Today a friend and I found ourselves walking on Guadalupe, looking for entertainment. When we neared the Church of Scientology, we decided we’d go in in pursuit of this entertainment. My friend made jokes as we entered, but my idea of the entertainment I hoped to find here required me to present a certain level of sincerity. It wasn’t my goal to mock these people for their beliefs. I certainly did not want to offend them. So I kept a rather serious demeanor about me. I filled out the “Personality Test”, answering the questions in a way I thought would make me seem fairly vulnerable to anyone’s efforts to try to sway my perspective of the world. When we had finished, a man took my friend aside to review his results. I wandered around the lobby slouching with a frown on my face. Then another man came to collect me. I sat slouched, near him on a couch and made little eye contact as he reviewed my results. The man told me I had mental health issues and was not a good communicator. He asked what I was doing with my life. I told him I lived at the shelter and was looking for work. He asked how long I’d been living in the shelter and I said “A few months. Well…” then with some surprise in my voice “April! So… a year”. He asked what it was in my past that caused me to be in such a bad place now. I drew from personal experience, blaming my dad’s apparent disappointment in me. I began to tear up. I told him that I was living with my girlfriend before. He asked what I did for work before that and I again drew from personal experience, “I was selling insurance for little while”. He said, “Oh yeah, I did that for a while”. “I worked at Burger King before that”. “Did you graduate high school?”, he asked. “No. Well, I got my GED”, I said. He asked me to review personal history for a happy experience, I pulled from generic memories of childhood – Christmas. “And what colors do you see?” “Red and orange.” I covered my mouth with my left hand. He asked me to review this experience further. I talked about my family and gave a reluctant smile. The man then used this smile to try to sell me a book. He said there was a book on the shelf in the lobby that could change my life and help me to feel happy, as I had felt for that second moments before. I had done well. The man believed I was vulnerable and depressed. He said, “I’m not allowed to just give books away, but, if you can come up with $25 to buy the book…” He also recommended I watch a video there in the lobby. I told him I didn’t want to keep my friend, but that I could ask. As I approached my friend, he was already heading for the door. I followed him out the door without saying a word, as I thought the character I’d been playing this whole time would’ve. Moments later, my friend and I were laughing, reviewing our experience. It felt good to laugh. It felt good to be me again.
I am invincible. I know such a claim sounds like that of a child or at least a mentally ill adult. While I can’t, with absolute certainty, deny that I am either, I can illustrate how such a claim may just be inherently rational. When we purchase a loaf of bread from the grocery store, is our intent to buy the bread or the bag in which the bread comes? What about a box of cereal? Then why is it that our physical bodies would seem to define us? What we are is not these containers. These aesthetically pleasing formations of atoms are only our vessels. What we are is the energy inside. Without this energy, this electricity inside our bodies, we would cease to be. Whether it is to be called a soul or simply adenosine triphosphate, this energy is everything to us. Our memories, our personalities, are products of this energy’s shaping of our brains. And we become so attached to these synapses, so attached to these avatars, that we come to believe they are us. But these bodies are not us. What is “us” is eternal; it never dies, but only changes form. The law of conservation of energy states that energy is never created or destroyed. While this body will inevitably wither and the memories and character traits I’ve formed throughout my life will cease to exist without the brain, what I am, what we are, will not die. It can’t. When these bodies cease to be, we will have nothing holding us in place, nothing confining us to this notion that we are divided, naturally apart. The “self” is an illusion; it is a product of this skin. But we are bigger than any one race. We are everything that creates life and makes life possible. We are everything we find beautiful about our world. We are all parts of this greater thing we may choose to call “God”. And damn right, we are invincible.
Wake up. We can’t do it without you
The world couldn’t start without that heart
And this whole game just wouldn’t be the same
You know that tonight we let out the light
And we won’t go back to sleep
Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
The entire hive sings. You are the bees wings.
The electric queen feeds us honey beans
The kings are insane to live their lives of pain
The honey is just so sweet
Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
So surprised you don’t know about your natural glow
It keeps you up at night, thinking something’s not right
Perfectly you is the best you could do.
Now rise up and take what is ours
Wake up. We can’t do it without you.
Eyes to the sky, the sons of pi
The daughters of mercury,. This is her city
The light is alive. It pumps through the hive
So much bigger now than your scars
A broken wrist and a shattered ego
An esteemed self never mattered much to me, though.
Super powers of empathy grow
To the inner kid named “Id”, we sternly say “No!”
A life for the self we proudly denounce
Now we don’t fall down. We bounce.
Lunch with the extended family. At the end of the meal comes the check. And everyone has a different thought about how the check should be split. Aunt Sophie suggests we each pay an even amount. Uncle Ralph objects. He thinks we should each pay for just what we ordered. Cousin Libby seconds this. Cousin Demi suggests that we each help pay for the kids. Uncle Ralph objects, “The aren’t my kids. I didn’t have the fun of making them. Why should I pay for them?” I offer to pay for everyone’s meals. But Ralph, Sophie, and Libby object. It is not my responsibility to pay for everyone’s meals. I offer to pay for the kids’ meals and let each adult pay for his or her own. Uncle Ralph objects, “You didn’t have the fun of making them either. They aren’t your responsibility.” Cousin Demi interjects, “But you make more than Sophie and me combined, Ralph.” Uncle Ralph retorts, “It was my choice to go to school instead of having kids.” I speak up again, “Really, I don’t mind.” The table erupts into screaming and I take the kids outside to play.
For some of us, happiness is a choice. With every misfortune, we can choose between feeling victimized or recognizing the misfortune as a part of this wonderful experience we call “life”. For these people, happiness, contentment with one’s reality, is just the product of a shift in perspective.
For many of us, the change is not that simple. There are physical factors that may inhibit one’s ability to so easily achieve happiness. As our emotional states tend to be directly affected by our physical health, achieving happiness may require a modification to one’s way of living. We get out of our bodies what we put into them. Eat healthy and exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins can produce a sense of euphoria. Physical pain may make happiness more difficult. But meditation has worked for me as a way of relieving significant physical pain. Also, endorphins work as a natural pain killer. Some of us have significant chemical imbalances in our brains. Again, we get out of our bodies what we put into them. Eating the right foods can increase serotonin levels in a person’s brain.
Once these physical factors are no longer an issue, happiness is a simple choice. Often, it’s an inevitability. There is nothing on this planet that has the power to “make” us feel any emotion. Things of this world may only inspire us to feel a certain way. But when we claim our emotional responses to happenings in the world, we gain control. When we recognize our responsibility to take care of ourselves, emotion can no longer victimize us. We then take on the responsibility of creating our own happiness. You are beautiful and deserve to be happy. Everyone is and does. Every pain and every pleasure is relative. We can feel victimized, as though we are leaves floating on the breeze, or we can take control, we can do something about our pain.