Liberty Yell: Choosing Happiness, or Not

By Matthew Sperling on Dec 29, 2015 at 09:34 AM in Featured Essays, Liberty Yell

Choosing Happiness, or Not, in the New Year 2016

Choosing Happiness, or Not, in the New Year 2016

See “The Big Short.” It is a wonderful fairy tale about the ongoing financial disaster of 2008. It has some of the flavor of an old gunslinger movie. You know, where the lone-wolf lawman, maybe with the help of his brother, rides into town and makes the bad guys pay. “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Seven Samurai” may be among its ancestors. Though, of course, the really bad guys in "Short" don't lose anything except their billions, and some of the villagers are quite happy to support the crooks. The real reckoning is about the power of the truth, which is no small thing.

God knows, we need at least one hero to rescue us. And, if you look at the current crop of television shows and movies, you will see an abundance of heroes. In fact, heroes and world-destroying disasters are both at the center of today's zeitgeist. Eternal salvation and damnation are both on offer, though salvation appears to be fighting an uphill battle.

Madmen with swords and suicide vests are running amok in the ordinary places where we live. The battlefield, which we brought to many faraway places with the expenditure of considerable treasure on cruise missiles, predator drones, a variety of warplanes, and heavily armed and armored troops, is now in our own backyard. The risk zones have also been enlarged and multiplied by global warming. Around the next bend in the road, having already been given a glimpse at a previous turn, there might be waiting a multi-million-killer epidemic.

If dinosaurs had telescopes, facing similar circumstances, they might have seen the dirty snowball of an earthshaking asteroid inscribed, “DEATH TO LIZARDS.”

The air of human disaster is being chummed by a hail of snow bombs, many filled with ice and rocks. If at times we feel staggered by this assault, it makes perfect sense.

Faced by the onslaught--some of it actual (as in job loss, hunger, illness, political repression, violence) and some of it telegraphed through the mass media (which now includes devices small enough to wear on your wrist)--there are many choices.

We can give up our power through insanity, apathy, or by succumbing to the herd instinct. We can remain in control of our senses and our choices and fight for our freedom. We can do everything in our power to make this world into a place of love and healing.

We are neither the pawns of heaven nor of hell. We are not angels or devils. We are simply beautiful, ugly, complex human beings. If we decide that survival is worthwhile, then we may take steps to ensure that we survive. If we decide to let go of our connection to the force that is life, if we collapse under the weight of our own history, then we will remain just one more unanswered mystery in a universe full of such mysteries.

Barring one of those killing bodies from the cosmos crashing into the blue and white ornament of our planet suspended below the Milky Way, or some other unstoppable act of nature, our existence will be voted up or down by our own hands.

What we think, how we feel and what we do is the unfolding story of humanity. Our lives belong to us as surely as our choices, and each day is a gift, not just to be alive, but to live with dignity, joy, honesty, and in whatever screwed up way we may choose.

May we find the right prayers to get us through the year to come. And may we find the courage to help those prayers come true.