Tag Archives: happiness

“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 9” by Lao Tzu

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

As for holding to fullness,
Far better were it to stop in time!

Keep on beating and sharpening a sword,
And the edge cannot be preserved for long.

Fill your house with gold and jade,
And it can no longer be guarded.

Set store by your riches and honour,
And you will only reap a crop of calamities.

Here is the Way of Heaven:
When you have done your work, retire!

This is very practical advice for living life in the material world. We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, and we must work and do certain things to take care of ourselves in this life. But what Lao Tzu is saying here is that we should not let our earthly desires dominate our lives. We all must work, and we all need a certain amount of wealth in order to survive, but the key to happiness and the “Way to Heaven” is to be content with just enough, and not to keep constantly striving for more. When we reach fullness, it is time to stop and rest. When a bird has finished building a nest, it does not keep building other ones. Likewise, when the bird has eaten enough, it stops eating. If it were to continue eating after it was full, it would no longer be able to fly.

We can spend our lives chasing after things that mean nothing in the end, but will that bring us happiness? I personally do not think so. I encourage you to pause, rest, and reflect on what is really important in your life. I suspect that it will not be material gains.

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“I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake

FatherChristmas

I awoke this morning to the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm here in the Appalachian Mountains. It dawned on me that it was Christmas Eve and that I generally like to read and write about something appropriate for the holiday. But with the stresses of my relatively new job and being engrossed in reading the very long and dense Infinite Jest, I failed to look for something to read that was seasonal. So I gave it a little thought and decided that I would read the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs and analyze it as a poem.

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin’s birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve

What I find most amazing about this poem (yes, I will refer to it as a poem instead of a song) is the expression of contradictory emotions. On one hand, there is disillusion and a touch of sadness, yet this is contrasted by feelings of hope and optimism at the possibility for happiness and spiritual joy. And it is done in such a way that I cannot say which side of the emotional spectrum is most strongly expressed. The result is that you connect to this poem based upon your own emotional state when you engage with it. So if you are feeling sad, you connect with the sadness but then get touched with a sense of hope. Conversely, if you are brimming with joy and happiness, you get that from the poem too, but tempered with the knowledge that there is still sadness in the world and that all things, even the joyous, will pass.

We have all heard the old cliché, that we create our own Heaven and Hell. I believe this, and I love the way it is expressed at the end of this poem. The choices we make and the thoughts that we choose to latch on to directly impact our feelings and the reality around us. If we choose the path of spirituality and happiness, then we deserve the blessings that accompany those conscious decisions and should celebrate those blessings. But if we choose to focus on the negative and the path of hate and fear, then we also deserve the life that we are burdened with and must accept responsibility for the reality which we helped create.

I wish all of you many blessings for the holidays and New Year, regardless of which holiday you observe or whether you observe a holiday at all. For myself, I am going to focus on my family and spreading more happiness, love, compassion, and understanding, because I think the world could use a little more of that right about now.

Cheers!

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Doctor Who – Eleventh Doctor: Issue 3

DoctorWho_03

This installment takes place in three time periods and deals with musical genius. While Alice is looking through her deceased mother’s record collection in 2014, she comments on two of her mom’s favorite artists: Robert Johnson and John Jones (who is a fictional representation of David Bowie, whose original name is David Jones). The Doctor then takes Alice back to 1962 to attend the first John Jones concert and then to 1931 to see Robert Johnson.

When Alice sees Jones perform, she is very disappointed that he has not yet embraced the glam-pop persona and is kind of dull on stage, or as she harshly states: “John Jones, it turns out, has no talent whatsoever!!” The Doctor then provides an astute observation regarding talent.

Now, now. If I’ve learnt one thing over 900 years, Alice, it’s that everyone has talent. Even if it’s sometimes… extremely well hidden.

As I thought about this, I had to accept the truth in the statement. All people have unique talents and sometimes it takes time for individuals to discover those talents and nurture them. And sadly, some talents are left undiscovered. I cannot help but wonder how many people, caught up in the craziness of daily life, neglect to search for and hone their particular abilities. I feel fortunate that I discovered my personal talents: playing music, reading, writing, running. These things have brought happiness to my life. I think that connecting with your unique talents provides a spiritual fulfillment that cannot be attained otherwise. I encourage everyone to find that special thing that you are passionate about and dedicate the time and effort to grow it.

The issue leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Just like Robert Johnson, the Doctor was willing to “sell his soul” for something that he wanted more than anything. But after being freed from the spell, he cannot remember what it was that he desired so much that he was willing to sacrifice everything for it.

To be continued…

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“Sonnet 8: Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?” by William Shakespeare

"The Musicians" by Caravaggio

“The Musicians” by Caravaggio

Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly,
Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tunèd sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”

As a musician, this poem really works for me. I connected with the musical metaphors used to convey familial harmony.

Shakespeare is again addressing the fair youth and asking why the songs (or poems) encouraging marriage and children make the youth sad. As with most youths, he likely views marriage as the loss of freedom and liberty. He does not want to be tied down to responsibility. But as Shakespeare points out, marriage is more than just responsibility and commitment; it is about the joy of being in harmony with other human beings.

If we look deeper at the metaphor of musical harmony as used to express marital happiness, we can see just how appropriate this is. In music theory, a basic chord is built on a triad, which is comprised of three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth. The traditional family structure is also based upon a triad: “sire and child and happy mother.” While each individual string can create a note, it is the combination, the strumming of multiple strings, the shared vibrations, which create rich chords. Likewise, it is the family, the shared love, which creates richness and harmony in life.

In music, the combination of the various parts creates something that transcends the individual elements. It is the same with a loving family. When humans bond and share their feelings, it creates something that surpasses the sum of the individuals, and this is what Shakespeare is encouraging the youth to discover.

Thanks for stopping by, and may your day be filled with joy, music, and harmony.

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Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel” by Hope Larson

WrinkleTimeLarson_1

Earlier this year, my daughter and I attended a convention and Hope Larson was one of the guests. We picked up a copy of this book and got it signed, then it joined the other books on the waiting list. Anyway, I finally got around to reading it.

I remember reading the original book as a kid, but it was so long ago that I really didn’t remember anything about the story. What I did remember was the impression it left, that I had really liked it and that I had felt inspired after reading it. Since I do not remember the details of when I read the book back in elementary school, I cannot say for sure how accurate Ms. Larson’s adaptation is to the original, but I will go on the assumption that it is true to L’Engle’s classic.

The first thing I want to say about this book is that the artwork is excellent. Larson uses shades of blue and black in all her panels, and it works very well. As I allowed the images to guide me through the story, I actually felt like I was moving through another dimension. The color scheme gave everything a slightly dreamlike or surreal quality, while the images kept me somewhat grounded. There is one image of Meg glaring angrily at someone, and she is literally staring daggers. It is a great image and I laughed out loud when I came across it.

WrinkleTimeLarson_2

Now on to the text.

I could not help but interpreting the three women who guide the children through time and space as a manifestation of the Triple Goddess: Mrs. Whatsit (the younger of the three) representing the maid, Mrs. Who representing the mother, and Mrs. Which as the crone. Each of the women seems to embody the characteristics that you would expect from the aspect of the Goddess that they represent.

There is a great section in this book that addresses the issue of differences between people. It puts forth both sides of the argument: on one hand, differences are the root of unhappiness for people, who tend to judge themselves and others based upon observable inequalities; but on the other hand, differences are the source of happiness, allowing people to be individuals and pursue their own paths.

Charles: On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems. You know that, don’t you, dear sister?

Meg: No.

Charles: Yes, you do. You’ve seen at home how true it is. That’s the reason you’re unhappy at school. You’re different.

Calvin: I’m different, and I’m happy.

Charles: But you pretend that you aren’t different.

Calvin: I’m different and I like being different!

Meg: Maybe I don’t like being different, but I don’t want to be like everybody else either.

(p. 255)

Another passage that fascinated me was when Meg’s father explains to Calvin how he was able to resist IT.

Because IT’s completely unused to being refused. That’s the only reason I could keep from being absorbed, too. No mind has tried to hold out against IT for so many thousands of centuries that certain centers have become soft and atrophied through lack of use.

(p. 299)

There is a lot to consider in this brief passage. Firstly, if we interpret IT as a symbol for institutional authority that demands conformity, then this passage can be viewed as encouraging dissidence and a breaking of social mores. The only way that society advances is when brave individuals challenge the accepted beliefs and refuse to be just another cog in the wheel. But there is something else that really struck me about this passage: the issue of parts the brain becoming atrophied through lack of use. I truly believe this, and I believe it on two levels. Certainly, mental stimulation helps keep the brain sharp (hence I am such an obsessive reader). But also, I think this ties into thought and consciousness. There are parts of our psyche that are neglected as we go through our mundane routines of daily life. We can easily forget to exercise our creative sides through art, meditation, visualization, spirituality, and such. If we go down that path of neglecting our spiritual and creative sides, we run the risk of allowing those parts of our consciousness to become atrophied.

I have to say that although I didn’t remember the details of when I read this book as a kid, I can certainly see how the lessons have become a part of who I am. I value individualism and appreciate the differences in others. I understand the importance of continuous learning and challenging established beliefs. And finally, I believe that there are myriad undiscovered realms in the infinite universes which exist within us and around us.

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“The Fly” by William Blake: Consciousness is Life

Fly

It’s strange how the right poem or song comes to you just as you need it. I attended a funeral service and upon returning home decided to read a poem. I opened my copy of Songs of Innocence and Experience and this one was the next up.

Little Fly
Thy summer’s play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush’d away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing;
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath;
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

The fourth stanza really put life into perspective for me. Thought is life, or in other words, consciousness is life. Only the end of one’s consciousness can mean true death. So the big question is: Does consciousness end when the physical form dies? I say with confidence, no, consciousness continues to live on, and Blake affirms this in the last stanza. He is a happy fly, regardless of whether he is physically alive or dead, because either way, his consciousness continues. The fact that he is spiritually aware is what constitutes happiness.

Blake uses a fly to symbolize that even the smallest of creatures is endowed with consciousness. I would take that a step further and assert that everything that exists has consciousness. I believe that consciousness is inherent in energy, and energy is a part of everything that exists. It therefore stands to reason that everything, from an animal to a grain of sand down to the tiniest subatomic particle, all possess their own form of consciousness. And since science has proven that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it also stands to reason that consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed. It is eternal and knowing that makes me feel happy.

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“Nurse’s Song” by William Blake (from Songs of Innocence)

NursesSong

As I near the end of the Songs of Innocence, the “Nurse’s Song” is next up.

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.        

Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.    

No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.

 Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.
The little ones leaped & shouted & laugh’d
And all the hills echoed.

I see this as a coming-of-age poem. The transition from day to night symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood. As evening falls, the nurse tells the children to “leave off play.” It is time for them to mature and accept the responsibilities of being an adult.

But the transition is not easy, and the children point out that there is some daytime left, hence, they still have a little more time to be carefree and young. When they respond that “it is yet day, And we cannot go to sleep;” they are asserting that they are not yet ready to consign their youth and innocence to the realm of dream and memory. They want to remain children for a little while longer.

The nurse concedes: “Well, well, go and play till the light fades away.” She allows the children to enjoy the last of their innocence as they are at the threshold of adulthood. Once they cross that threshold, the light of happiness within them will begin to fade as they sadly take their places in the world of responsibility and sorrow.

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