No Fear

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I worry about the lack of rain, I heard it on the news, this is the first time in recorded history that no rain is predicted for the entire month of February in the Bay Area, but I remain optimistic despite the headlines, and carry my umbrella as if it weren’t so.

Within me is a happy pessimist waiting for me to get out of the way, I borrowed that line from Pir Elias Amidon, but tweaked it a little for my purposes. He’s a Sufi spiritual director and was referring to saints, but that’s sort of the opposite of pessimist, and it just drew me in.

Cassandra

My tendency is towards happy, the glass is half full kind of mentality, but the truth is I marginalize a prophet of doom within myself. I call her Cassandra and let me just say she has gathered some unique bedfellows in her booming little ghetto. There’s the infamous doubting Thomasine with trust issues, a Lady Darth Vader type who forgets we’re related, and Judy Iscariot who is always willing to sell me out.

Sometimes I cross the border with tulip bulbs, but her soil is as inhospitable as the tenants, and they never bloom. I consider pitching a tent in her midst, so I can hang out with these alter egos, and eavesdrop on their conversations. A what am I thinking I’m thinking kind of moment?

It might interest you to know that the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary identifies the optimist in complimentary terms, but says nothing about the pessimist. The word ‘pessimist’ was not in our vocabulary at that time. It’s a modern ‘invention’ which I believe we should ‘dis-invent.’ Zig Ziglar

I admit, I run around as if I have a monopoly on joy, but that’s a facade, a fabricated front I like to present. Joy is a novelty, a fleeting sensation, based on optimal circumstances as if skiing on fresh powder, but we live in a more flux state of being, under rather fluid conditions I might add. It’s as if my joy is only a guest, the full-time occupant expects the shoe to drop at any moment, and that sort of thinking is always fulfilled, because the shoe eventually drops, and there she is, “I told you so.”

So what constitutes genuine happiness?

Fake it till you make it

According to Aristotle, “Happiness depends on ourselves.” Figures! Aristotle presents happiness as the central purpose of human life. That’s what I’m talking about Ari. He believes happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, that a genuinely happy life includes physical, as well as mental well-being. The best part is Ari’s claim, if you’re not feeling it, “fake it till you make it,” so my little facade becomes a crucial element.

Essentially, Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between excess and deficiency. For example getting a good nights sleep vs sleeping all day or being an insomniac. The key question Aristotle seeks to answer is “What is the ultimate purpose of human existence?” He doesn’t mess around with the small stuff, and just because we think pleasure, wealth and popularity will make us happy, doesn’t make it so. So what are we missing?

The main problem is that happiness (especially in modern America) is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, for example enjoying a glass of wine on a hot day, or a relaxing massage. For Aristotle happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life, unabridged if you will.

It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like a bottle of wine, or pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your entire life. No pressure. For this reason we cannot make pronouncements about whether we have lived a happy life until it is over, just as we would not say the Super Bowl was a “great game” at halftime! As Aristotle says, “for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man (woman) blessed and happy.”

No Fear

In pursuit of our ultimate destiny, happiness, Larry and I have come up with a new motto, it’s called no fear, and it has to do with a new mind set we’ve adopted. As our time in this world dwindles we decided we no longer have to make decisions based on a fear mindset. It used to be all about covering the burn rate, providing shelter, making the car payments, paying off college tuitions, budgeting for clothing, yearly taxes, occasional vacations, nutritious food, one of a kind prom dresses, blessed weddings, and let’s not forget our Amazon Prime account.

Today most of our concerns have moved out, taken on a life of their own, and only come to visit.

So as we move forward in this incredible journey, we’ve adjusted the perimeters, prioritizing that which sustains our ultimate goal of living our best life. It matters how you move in the world, offering kindness instead of indifference, compassion in the face of apathy, but also allowing for radical experiences that would have been overlooked in the past. Taking time to walk the El Camino de Santiago, hanging with our friends at an Italian villa, visit the kids now scattered about the world, but also the pursuit of fulfilling work, and habits of choice, like writing, biking, and bird watching. Because we can!

As Leonard Cohen says, “I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.” We’ve earned all the necessary accolades in this life and now it’s time to pursue our final destiny, if happiness is ultimately our responsibility, we have christened our on-going journey, a forecast that has never been heard of in recorded history, no fear in the future, but I’ll bring along my umbrella just in case.

 

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, nothing to fear.

Anecdotes:

  • The good part about being a pessimist is, when something bad happens, you’re never really devastated by it. And when something good happens, it’s such a bonus. John Rzeznik
  • Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot. Aristotle
  • Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot. Aristotle

7 Comments

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    1. I love the way you extend my writing Cynthia! I think in my earlier years I was too tangled up in my own emotions but with my aged perspective I can settle my fears in a comfortable chair, get her some tea, and a warm blanket! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Opened this edition and my eyes instantly gravitated towards Cassandra!!
    Without reading, I started to speculate. Do you have the ability to prophesize, but no one (not even Loonie?) believes you? As I read deeper, I became a little concerned. Your inner voice of doom is named after an ancient Greek who was always right, but cursed to not be believed. You are suppressing a whole host of inner naysayers, pessimists and even downright betrayers. One would never realize this from talking with you. (If it is true, then I think it is from your mom’s side of the family, as I see unsuppressed versions of these traits in my dad.) Ahhh, but then I chuckle. Judie Iscariot. Ha!

    No fear! I like your words to live by. I can totally relate. In fact, it brings back thrilling memories of my childhood.

    And as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Ceaser, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man (sic) dies but one. However, Hemmingway (true awesomeness) wrote that “the man who first said that was probably a coward, he knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”
    As for radical experiences, …bring it! Nevis Swing anyone? Does this mean you are walking the El Camino de Santiago in the near future?
    Anyway, fear not the lack of rain. It will be wet again someday.

    Miss you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thrilled to have another Michael sighting just a few days apart! Win! Okay, let’s look at this. Yes, the Severance is strong within me, but I am not yet a Jedi!

      I have all the same phantoms in the closet so to speak I’m just really good at ignoring them. And yes I used the name Cassandra purposely as it is commonly associated with doom. I enjoyed changing the gender of my other naysayers as it seemed fitting and fun.

      My real agenda was exploring the concept of the human potential for happiness and how this is achieved. Ends up strong moral development is crucial and living without the crutches of fear! Happiness is in our hands, and if you’re not feeling it, fake it till you make it. I think Ari had good intentions but he probably carried an umbrella too.

      So yes, sweet Loonie is working on some things, I’ll send you the itinerary, and with any luck it might fit your and Gail’s schedule. To future adventures!

      Thanks also for the forecast, I’m with you on that! C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this reply!
    I kind of dodged the whole what makes a person happy aspect of your post. (I think it was because I can be intellectually lazy at times.) I agree with your thoughts on happiness. I tend to go by the motto of you may as well be happy as it costs the same and is more fun to be with. Attitude is critical. And you have to ditch the fear as you point out. Other things I have noted would be sleep is important, reconcile your grief and any guilt, and also fix what hurts. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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