by Ray Jason
It is a few dawns before Christmas in the year 2016. As someone who finds his spirituality in the Cathedral of Nature, I note that today is the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow the spheres will align so that the light will increase and the darkness decrease. May we humans one day also adjust ourselves to embrace the light and renounce the darkness.
And it is in this spirit that I share this Christmas essay with you. My topic is one of the Really Big Ones – HAPPINESS. We all seek it – and yet so few of us attain it. Because I am blessed in this regard, I’d like to share that gift with you.
As you know from reading my essays, I devote a lot of time and thought to what a friend disparagingly calls “The Domain of Dread.” Consequently, those who really know me are puzzled by how I remain so happy. Given the fact that I spend so much time focused on the injustices and tragedies of this world, they find my cheerfulness bewildering. My secret is not some “answer” concocted from rainbows and unicorns. It can actually be achieved by simply changing one’s perspective.
Step back from the Human Voyage and what will you witness? As daily existence has become more and more ARTIFICIAL people have become less and less happy. Almost every anthropologist who lives amongst the 80 or so indigenous tribes that still survive will tell you that these people are joyous. They have none of the stuff of the suburbs but they also have none of the stress. Here are some of the ingredients that I blend to make my personal happiness elixir.
THE ALL TOO HUMAN… Definitely begin with less time in the human-built world and more time in the natural world. This is easier than one realizes. It does not have to involve an expensive vacation to a National Park. Mother Nature is still there in even the most brutalized urban settings. She is like background noise that escapes one’s sensibilities because of the foreground cacophony. Find a pleasant park or wetland or creek and get to know the inhabitants – whether they are playing checkers or wading for fish. Or bring some Nature to yourself by growing a little garden – even if it is just in a window box.
GET OUTDOORS… Spend less time in big box supermarkets and more time at Farmers’ Markets. Despite our urbanized trend-line, we are still creatures of the savanna. We evolved in the Yellow Light (sunlight) but we are clearly devolving in the Blue Light (screen light.) Spend more time with the Sky and less time with the Screen. And the next time you have one of “those devices” in your hands, pause for a moment and ask yourself whether it is still just a convenience or whether it has become an addiction. We don’t seek out addicts when we are searching for the keys to Happiness.
VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY… The secret to achieving this life course change is to recognize that simplicity is not a sacrifice – it is an emancipation! Look at how much of our lives we dedicate to our TVs and to our cars. How many of us work meaningless, life-sapping jobs in order to afford these inanimate machines. This misuse of time is particularly sad when our children beg for our attention and instead we hand them the remote control. So this is another easily achievable step on the pathway to happiness. Just throttle back on the STUFF!
Now that I have laid out a few personal happiness tactics, let me share with you some moments from the real life world that brings me so much joy. Here in the Archipelago of Bliss, I am often surrounded by Indio families who would be considered “dirt poor” by any First World standard. And yet they are rich in laughter and friendship and the fulfillment of their needs. Here is a little photo album of some of these authentically happy people. It is a little Christmas present to all of my loyal readers. (You can click on these shots to enlarge them.)
This is a young boy who rowed over to sell me some coconuts. Since coconut water, which I call Tarzan Tea, is a favorite of mine, I happily bought a few. Then he tried to sell me a live chicken, which you can see in the bottom of his tiny, hand-carved cayuco. When I pantomimed for him what a difficult and comical arrangement this would be for both me AND the chicken, we both laughed for three minutes.
Here is an Indio family in from the out islands visiting the local town so that the children could see the Christmas lights. I read yesterday that the average U.S. child will receive about $422 worth of Christmas presents. That would be a decade’s worth for these kids, but I bet they are just as happy as the wealthy boys and girls in El Norte.
Down here in the Banana Latitudes there are no yellow school buses and expensive SUVs to shuttle the children to school. Instead, this photo depicts an older sister rowing her younger sis to class. And what makes their primitive cayuco even more wonderful is the fact that their dad probably carved it especially for them. And as the older sister paddles she is IN Nature – she is not air-conditioned away from it.
I love this final photo. I spent an hour watching these barefoot kids play “tag” through this maze of mangroves. None of them got hurt. They never argued. But they certainly laughed a lot. The contrast between this and one of those inflatable, bouncy, play modules that one sees so often up north, was truly amazing and instructive.
Hopefully these reflections and remembrances will bring some Joy to your holiday season. But even more importantly, my wish is that my unusual way of viewing the world, might help you realize that you do not have to get swept along in the modern frenzy of speed and artificiality and stuff. There is “another way.” And that road is far more enriching and authentic and fulfilling than the express-way.