Thursday, April 8, 2010

Simple Joys and the holy grail

It seems that North Americans are on a quest for happiness. It is the holy grail of our times, and like the holy grail, illusive and the cause of much frustration and unhappiness.

The marketing industry is happy to fuel our missions by telling us that we need a vacation, or a new car, a cottage or the latest ipod gadgets. The ipad can read a book. Imagine that! Something that the printing press enabled us to do centuries ago. Of course, you have to pay to download a book but what a marvellous thing, to be able to read a book on a screen without the tactile pleasure of actually holding a book. You cannot live without this one.

The diet industry has been prolific as well by pushing a mountain of weight loss plans, diets, workouts all for people to have the perfect body. There are diet meals full of additives and assorted poisons, margarine, meat products that have been so adulterated that they can hardly qualify as food, and of course mcfoods. To counter the illnesses that we incur from our highly processed and toxic diet, the pharmaceuticals are quick to produce pills that will lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure etc. etc. One industry supports the other!

Perfect toys, perfect body.

As if this were not enough, there is the dating game industry that promises emotional happiness if you buy into their program and get matched with someone else. Perfect toys, body and partners! There is an entire industry that has diagnosed millions of people as 'depressed', merely because they have not attained the 'perfection' that they are told that they should have and are entitled to have. Hence the huge market for antidepressants.

The flaw with all of this is that it is fueled from a false creation of unhappiness. Popular culture has created a society of individuals who want and who are convinced that their lives are half empty. They need to fill it with things, possessions, experiences, food or intimacy. In order to be driven to buy toys, or seek the perfect match etc, one must be convinced that one is miserable in the first place. Why else would you change? Our marketing industry has been very careful to point out that simple pleasures like a home cooked meal, or a walk with a dog, or reading a book from a 'gasp' library is for losers and you have not really 'made it'. Translate 'made it' for 'spend money'

When I say a false creation of unhappiness, I mean that our popular culture tells us that it is okay to be momentarily unhappy if we do not have the goals that they have set, and then encourages us to buy these goals. We need and demand immediate satisfaction of all of our wants.

Real pleasure however, does not arise from a childish satisfaction of wants. It comes from taking time to be mindful of the blessings that we have. To be mindful or deeply aware of our surroundings, of the wind and the rain, and the food that we eat. Real pleasure comes when we shut out all of the shrill cries of the advertisers and marketers and simply focus on our life as it is. We will quickly realize that our lives are overflowing with blessings and pleasures to be enjoyed.

Such mindful awareness is the key, I believe to being able to fully appreciate the many many simple joys that life offers. When we tune out the mindless chatter of pollsters, advertisers, marketers and look to our own lives, to our friends, to our surroundings, our health, to the day itself, we will see that the glass is not only half full, it is overflowing.

The holy grail has been in our hands all of this time!


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