Someone – someone who had just lost a loved one – asked me the other day, “How do you get through each day? How do you live with the fact that someone you love is gone?”**
That question started a thought, and the thought is this: grief is a luxury.
We – we western civ folks – have such luxurious lives. Most of us live without hunger, and even the poorest of us live without fear (of death, of war, of loss).
Most of the planet, however, does not share in our luxury. Too many children grow up hungry and afraid. Too many people all over the world watch loved ones die – siblings, parents, friends.
And even in our own country, we have a full set of our own horrors that we turn a practiced eye from: the brutal slaughter of unwanted pets.
Despite our luxurious lives, we western folks live lives in which we commonly feel so depressed that we take medication. Why is that?
I think I have at least part of the answer.
It’s what we believe in.
Let me explain. Someone – somewhere – be it advertisers, or romantic literarists, or zealous philosphers, or ardent religious peeps, or all of them – taught us – and we believed them – that we are – each one of us is – entitled to be “happy.”
What is “happy”? Well, ask aforesaid spewers of the idea. While advertisers want you to believe you need products to be happy (cars, houses, to not smell human, to be thin, etc., ad infinitum), a romantic might argue that you need love (or family or meaning in life). A religious authority will tell you that you need to live a certain life and have a certain relationship with your deity or you'll be miserable at every moment. Philosophers will never stop arguing about what it all means, much less what you need to have it.
The common denominator here is YOU. You you you you you you. And you know what? All the years you waste searching for the way to sate your own longings will bear no fruit – or at least no lasting fruit. You will never find happiness.
Do you know why?
It doesn’t exist. It’s an idea – a nothing that you make real by believing in it.
Worse, it’s a way to waste an entire life as a narcissist.
It’s a mechanism by which you as an active mover of the world are paralyzed – made impotent – neutralized.
This search for happiness means you don’t give a shit about anything else besides yourself. You never lift your eyes from the lines that squeeze you in.
A whole world moves outside, though. A world where suffering is real. A world where you might be able to make a difference – if you’d just stop staring in the mirror.
** For clarification, I want to append a bit of mixed opine and fact to this post: First: grieving is fine, and normal, and even expected when we lose loved ones. It isn't something to be ashamed of. I grieve all the time - for those I have lost - and I have lost much, and many, at great cost - and for the anguish others I do not know feel now and will feel - including all of the aforementioned non-western folks and all the animals all over the world that humans torture and kill. That - grief - isn't what I am complaining about. It's when we let grief paralyze us that it becomes a problem.