I believe that the amount of happiness that we experience in life is largely determined by how we answer five ‘big’ questions. Question 1: Where are we? 2. How did we get here? 3. How are we going to survive – get enough food, shelter, and other essentials? 4. What are we supposed to be doing with our lives, besides surviving,? And 5: How should we treat people?
After many years of guessing at answers, I believe that I’ve finally come up with answers that are ‘correct’ – at least for me. They satisfy my intellect, and more importantly, help me feel secure, which is a prerequisite for feeling happy.
I’d like to share my five answers with you, but before doing so, want to acknowledge that society — which includes parents, friends, teachers, politicians, scientists, entertainers, and religious leaders, have offered me their answers, and suggested that I adopt them. And, starting from early childhood, I did.
But now I’m wanting to embrace new answers. Why? Because I’ve realized that most of society’s answers cause my stomach to tighten, my head to ache, and my thinking to become cloudy. Rather than make me feel secure, society’s answers tend to frighten me, and trigger depression.
So I’ve decided to abandon most of society’s answers, and instead, embrace answers coming from a voice within my head — a voice that I’ve heard my entire life, but have often ignored because it speaks softly, and gets drowned out by the voice of society,
Not any more. I’m determined to hear what it has to say. And to the first big question — the one that asks, Where are we?, I’m hearing this voice say, “We are on a beautiful sphere called Earth, which floats in a mysterious and unknowable universe.”
That’s it — a short answer that vaguely answers the question, and does leave me feeling reasonably comfortable and secure.
The second question — a hotly debated one – asks How did we get here? Some people believe that we, and everything in the universe, have been created by a supreme being, and that She, He, or It is constantly watching us, judging us, rewarding us when we’re ‘good’, and punishing us when we’re ‘bad’.
While I’m comfortable with the concept of a supreme being, my gut tightens when it hears about punishment. So, my inner advisor suggests that I imagine Her/Him/It as a perfect friend – one who watches over and constantly helps me, unconditionally accepts whatever I do and say, and lets me experience both the pleasant and unpleasant consequences of my actions and words.
For question 3 – How are we going to survive?” my advisor suggests multiple answers. When young, it recommends that we tell ourselves that food and other essentials will be provided by the people around us, especially the two called Mom and Dad.
By around age 20, a different answer seems appropriate – one that says that we’ll survive by working, and then buying our food, housing, and other essentials, or by growing or building it directly.
And, as we progress through our ‘senior years’, our answer can be further modified. My advisor suggests that I grow some of my food, work part-time, be frugal, and follow the advice of the Beatles – that is, get a little help from my friends.
Life’s forth question is also challenging. It asks, Besides surviving, what are we supposed to be doing with our lives? Some people say that our primary task is to believe in a supreme being, win Her, His, or Its approval, and, one way or another, convince everyone to believe and practice identically.
Other people say that life is about exploring, learning, healing, and growing. I like this answer, but recognize that it raises difficult sub-questions — those that ask, What are we supposed to learn, and how do we determine our progress? What must we heal from, and how do we know if we’re mending? And, in what ways or directions should we grow, and how do we know if we’re on the right path?
So, to avoid, or at least postpone having to answer these additional questions, my inner advisor suggests that I’m here simply to experience everything that Life offers me, ranging from times that are easy and fun, to those that are difficult and painful.
But to this answer, it suggests an addition – one that links to question five, which asks, How I should treat people? My advisor suggests that I treat everyone as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. This means that I should hold everyone’s hands to offer help, and to receive it.
Okay, now that I’ve shared my answers with you, you’re probably wondering if they’re helping me – helping me think more clearly, be more optimistic, sociable, secure, adventurous, and happy? My answer is ‘yes’, but only when I remember to embrace my new answers. Unfortunately, my old ones – those provided by society – remain in the depths of my mind, and when when I get into a stressful situation, they tend to quickly resurface and cause problems.
So, I believe that my number one daily task is to recite and solidly embrace my five ‘correct’ answers, starting with the one that says I have a kindly and powerful friend helping me. The more successful I am in making this answer, and the other four, my primary, guiding answers, the happier, I am certain, will I be.
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