We Must Speak About Our Miseries to Truly Feel Our Bliss
Q: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
A: Make me one with everything.
Do we need others to help us find happiness?
Feeling at one with the universe might register big on the Quality of Life Meter (QOLM)—if it were an actual thing. But it isn’t, at least, it’s not a science-based instrument of measurement like the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). The QOLM sounds more like a self-help concept somebody could write into bestseller material and then make millions more from motivational speaking engagements. Tony Robbins does it. So does Deepak Chopra. Wayne Dyer described our erroneous zones before his death in 2015. And TEDx talks are clearing houses of self-improvement.
Is happiness the right goal?
Lots of people think it is–either in this life or the next. Tent pole preachers were itinerant TED talkers before we were born. Snake oil salesmen promised deliverance from suffering in The Old West—or at least on 60s television Westerns. Pop psychologists started gaining ground in the 1950s and 60s with an explosion of book sales touting inner bliss in the 70s and beyond. I’M OKAY, YOU’RE OKAY was a hot one back in 1969. We don’t see that meme written on protest signs these days. Nobody’s okay, everybody sucks, and the constitution has two different versions with relatively little in common. Except everybody seems to be on board with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But it’s as if we’ve taken our constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness as an imperative to be happy, an ideal that we can’t quite conceive of or attain by ourselves. The founding fathers, enlightened and learned as they were, tended to be a bit vague about what it means to chase happiness in our time. For them it likely meant no monarch would ever again limit a man’s potential. But did they have more in mind?
The Age of Reason threw some lofty curves at us that were as radical as the conservative religious backlash that followed during the nineteenth century. Peace and happiness make a lot of people nervous. It makes the poor and crippled think they have rights, too. Next thing you know, the public starts getting open-minded and there goes the neighborhood.
By the early 20th century, our progressive radicalism returned and happiness was on the plate once more. Laborers had worker rights to a set number of hours and children were pulled out of sweat shops and sent to school. Affluent people sought the help of a guru. They went to the ashrams of India and learned to chant. They sat at the feet of the most enlightened yogis and strained to hear a soundbite that would make clear the path to inner peace. Yogis seemed to have the lion’s share of happiness commensurate with a lion’s share of wisdom. It sucked to be us. If only we could be not-us. Then our lives would be perfect. But that is impossible. Organic things cannot be perfect. They mature, decay, and die. Perfection is a fixed thing that never changes. So too happiness. To chase perfect happiness is to despise one’s self. The beauty and fashion industries have gotten rich on our self-hate.
Therefore, I propose to sell you something very different:
The Misery Loves Company Imperative
I have two Russian friends who grew up living this mindset. One friend who was 22 when we met online some 18 years ago, was the most cynical, embittered, ill-tempered young person I’d ever known—except for my childhood friend whose parents were Russian immigrants. Those Soviets/Russians distrust and despise authority to this day. They had to for the sake of survival. Nor do they suffer fools gladly. But they are also fiercely loyal to their friends, among whom I proudly count myself. I’d rate their happiness quotient as being very high indeed.
If you think The Misery Loves Company Imperative sounds contemptibly self-pitying, then perhaps you are new to online MS communities. We balance whining with winning, kvetching with kvelling. We’re real. Rude at times. Often blunt. But generally warmly supportive towards everyone who shares our burdens.
So follow your bliss by signing up for The Misery Loves Company Imperative. All you need to do is show up. We’ll do the rest. You’ll love us—and yourself. It’s a win-win!