Like Shots Of Espresso For The Soul

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, yeah
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, ooh
And I’m feeling good
Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River running free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good
Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don’t you know?
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world, for me

-Nina Simone, Feeling Good

I’ve always been intrigued by happiness. For quite a large portion of my life it felt like optimism was foolishness. That to be fully conscious and cognizant of the truth, one had to be aware of the futility of existence.

In many ways I was an existentialist. Buddhism reinforced my belief that life is characterized by suffering. Suffering and pain seemed to be the real foundation of human existence.

Buddhism taught me that Ignorance and Attachment seemed to be the root causes of all suffering. But then I began to wonder.

Is it really ignorance or attachment that causes suffering, or is it lack of Empathy? I feel happiness as I eat a delicious meal with friends. I feel happiness as I watch a movie with my girlfriend. I feel happiness when I take my dog for a walk. Yes those can all be taken away from me, but I still will feel happiness in the presence of their memories.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what I know. It doesn’t necessarily matter that I would like a good time to go on forever. I know all things will pass on and finally I will too. Does it make sense to dwell on that?

See, I don’t really like this idea that attachment causes desire and desire causes suffering. Attachment can be helpful or harmful depending on the context. A hoarder with a hundred bags full of garbage in their bedroom is harmful, while a picture of a friend you love is helpful.

The reason I question the basic Buddhist tenets is because of the way they can make me feel. They make me feel as if I am doing something special, that I am somehow more knowledgeable than others who are not Buddhist. This of course is ironic, given that Buddhism proposes to dissolve the ego and purify our karma so that we can escape the cycle of birth and death, Samsara, and become enlightened.

It turns out that Yoga and Meditation may end up boosting our egos instead of reducing them.

But perhaps, like heaven or hell, this is all just wishful thinking, made up to assuage our discomfort with the constant and endless circle of life and death. And what is the harm of a boosted ego, at least for awhile? Yoga and meditation are like shots of espresso for the soul. Perhaps we go up, and then we go down - how is this not natural?

The lack of knowledge or attachment to desire do seem to contribute greatly to suffering, but I feel that the root cause of true suffering is not ignorance or attachment. It is something a bit more simple.

Lack of empathy seems to be at the root of all suffering. Connection, not knowledge, is what I would say lies at the root of happiness. And conversely the lack of connection causes suffering.

My own “enlightenment” (opening up of the heart) causes me to have a fundamental split with Buddhism and any “ism”, really. And it also allows me set aside guilt associated with attachment, because I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with the ups and downs of life.

Following the tenets of Buddhism is a wonderful way to soothe grief and pain, that is something that I will agree with. There are many jewels of wisdom in Buddhism, but now I am beginning to see that applies to Christianity as well. And all the indigenous spiritual traditions that preceded our newer belief systems.

All of them were created by humans trying to make sense out of life and this world that we live in.

To paraphrase the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:

  1. Life is characterized by happiness.

Nina Simone doesn’t sing about just herself and her own happiness. The discovery of happiness must be shared with all other living breathing things.

Words are Code - "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." - Rumi