Monday, October 29, 2007

The Middle Way

Dear Happiness Friends,

In class, I asked a question whether there exists a universal pre-condition for happiness or
there's not:

If you examine my love story of 3 old men, what are the negative things of their life: old age, upcoming disease burden, lowest salary, hard job, no aspiration. And what is positive?

"Love and to be loved".

But when they can forget all the bad things and when they can substantiate this
small little thing: human beings can be extremely happy. As I said in the class,
the human beings have adaptability to be hedonistic; upcoming failures are taken
granted and try to enjoy whatever they encounter at the very "small present".
My question is "the ever-existing miserable side of their life is more to be reflected "
or "the small treadmill happy moments are more to be valued".

Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story: An old man is traveling in the desert. He was being chased by a tiger. He ran away and slipped off into the den. Fortunately, he could hang on a small branch of a tree that grew alongside the wall of the den. Hanging this branch, he looked downside, a lion at the floor of the den was opening wide his mouth ready to eat him if he ever fallen. So he thought should he go up. The tiger ever chased him was roaring at him to tear him apart if he ever come up. He saw his last resort, that small branch. One white mouse and one black mouse were hungrily biting the root of this branch driving him to ultimately go down. A honey comb was also there in this rotting deteriorating branch and drops of honey were dribbling from the comb. The old man in his forgetfulness, he ignored all his conditions and tried to lick the honey drops.

I think this story exactly reflects the hedonistic adaptability of human beings.
However if you see the situation of the old man in the den, the only best way he can do is
to lick the honey drops, and although the venerable Tolstoy wanted to criticize this
human nature, we can't blame it.

In the ending of "1984", Winston Smith began to believe that "2+2=5" and he fell in love
with the cruel dictator, Big Brother. As long as he denied 2+2=5 and insisted that it is 4, he
was restlessly tortured. What the person who tortured him said are remarkable: "You believe
that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right...But I tell you, Winston, reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the party holds to be truth is the truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact; you have got to learn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane". These brain wash words changed the revolutionish Winston to believe and accept 2+2=5 and he began to love "Big Brother".

If you see the Party in this story as the Society and you see yourself as Winston, all the
miserable things you encounter for the past, present and future as the torture, what we
all are doing is the last choice Winston made that is accepting 2+2=5, falling in love
with "Big Brother" and exactly it is our happiness.

Stephen Covey wrote in his 7 habits of highly effective people in arguing against his
friend who found no interest in his wife after 10 years of marriage or so: "If you
don't love her, try to love her". His friend complained, "Is love natural or
man-made". Stephen's answer is "you can make it, try to believe you love your wife and try
to love your wife".

You can see apparently Stephen is trying to defend "happiness adaptability" of mankind in
every effort. And this is the outlet of all human beings. All the tortures in life lead to
that we should have the positive attitude to accept what is happening for the moment and
we have to be positive to be happy.

However, if you see all these 4 cases in consequentialism, all these good processes we have
made brilliantly to make us happy are ultimately and unfortunately "dissoluting again" as
Buddha said Ananda in his pre-last words. This form of philosophical doctrine is pervasive in existentialism and sometimes existentialism is blamed as "too negative" to see the life.

If you really know Buddhism, Buddha teaches only one word: "Mindfulness". I hope if we have
the real practice of mindfulness, you can find a middle way between your present hedonism and your future existentialism.

With mindfulness,


Myo said...

I don't think human nature cannot be summarized by sampling and observing a few events. Moreover,some people tend to be hedonists, some are optimists and some pessimists.

May Burma said...

I give some time today to explore this beautifully constructed blog. I cannot resist commenting this post which is a bit confusing to read. But I would like to comment this two:

2+2 will never be 5 for me unless I am tortured by a trained intelligence officer or I am starved to death unless I admit.

Love shall come naturally for your wife of 10 years old marriage unless you cannot afford a divorce.


thanks ,
I am a simple person.