Holding On

“All this being in the moment stuff is well and good but hope is necessary for human beings to truly be happy IMO. Without a future to look forward to it’s all meaningless. I heard somewhere that “happiness is having something to look forward to”. I tend to agree with this statement.”
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Try walking into a hospice and selling that idea to a dying woman…

There is a reason the elderly are arguably the most ignored and invisible demographic in our progressive westernized societies. They stand in stark contradiction to this very ideal of happiness that progress puts forth. This is why we are all so terrified of aging in our culture. Contrary to what most believe, it isn’t our fear of wrinkles, saggy skin, shrinking bodies, reduced ability and so on that we are most afraid of. Our fear is that we will be shunned by society. That we will be rejected by the herd. That we will be silently excommunicated. We will have lost our value in the eyes of others.

Because what others will still have, that we won’t, is “hope”, “future”, “potential”, “ambition”. Our udders will have dried up and won’t be able to be milked anymore. And a cow that no longer provides milk is a liability rather than an asset.

The promise of a future happiness is the mirage of the oasis that keeps you moving thirstily forward in the arid desert of your mind.

The donkey, connected to a yoke that powers the wheel of progress, is driven by a simple carrot and stick apparatus. It keeps him moving in circles believing that his time will come. That is, until the donkey gets old and realizes that his time is up. And his time still hasn’t come.

In contrast, when one looks at indigenous cultures, one finds quite the opposite. Driven by a need to remain connected to their immediate environment in order to identify opportunities to hunt and forage, their needs are likewise immediate. The future, at best, is a mere season away. Progress is not a cumulative effect, but rather something one begins anew each day. And it is in these cultures that age is synonymous with wisdom rather than a diminished intellect or capacity.

Here, there are no “aged”, there are “elders”. Men and women who have lived through and seen much, whose experience is an invaluable asset. What little “future potential” these elders represent is of almost no consequence. The indigenous people are concerned only with how the elders can guide them in their present circumstances. How to hunt better, how to see more clearly, how to listen more carefully, how to read the environment more deeply, how to relate to one another more truthfully, how to resolve disagreements justly, how to deepen spiritually. Life has had the opportunity to express itself and reflect upon itself for numerous decades in their forms. What greater value can one expect to see in a human?

It is also no surprise that these cultures historically had great insight and a remarkable attitude towards death. Death was not something to be cloistered away in funeral homes and morgues. It was something everyone was well acquainted with, that everyone openly witnessed, including children. While the fear of death has always been a part of the human psyche, these cultures nevertheless revered the process. And this is implicit in the elaborate rituals and celebrations that surrounded the dying process. There was no such thing as letting a person die in isolation in some sterile sanitized environment. People died surrounded by entire villages.

We all bore witness.

Not anymore. Now, we turn our eyes away in disgust, shame and embarrassment. As if growing old were a crime. As if aging means becoming a loser.

This is the kind of desensitized mindset that emerges from a mind disconnected from its own present. Because no matter what anyone might say, HERE is where the substance of life lies. The future is an abstraction that only gains its substance once, it too, becomes the present.

“Happiness is having something to look forward to”. Can you see the implicit absurdity of this statement? Let’s say I’m looking forward to having “X”. Even if I were to get X there is no chance for me to be happy. Because I haven’t defined happiness as “having X”. I have defined it as “ALWAYS having something to look forward to”. Which means no matter what happens, no matter what I achieve, it will NEVER be the thing that I can look forward to.

It’s an insidious lie that we are fed, that infects our psyches and overrides every natural instinct for real happiness that we contain. Look around at the rest of the planet. Why is ours the only species confused about “how to be happy?”

It’s like asking “how does one breathe?” Imagine defining breathing as the “next breath you are going to take”. You’d end up spending your whole life just holding your breath. (Technically, you’d be dead in a few minutes, but you get what I mean).

And in a sense, when it comes to the “pursuit of happiness” that IS what everyone is doing. Holding their breath for their time to come. But what do you do, when you are at your last breath. Do you hold IT too?

Inhale. Exhale. That’s all there is to breathing.

Take things in, let shit go. That’s all it takes to be happy.

But if you hold on to shit. If you are forever looking forward to shit happening…

That’s the very definition of a constipated life.

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