Happiness, Cynicism & Paris
It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is, better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words. ~ Mohammed
It’s very easy in our world to become cynical, I speak from experience. I’ve always been a very cynical person, it comes from living in a world where people let you down, with consistency. A world where our politicians will say anything to get elected, where elected officials are more concerned with opposing the other political party than actually governing or trying to help people. I see on TV every day advertisements from coal and oil companies talking about how much they love the environment, pretending that we can burn petroleum free of consequences. We are bombarded on a daily basis from a hundred directions manipulated by expert advertisers whose job it is to tell us what we like, what we care about, who to vote for, what we should look like and even who the good guys and bad guys are in the world. It makes you wonder at times if any of your thoughts are your own.
Last night in Paris, terrorists attacked and slaughtered over one hundred people. In our current world this happens all too frequently, the 1995 Tokyo Subway attacks, 9/11 in the United States, the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and decades of attacks between Israelis and Palestinians. It would be easy and seemingly rational to become cynical about mankind and our world. We could decide to hate Muslims, immigrants or anyone who could possibly be labeled them, instead of US. Individual men will always be capable of making heinous choices, violence will occur, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow or hit in the head with a piece of space debris. As I was told before I began hiking the Appalachian Trail this Summer, I could be attacked by bears or villainous men on the trail. I could be bitten by rattlesnakes, struck by lightning, killed by a falling tree, get infected with the West Nile virus or Lyme Disease. All of these things likely happened to someone hiking the trail, but I went anyway. You can choose to live in fear and anger, but is this living?
It is a quick and easy path to cynicism for those of us who think and feel. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to see a dark futility in being so cynical. That time-frame of that realization, not so surprisingly, fairly closely corresponds with the birth of the Ministry of Happiness. In creating a happier life for myself, it seemed appropriate, maybe even necessary to share and help others; perhaps altruism, maybe it was just about having some company on the path. Through this journey some of the cynical edge to my view has begun to dissipate and it has helped me progress toward a happier life. Part of what has helped me accomplish that is to work to give up the fear and the anger I possessed, fear is a liar, anger leads to regret. It’s not easy to let these emotions go, but you have one life as far as I know and I want you to be as happy as you can be, I want to be as happy as I can be. So my suggestion to you is to work to replace fear and anger, with gratitude and kindness.
The irony is not lost on me that the attacks in Paris occurred on World Kindness Day. The cynic in me wants to suggest terror is winning out over kindness, but I don’t think it is and that’s something I learned on the Appalachian Trail, people (strangers) can be incredibly kind and giving and I’m grateful for that and the opportunity to be the same.
At the head of this piece I purposefully used a quote from Mohamed juxtaposed with the Eiffel Tower peace symbol, we can mourn for the dead, we can have sympathy for the wounded and the families left behind in Paris and we can also understand that Islam, like all religions, on paper is a peaceful religion. However, individual men can do horrible things in the name of peaceful religions. Think the Buddhist attacks on Muslims in Burma, the Crusades, or Northern Ireland, few religions are immune from violence carried out in it its name. The cynic says damn all religions, but in addition to the bad, so much good has been done in the name of religion, think Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Ghandi or Martin Luther King.
So the choice I’ve decided to make, and one I hope you’ll make, is to let go of the cynicism. Instead of throwing up hateful words online, or blaming anyone but the actors for what happened, take that energy and be kind to someone. Be grateful for what you have and for the good that exists in the world, you’ll be happier for it. Hopefully some of what we do here will help you as well, and as always, have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane.