We have been told to dream big dreams and pray for more. Much of our short time on this small planet is spent chasing after rainbows. We want a better life filled with everything to our heart’s content. Not only does this seem to be a natural state of affairs, it is widely encouraged by persuasive people in society. Is this really the path to a satisfying, joyful life?
If you set aside a day to carefully take note of people’s communications, including your own, you will likely discover that most people want to control things and other people that are beyond their and your own control. Don’t take my word for this fact, go ahead and take notes. Listen carefully to your family and friends. Notice what commentators, politicians, and advertisers write and say.
You’ll probably realize that we want things and life to be different than the way they really are. We, as a society, want to control things that are beyond our sphere of influence. As you observe these communications, also notice how anxious, angry, and stressed out many of them appear.
Aside from legitimate advocacy of kindness and equal treatment of all people, and acting out of concern for the future well-being of the world, we can learn to let go. When we reserve our moral judgment for what is within our own power, life gets more simple. The best life unfolds when we give up our desire to always be right and aim towards getting real.
The ancient Stoics said that keeping your will with the truth and concerning yourself with what is beyond your control are mutually exclusive. That is, while you concentrate on one, you will neglect the other. If you busy yourself trying to change other people, your own morality will suffer. In other words, the Stoics frowned on moralism.
This is not pie in the sky thinking. People who experience more unexpected life events such as divorce, alienation from their grown children and relatives, or job termination are often people who exhibit the highest need to control others–control freaks.
When we judge things outside of our personal control as bad or good, we are preparing ourselves for disappointment, failure, anger, hatred, and pain of those things and people who don’t conform to our wishes. We then not only hurt others but ourselves as well.
It’s best to be indifferent regarding other persons’ impressions of ourselves. Don’t worry about gaining approval and admiration, these are the bright, shiny objects of life. A shelf full of trophies inspires the envy of others. Be on guard when someone says you’re special. We must be especially careful not to cultivate our own self-importance.
Nature and life are ultimately things we cannot change. Our most serious problems stem from our struggles to control nature and life. Our species is most unhinged when we claim that we can control nature. We cause the most unhappiness when we try to control the lives of others. The sooner we fully recognize this, the more peaceful our lives become.
This is not to say we must live passive lives. Although we cannot prevent earthquakes, we can minimize their harm. Architects can design earthquake resistant buildings and city planners can direct safer city layouts. Better yet, we can avoid building cities on top of topographical fault lines.
We hope and wish that our loved ones and ourselves will never die. Even if we can alter biology and life technology to enable incredibly long lives for everyone, we will eventually die. We can wish for permanent existance all we want, but that is an act of immaturity. Life is more precious and delightful when we finally accept that we are indeed mortal.
We are able to control the ability to not be disappointed by our unrealistic wishes. We are most effective when we deal with our desires by the use of facts not fantasy. This prevents us from being swept away to ultimate disappointment.
Long ago, in ancient times, philosophers understood the true nature of freedom. They knew that freedom isn’t the ability or the right to do whatever the heck we please. True freedom is revealed when we understand our own human limits and the limits that nature imposes on everything.
It is by becoming real, in the most realistic sense, that we achieve freedom and joy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Yoko Ono. “Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.”