I'm listening to a blues song on my iPod while checking all the latest grumbling posts on Facebook. My sick baby girl sits in front of the muted TV, which is airing some tragic news story and crime statistic. It hits me that I am absolutely immersed in invisible negative vibes that fill the air like radio waves.
It seems like every form of media is broadcasting dismal nuggets of depressing information. The advanced society in which we live enables us to transmit around the world and beyond in real time, but I wonder how much of the information we exchange is worth communicating.
We live in what should be the era of the greatest society ever. We have more advanced technology, better medical techniques, safer modes of transportation, greater access to information and knowledge bases, and the most sophisticated tools of communication than any generation that has ever walked the face of the earth before us. But what has all of this enlightenment afforded us? Are we really happier or just more complacent? Are we more accommodating to those we interact with? Are we really more intelligent, or are we now just more resourceful with our barbaric offensiveness and ignorance?
We certainly have a plethora of mood-altering, feel-better medications at our disposal: stimulants, painkillers, anti-depressants and boner pills (if you need such as that). But none of these bring true, lasting happiness.
No other person can make you happy. Conversely, you can't make anyone else happy, either.
A wise friend and mentor recently said that the best you can do toward trying to make someone else happy is to show him the beauty in his own life. He said that if you can do that, then you are halfway there.
My personal insights for happiness rest on the cornerstones of security, peace of mind, hope and, most importantly, love. I'm sure that happiness has widely differing origins for different people, but still, if you have love in your heart, then you have the potential for inner happiness.
When I apply reverse logic to my own theories, I have to ponder the things for which I want to be known and remembered. Are they spreading peace, hope and love, or are they spewing my venom of complaints, negativity and hate?
Jesus proclaimed that the greatest commandment is "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He then said that the second-greatest commandment is "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Neighborly love is much easier to theorize about than it is to practice in the real world of competitive ideals. We live in a society that has built its protective walls up so high that the only thing that can destroy us is fighting among ourselves.
News outlets, like politicians, will cater to their core constituents. It doesn't matter if you're a lefty, a righty or just someone who prefers to laugh at it all, you can find a flavor of news custom made to stimulate a specific reaction (which is usually not love or happiness).
Which is right for you? (Personally, I prefer and recommend The News, the backup band for Huey Lewis, but your taste may vary.)
Sure, this is an election year. So is the next one. News, political issues and social causes are as important as ever. Any time ballots contain polarizing issues, we will hear and take part in spirited conversations, and we will not all agree on the outcomes.
Maybe the real test of happiness is whether you can generate a sense of love for the person with whom you are disagreeing. Can you respect the fact that his or her perspective and life experiences differ from yours in such a way that you will naturally have different views? Can you recognize that people with differing view aren't evil just because they don't share your ideals? And finally, are you capable of reaching a compromise if it will be beneficial to the greatest number of people?
If you can't do these things, then your discussions will probably not generate any sense of accomplishment or happiness for you or anyone else involved.
I believe that I can learn something from anyone and everyone. Most often, it seems that God chooses to teach me the most meaningful lessons through people that I typically disagree with. It's amazing the things you think about and learn when you open your mind up to the ideas of others.
The Bible says that love is what God is. I think it also could be the source of what happiness is. If love is the radio waves we transmit, then happiness is the music we hear.
Scott Dennis is a Morton native who lives in Pearl. Dennis earned a computer-science degree from Mississippi College and works as an IT specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and a small but growing family.
Dennis this is a very good column. I'm surprised no one is touting its merits. Intellectually I agree with the tenets you set forth herein. However some things, positions, and requests are clearly wrong and the possessors are unwilling to change. Some of the same is even destructive. Do you let it be or do you resign yourself to destroying it. To not do anything is to let it ride and grow. Who do we benefit when we let wrong prevail. If you don't stand for something you fall for all kinds of things off the mark so they say. When you tolerate that which is wrong you blur the line of demarcation. You move the fence of what is right and wrong and the wrongdoer wins. Nonetheless I love the scriptures you quote.
Is happiness resigning from the struggles and challenges of life? Fortunately, I have always been a happy person, in part, because I recognize good when I see it, and flee from that which isn't. I thank God for an excellent wife, great granchildren, a good mind, good health, blessings untold, and the gift of discernment which has kept me out of all kinds of crap and safe thus far. It's better to avoid harmful people and situations than to overcome them. My motto has always been to deal with the junk the rest of the world sends me which I didn't cause or contribute to, and avoid causing any misery to myself. No one is perfect, of course.
None of us should think more highly of ourselves than we ought to and we have to decide what battles we're willing to fight. A friend of mines recently told me a story of going to see a client in prison. Once at the site he saw a van littered with all kinds of bold confederate paraphernalia. My firend, a black lawyer, said he wondered to himself who in the world that van belonged to. As my friend got inside the prison he soon saw the person who owned that vehicle, and my friend announced his intentions for being at the prison. The owner of that vehicle said to him don't talk to me and get you ass in the bathroom so I can search you. My friend hated to do it but did it nonetheless because he desperately needed to see his client. A few days later this same confederate soldier transported my friend's client, a black male, to court. My lawyer friend put on all kinds of evidence showing how his client had been abused by his father before winding up in the legal system. After the hearing this same conferderate soldier walked up to my lawyer friend and told him I watched you in court today and I want to thank you for what you did for that inmate, your client. My father abused me as a boy in similar ways. That confederate soldier who looked to still be fighting the Civil War even stopped off at a store on the way back to the jail and bought the inmate a chocolate milk shake, something the inmate had been asking his lawyer for for months which obviously the lawyer couldn't provide. Personally, I would have cursed that prison quard out and probably came to blows with him. I asked my friend how he kept his cool under the circumstances and he said he's not just a lawyer, he's also a converter of the human spirit. I'm not interested particularly in being what my friend is, but I do understand the power of love and hope.
And as Herman Cain reportedly told his wife by phone before arriving home I hope I can find some love and hope when I get home.
This is a very good column. Great job, Scott. And it is certainly true that we must choose the important battles to fight rather than let "it ride and grow," as Walt shows. Life is too short to turn our heads. If you get slapped speaking out about what matters, turn the other cheek and say, "bring it." And of course the best response is love and hope. Those two things dominate my thoughts and my life. I recommend it highly. A huge part of faith is believing that your own actions, and inactions, matter.