My Ukulele, Happiness, God and Ethics

Those of you who know me well know I spend a lot of time thinking. A lot of this time thinking is spent thinking about how to make myself happy.

Recently, I have found that I am a lot happier than I used to be.

What happened? Why am I more happy now?

To begin with, it is obviously important to acknowledge that I haven’t hit any sort of permanent plateau–I will definitely have very hard times again.

But nevertheless, I feel a different strength, a more complete wholeness than I’ve ever felt before. And this did not come easily. I’ve spent a lot of time writing, a lot of time being introspective. And ultimately, what this introspection led me to was reaffirmation of my commitment to faith in life. I realized [again] that despite all the troubles and trials of life, there is an undeniable force in the world: a force that gives us the ability to laugh, a force that allows us to have a consciousness–a force that makes us human.

So that’s all fine and great. I came up with this theoretical idea that there was good in the world, that you could be rewarded by believing in this good. But this was not enough for me. Writing alone in a room does not bring about happiness, no matter how much faith you have. (Emily Dickinson, anyone?)

My theory is that after all this thinking and philosophizing, it is very easy to forget how easy happiness can be. To put it simply, it is very important to actually do things that make you happy, to surround yourself with “positive” things. Enter ukulele (yes, it is acoustic/electric):

I spend at least an hour a day playing the uke. More broadly, I try to live more spontaneously (the uke was an impulse buy), surround myself with good people and do simple things that will make me happy.

Another thing has changed as well: I’ve changed my conception of right and wrong. I used to police my thoughts a lot, thinking certain thoughts where “bad” or “stupid.” But ultimately, I came to the idea that there is no such thing as a “bad” thought, just a “bad” action. We are free to think what we want to think.

At the same time, this does not mean that I think “right” and “wrong” do not exist. A few friends of mine at Plantation this summer challenged me on this, arguing there was no such thing as right and wrong, that everything just is. I am troubled by this. Negative and positivity exist intrinsically in many cases. Not believing this leads to a general apathy. I find no meaning in life if there is no belief in changing the world. (Don’t give me any nirvana crap, but also I don’t mean to oversimplify the gray area in ethics).

So anyway, what I have is this: a philosophy of ideas and spirituality along with actually going out and acting on this philosophy: thinking it and doing it.

And what is happiness? I used to think happiness was really complicated and had different levels–that you could be profoundly happy in some Puritan, stoic sense or you could be happy in some epicurean (everyday) manner. But ultimately, I guess what I’ve found is that these two things are intertwined.

In other words, I don’t like the dichotomy between the “head” and “heart” you hear so much about. We are one soul.

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