After many years of searching for wisdom in all the wrong places -- holy books, teachings of gurus, new age'y claptrap -- I've found a better wellspring of inspiration.
The Sunday comics.
Though this "Pearls Before Swine" strip refers to the futility of worldly pursuits where the carrot of fulfillment is always just out of reach, it points equally at religious promises that are continually around the corner: salvation, enlightenment, bliss.
Benny the Beach Bum has seen through all that. (click to enlarge)
This comic strip reminds me of an anecdote I related in a 2006 blog post, "Paving over paradise."
Back in the 80s I spent some time on a Fiji island. There wasn’t much to do at the small resort where we were staying. That was the idea. Not doing much. One afternoon a Tahitian girl showed us how to make a native something or other. I don’t remember what it was. I do remember the girl.
She was gorgeous. A classic Tahitian beauty. Wise too. My fellow vacationers were mostly from Australia and the United States. Someone said, “Have you ever been to America?” “No,” she replied. Then she was asked, “Would you like to go?”
She tossed back her long dark hair and smiled. Her words stuck in my mind.
“Why would I want to? In America you live in big cities, work hard, and then die. Why should I leave here?”
There was an awkward silence. I could sense that we all were thinking, “Good question.” In an instant the proud U.S. citizen belief that ours is the land everyone wants to come to had been buried under the sparkling Fiji sand. I thought to myself, “Why do I want to go home? That’s the real question.”
A Sally Forth comic has a similar message.
The teenage daughter, Hillary (OK, Wikipedia says she is perpetually 12, but she seems teenage to me), reminds me of myself a lot of the time. Also, of most people I know.
We've got to-do lists that are never completed. Before one thing is done, we're thinking of the next thing that needs doing. Whatever is happening Here-and-Now is viewed as a barrier to a seemingly more important There-and-Then.
Of course, when that moment happens, it isn't really satisfying or fulfilling, because there's something else awaiting our attention.
And so it goes. Just like religious believing. The promised land is always, well, promised. What is, is always viewed as less than what could be.
Happiness, of course, has to be ours now. Or it will be never.
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