A Happiness that is as Natural as Sleep
Willa Cather on Happiness: A Soulful and Deeply Alive Account of True Bliss (Brainpickings)
Cather’s epiphany regarding the simplicity and and nearness of happiness:
The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.
Useful advice on not letting trolls waste your time or drain your energy
How to Deal With Crappy People (James Altcuher’s blog)
Altucher begins by giving voice to the familiar-sounding monster that rages in his own head. It’s the voice of unprovoked disgust, unwarranted contempt, and unjustifiable slander. It’s the voice of the inner hater that’s hell-bent on condemning anyone and everyone who strikes as strange, unfamiliar, intimidating on even slightly annoying.
Ugh, I’m disgusted with my brain. I see people walking down the street and there’s like this killer inside me providing running nasty commentary about each person. Do you do this also?
I have to stop myself often: “you don’t know this person who is randomly crossing the street. You can’t possibly know that he’s a cheating lying rich Hamptons-worshipping whoremongering obnoxious trust fund baby with a 17 year old mistress on the side who doesn’t wipe, who doesn’t wash, who would wish nothing better than to see you die”.
You can’t know that! So why do I think it? Most people crossing the street probably think that about me also. Who is that freak? Is he homeless? Why can’t he comb his hair? Why is his fly open? Is he a child molesting pervert?
This voice, although its rants are understandable is the root of much unnecessary unhappiness.
Most people are pretty crappy. But not all. And even the ones who are no good and not worthy of your time need a system for you to use so YOU can be happier and leave this lecherous gossipy crack addict thats in your head on the road and kick him or her to the curb.
If you understand in advance how to deal with each of these four types you will be infinitely happier. Ultimately, interacting with the four types in the way I describe below will make one fit firmly into the first type, however difficult it is. That’s the goal. You don’t want to go through life unhappy.
Altucher suggests we adopt a strategy beforehand if we hope to deal with the various kinds of people who tempt us. Altucher classifies the people who irritate us into four groups. Then he offers some perspective on how and why we should stop letting our negative judgments about such people ruin our day.
On dealing with happy people:
There are people who are genuinely happy in the world. Sure they have their suffering. Everyone does. But a lot of people really are pretty satisfied with their lives at this very moment.
A natural reflex (not for everyone, but certainly for some people) is to resent people for being happy. Who doesn’t do that some of the time? Raise your hand!
It’s so hard to grab a single ounce of happiness in this world, please be happy for the ones who are happy today. Train your mind to be sincerely happy for their happiness. Catch your resentments and jealousies before they turn into monsters.
Carrie Fisher once said, “nobody wants to read about a good looking happy person”. She was making a commentary on comedy screenwriting and she’s probably right about that. But for you to go from success to success you must first be sincerely happy for the people who are happy around you. Like attracts. Picture all the people you might resent. Spend five minutes a day training your brain to be happy for them. You’ll die lonely in the jungle if you don’t do this and everyone will forget you ever existed.
On dealing with people in pain:
I’ve been unhappy often. Particularly in the past decade. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes people die. I think the level of unhappiness and pain I’ve had in the past decade (versus prior decades) has taught me compassion towards others in a similar boat. Try to cultivate that compassion. It doesn’t mean you have to drain yourself to help those less fortunate.
But even showing compassion and doing what you can goes a long way. If you can share what you have, all the better. If you can give a word of advice, do it.
You always have to protect yourself first. Be compassionate but keep your boundaries. Your goal is your own peace of mind throughout the day, so you can focus on your own success. The fastest way to do that is show compassion to those less fortunate. What you give, comes back tenfold.
On dealing with good people:
This is different from “Happy”. Good people don’t always have ulterior motives. Some people legitimately want to help others. There’s an initial impulse (at least with me) to suspect them. To resent them. Maybe even to envy them. I envy Bill Gates being able to donate $100 billion to charity. But the best thing for me is to catch myself doing that (almost a meditation in itself) and say, “this guy is good. I wish I could be as good as him. I hope I can help him in any way I can.” Be grateful for all the people good to you. Five minutes a day. Doesn’t have to be with incense burning and in the lotus position. On a bus, smile and think of the people you are grateful for.
On dealing with crappy people:
They never will get it. They will say and do things to you and they will never ever understand how evil they are.
And you will hate them. HATE THEM. And they knock on the door of your brain at three in the morning and they want to yell at you. And you yell back. And they yell back. And on and on. All day. All afternoon. The ongoing conversation with the shittiest people in the world. They will torture you, kill you, and slit the thoughts out of your mind and not even care because they think they are doing the right thing.
You know who I’m talking about. Because you have a good 20 or 30 of these in your life just like I do. They might even be former friends, relatives, neighbors, bureaucrats, whatever, whoever, whenever. They swoop down on your life and are just plain crappy and they won’t even know it.
They won’t ever know who they are so there is no way to convince them. That’s the trap.
Sometimes, in a weak moment, I think to myself: What if I run into them again? How badly I will hurt and destroy them. Maybe just casually walk up to them and smash a glass over their head so their nose is broken, glasses broken on the floor, blood all over their face. Arm broken after I hold the elbow and stomp on it.
Similarly, I was talking to someone the other day who couldn’t stop talking about someone who had wronged her fourteen years ago. Stop! You are an idiot. And it’s boring already. It was your fault anyway!
This is the worst category. I’ll tell you one more anecdote. Two seconds ago someone posted a horrible comment on my blog. I won’t repeat it. Racist, mean, rude to me, whatever. I deleted the post, blocked the user, blocked his IP address. And then I was going to send him an email telling him what I thought of him. I was angry. Then I stopped myself. You have to stop yourself.
When you get in the mud with a pig, you get dirty and the pig gets happy.
There is only ONE only way to deal with these people in a way that will make you happier instead of sadder. ONE WAY. And it always works. This is the most important part of the Emotional leg of the Daily Practice. COMPLETELY IGNORE THE EVIL PEOPLE
Altucher describes an experience he had responding to trolls online and it reminds me of a recent experience of my own:
This isn’t easy. It’s a daily discipline. Much easier to do a 1000 pushups. I had an article recently on the Wall St Journal site that had 971 comments. No exaggeration when I say 950 of the smartest anonymous trolls on the internet called me an idiot moron and worse. I ignored all the comments. Great. I could care less. I was the winner there.
Then I put another article up on a supposedly peaceful site about Buddhism and yoga, the Elephant Journal. Great site. I post there regularly. The topic of my post was that 18 year olds should basically not be sent into war. I like peace. Better to send 40 year olds. They are closer to death anyway. The most hateful responses popped up. People comparing me to Hitler. I was so shocked I wasted one whole night until 2 in the morning responding to these people but ignoring the many emails I get that genuinely support me and that I want to be friends with. Why did I do that? I wanted my haters to like me. I wanted them to agree with me and love me. Its like putting a gun to your head and saying, “unless you do what I say, I will kill myself”. You’re going to end up firing that gun.
I lost my discipline for a whole night and then I slept late and it took at least 36 hours to get back on track. What a waste. For nothing! Its hard to keep up this practice. But you fail and die unhappy if you don’t.
And did I win a trophy for doing this? Was it a huge trophy made of gold? For responding to all of those comments? Did everyone/anyone write back and say, “you’re right. I’m sorry. Now I LOVE you! Let’s all be lovers!” Of course not! They just want to fight. I got in the mud with pigs. I got dirty.
I wholeheartedly agree with Altucher here, but it is definitely a difficult thing to do. It takes tremendous self-awareness and discipline, the kind that can’t be mustered by willpower, but that can only come through committed practice. When I wrote a lengthy blog post offering a point by point refutation of some nasty things that were said about me by another blogger, my father called me the next morning and said the following words: “I can understand where you’re coming from, but sometimes the best resistance is non-resistance. Some people aren’t going to change their personality or their position no matter what you say.” Words to the wise.
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (Pgs 23-33)
Education beyond schooling
Illich on the delusional presumption of obligatory schooling:
The major obstacle on the way to society that truly educates was well defined by a…friend of mine in Chicago, who told me that our imagination was “all schooled up.”We permit the state to ascertain the universal educational deficiencies of its citizens and establish one specialized agency to treat them. We thus share in the delusion that we can distinguish between what is necessary education for others and what is not, just as former generations established laws which defined what was sacred and what was profane.
Illich on the illusion of non-educational spaces:
The very existence of obligatory schools divides any society into two realms: some time spans and processes and treatments and professions are “academic” or “pedagogic,” and others are not. The power of school thus to divide social reality has no boundaries: education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational.
The perpetual endurance of problems, the nature of misfits, and the value of taking personal responsibility
Since any problem is a difference between a perceived state and a desired state, when we change a state to “solve” a problem, we usually create one or more other problems. Put simply, each solution is the source of the next problem. We never get rid of problems. Problems, solutions, and new problems weave an endless chain. The best we can hope for is that the problems we substitute are less troublesome than the ones we “solve.”
The trickiest part of certain problems is just recognizing their existence.
If you can’t think of at east three things that might be wrong with your understanding of the problem, you don’t understand the problem. There are hundreds of things that can be overlooked in any problem definition. If you can’t think of even three, all that says is that you can’t, or won’t, think at all.
A misfit is a solution that produces a mismatch with the human beings who have to live with the solution. Each new point of view will produce a new misfit.
Don’t solve other people’s problems when they can solve them perfectly well themselves. If it’s their problem, make it their problem.
….if we can swallow our pride for just an instant and view the problem as though it were ours alone, we might actually get something done…Try blaming yourself for a change–even for a moment.
The above reflections and notes are part of my personal development project for 2015. This post is my entry for (What I’m Learning: Day 26/365). To see the spreadsheet documenting all the activities I complete every week, click here.