Friday, January 23, 2009

the riddle of the rattle

No subject is taboo between one of my closest friends Justin and I. One night, hangin' in my room chattin' away, I brought up the topic of a fulfilling life. In particular, my fear that I may never slip into the niche I was meant to find and will ultimately lead a life of pointlessness. I explained to him that I'm not really sure what makes me happy. I know what tickles me pink and what leaves a stink. But what on earth makes me, above all other things and people in the world, HAPPY. Justin believes that happiness is an illusion, one of his many beliefs I don't completely agree with but respect nonetheless. I always try to take his ideals into consideration when determining my stance on an inssue. He explained that everything is perspective. We can create our own reality. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to think positively. Or we can choose to go the darker route.

Assuming everything is perspective and happiness is an illusion, then I wonder, is ignorance truly bliss? Nobel Prize winner Anatole France once said that "a person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance." Should we agree then? This makes me think of the rattle snake. The rattle snake is one of my favourite groups of snakes for many reasons: they are one of the few snakes who give birth to live young, as opposed to laying eggs. They are venemous and can strike faster than the human eye can even follow, a trait found only in this species. Because they are often underestimated in speed and length of reach, they are damn good at biting people. But the greatest thing about them, and what makes them relevant to this here blog post, is that they can't hear their own rattle. And believe me, I've worked with rattle snakes back in the day (Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, kudos to you guys!) the rattling is not quiet. Rattle snakes are oblivious to their warning sign (the rattle). It's a natural instinct for them. Humans don't have the luxury of acting entirely on instinct. We are burdened with deep thinking, contemplation, emotions. How are we meant to find 'happiness?' Is Justin right, is it an illusion? Or is life an illusion, a distraction, from the inevitable feeling of loneliness until we meet our end: death.

Perhaps happiness is a journey. So long as we continue to search for it throughout our lives, we will find it in the end, once our life in this world has finished. Or perhaps humanity is incapable of happiness because we are observers, or at least some of us are (I know I am). My analytical side is definitely a tragic flaw. Observing makes it difficult for us to determine what reality is and how we are supposed to find our niche. As my friend Chloe, an aspiring photographer, says, "everyone wants to be a photographer." It's true, most people are searching for a unique experience, a unique lifestyle, daring to be different. But in doing so we are one and the same. Writers, painters, musicians, athletes. Chasing your passion seems to be the "in" thing to do these days, which makes it even tougher to get there. This world is competitive and having the right perspective, a wide perspective, can make or break you.

I recently read a very interesting book, Happiness: A history, written by a historian, Darrin McMahon that investigates the everchanging standard of what we consider to be happiness. He explores all of the ways in which humanity has sought out to be happy, and the dynamic relationship our species has with the things that are meant to get us there. There was a time when happiness was thought only to be attainable in the after life, and that the lives they led on earth were for suffering, serving, and sacrifice. Supposedly, the Greeks were the first to jump into the idea of 'pursuing' happiness. If this is true 'happiness' as an entity is fairly young.

While Anatole France believed happiness comes only with ignorance, philosopher Thomas Aquinas believed happiness is to seek truth. With this in mind, I find my thoughts running circles around the idea of perspective and reality. Seeking truth is unprofitable without some idea of reality, or even a belief that there is such a thing. How are we to determine what's real and what's not, what's true and what's false, if all we have to go on is our perspective?

As trivial as these questions may be, they bring to the surface many aspects of ignorance. If we do not ask these questions, if we do not question our lives, our spirituality, our competence, our meaning, our world, our consciousness, our government or even our supposed reality, then would we be happy as a species?Oblivious to our purpose, we could achieve true happiness should we be capable of distracting ourselves long enough.

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