Time for some grandiose thinking, an activity I excel at. Not that my grandiosity leads to grand ideas or wisdom, but, hey, it's the grandiose effort that counts.
Tonight's Big Ponder is centered on the question, is there a universal method for being happy?
My first reaction was absolutely not. For if there was, seemingly we wouldn't have such a plethora of ways people seek happiness.
The "self-help" category on Amazon would shrink to just a small number of books, each advising pretty much the same approach to being happy.
Complicating my pondering was another issue.
Is happiness really what we should be after? Maybe meaning is. Maybe contentment is. Maybe not seeking anything is.
However, I find it difficult to get emotionally excited about a memory of a deeply meaningful moment, a deeply contented moment, or a deeply not seeking anything moment.
But a deeply happy moment? Ah, those come to mind easily.
(I'm focused on moments rather than a longer time period, because moments are where we actually live our lives -- moment by moment. A bunch of happy moments can lead to a happy week, month, or year, yet take away the moments and there's no happiness left in any span of time.)
My suspicion is that if there really is a universal, or quasi-universal, approach to being happy, it has a lot to do with some strangely happy moments I had back in college.
Or rather, a summer in between my freshman and sophomore years, if I recall correctly.
Summer jobs were scarce in the San Jose area. I was lucky to get a job at a cannery for the swing shift, something like midnight to 8 am. Being new, I got one of the crappier jobs at the cannery.
Which was, me dressing in waterproof clothing, crawling under the structure that supported a conveyor belt carrying fruit that women sorted, picking out the bad fruit, and hosing the fruit debris into channels that carried the pulp and water away.
I distinctly remember how different this job felt in two states of mind: (1) my normal "this job sucks" attitude, and (2) my benzedrine-fueled "so much fun!" attitude.
The same thing happened when I used benzedrine, an amphetamine that was popular for several decades among all kinds of people, including creative types, to study a subject that usually bored me, like statistics.
A bennie or two could convert any activity into a series of deeply happy moments.
I'm sure there are complex explanations for how benzedrine changes one's mood. For me, it seemed to come down to focus.
Instead of resisting whatever I was doing, benzedrine would cause me to concentrate fully on that one thing with almost no mental leakage of "I wish I were doing something different." And when I think of other deeply happy moments, the same seems to be true.
I was immersed in something to such an extent, hardly anything else in the world existed for me at that moment. I wasn't torn between this and something else. Only this was present in my awareness.
This is, of course, pretty much what mindfulness is all about: being acutely aware of what is actually present, instead of getting behind or ahead of ourselves by leaning toward the past of future.
Well, having just written these five hundred or so words, right now I'm acutely aware that what I've said in this post may strike many people as being either so obvious or so off-base as to be worthless. And I can't disagree with that assessment.
However, i also know that one reason I almost always write a post for one of my three blogs every day is this:
When I'm writing, the world shrinks to my computer screen and the thoughts inside my head that end up being converted to words, sentences, paragraphs, and eventually, an entire blog post.
This shrinking doesn't feel like a loss. It feels like a gain. A happy gain.