Over the next few months, I'll be basing my articles on this "12 Steps to Happiness" post.
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Are we just brains in a jar in somebody's lab? Are we meant to suffer? What is it all about? Is there a (enter deity of your choice here) with a plan that could add some meaning? Do we have a soul? Do we get second chances? Is there an afterlife? Douglas Adams so kindly pointed out that the world ends on a Thursday and that the answer to the question of all questions is 42 (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Pity the folks who got the answer can't remember what the question was.…
If you're in your teens reading this, you might not have spent much time pondering this sort of thing, and that's ok. Or maybe you have, in which case your parents are probably worried that you're not quite hanging out with the kids they'd like you to. Either way, the purpose question in one form or another usually comes up for all of us eventually. For most, it's in their forties or fifties and then popularly called a mid-life crisis. Ordinarily, this is about the time you might find that investing most of your time into your career and being able to buy stuff and go on exotic vacation - though lovely - doesn't quite fulfil you on the inside. The esoteric and eastern philosophy nonsense you used to despise suddenly don't sound quite so ridiculously over the top anymore, and you might find yourself interested in a lifestyle different from the capitalist western model you're used to. Nothing to be afraid of, it's all about finding the middle ground that makes sense for you. I hear there's also a phenomenon called the quarter-life crisis now affecting mid-twens and early 30-year-olds, which might be a sign either of advanced insight in younger generations or accelerated aging in a fast-paced environment, I'm not sure.
It's one of many paradoxes that we are all individuals while at the same time wanting to be part of a group, a whole. I'm not sure whether it's in our DNA or a collective unconscious, but there does seem to be a universal feeling that there's something bigger than us "out there" and that we'd all like to feel we belong. I invite you to think about your perceptions of the world you live in, and identify in what ways you contribute to it. Are you surrounded by the ones you love? What gives meaning to your life? Why do you get up in the mornings? Have you ever tried giving instead of wanting? What would happen if you decided to check your ego at the door?
Personally, the more I think about communication between people, kids in gangs, adults at war, the homeless on the streets, parents losing their patience, the divorce rate, levels of education all over the planet, differences in opportunities, differences of opinion, religious fanatics - the list is endless! - the more disheartened I get. It seems so clear to me that all it takes are self-esteem classes and/or therapy for everyone thrown into the curriculum just one hour a week, starting in kindergarten, combined with teaching emotional intelligence and comprehensive sex-ed, and the world would be a better place.
That's when I have to take a breath and realise that nobody asked me and that everybody is entitled to do as they please, that's what we have free will for after all (though followers of the school of determination will disagree, naturally). Well, not everybody's fate is my responsibility, I'm not in charge of putting the world to rights. I'm only responsible for my own contribution to this currently messy planet, so I usually make sure said contribution comes from a place of love and understanding, empathy and consideration. I'm at peace with doing my best at sending out positive vibes into the cosmos, minimising my carbon footprint as well as misunderstandings, and making as much of a positive difference in my world as I can.
I'm not a politician, I'm no ambassador or diplomat, head of state, nurse, doctor or Mother Theresa - but I am willing to start with my own center and work outwards from there. As it turns out, I've chosen a helping and service profession in which I will hopefully get to see many many people reach their goals and have the chance to be a part of their lives for the period of time they allow me in. So, the pebbles I throw into the water may only ripple in small circles, but that's fine by me.
Until next time, take care.