Again, I stress that these are my current earthly discoveries and that I am not a guru or pre-eminent master of life. I am a simple student trying to be a greater human. I’m sure I have made some presuppositions here and there and that these guidelines may evolve down the road or get added to. If I present any errors, then please feel free to enter discussion with me.
To err is human.
To improve is human.
I encourage you all to unapply your preconceived conditions of happiness and to think of yourselves as possibilities of compassion and joy.
– Nameless Rabbit Happy To Meet You…The New You 🙂