Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Purpose of Life is to be Happy

That's what the Dalai Lama says anyways, that the purpose of life is to be happy.

Do you think that's true?

Sounds a bit simplistic doesn't it? But is happiness really that simple, and if happiness is simple, wouldn't everybody be happy?

Maybe happiness itself is easy, but getting there is what's difficult. Kind of like learning to ride a bike, where at first it seems difficult, but once you finally get the hang of it, it becomes the easiest thing in the world, seemingly effortless, like floating on air. Maybe it's the same thing with happiness.

Still, when I hear it said that the purpose of life is to be happy, I have my doubts. My initial response to this seemingly simple answer, is no, that can't be right, while happiness is certainly important, it's not the most important thing in the world, is it?

I guess it's because I associate happiness with pleasure, and pleasure with idleness, and idleness with laziness, and laziness with being on permanent vacation, and being on permanent vacation with being blissfully ignorant.

And I associate being blissfully ignorant with being doped up, like a zombified robot in a constant state of physical ecstasy, but totally unthinking and unproductive, a slave to your ecstasy, rather than being free and in control of your own consciousness, in control of your own life and destiny.

So I guess I associate pleasure with ignorance.

Wow, that would explain a lot.

But that's not the kind of happiness I'm looking for. I don't want to be blissfully ignorant. To me, ignorance is pain. Ignorance is slavery.

I want to be free.

I associate freedom with knowledge, creativity, and independence.

So when asked, 'What is the purpose of life?' my initial response would be, that the purpose of life is to learn, to become more knowledgeable and wiser, in order to ultimately improve the social conditions of the world.

To improve myself, so I can improve the world.

Three decades into my life, I'm still saying that, still learning, meanwhile bills have to be paid, and I haven't the money to pay them. Whatever.

Anyways, I've been exploring these ideas for over twenty years now, and in all that time I've pretty much been answering the question the same way - that the purpose of life is to learn - that it is knowledge and wisdom that I seek - but I'm realizing now that may not be a universal purpose.

It very well may be that the Dalai Lama is quite correct in saying that the purpose of life is to be happy.

The purpose of life is to be happy, but what it means to be happy, means different things to different people.

In my case, it means knowledge and wisdom. Or more specifically, it means freedom and enlightenment obtained through knowledge and wisdom.

Or in other words, it means that I am most happy when I am learning. That in order to be happy I must continue learning, I must continue expanding my depth of knowledge and wisdom. Because when I'm not learning, when I'm not being stimulated mentally and creatively, I become very unhappy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Faces of Death

Today I finished watching a documentary called Faces of Death.

I started watching this one last night and finished it today, and let me tell you, all I can say is WOW! I've never seen anything like this before. Not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. But if you can handle it, it's worth watching at least once.

Faces of Death is a graphic documentary film about death, but could just as easily be a horror film. In fact it's so graphic that it has been banned in over 40 countries! Yes, it's morbid. Yes, it's disturbing. Yes, it's shocking. Some may even refer to it as death porn. Using real life film footage from hospitals, morgues, autopsy rooms, war zones, slaughterhouses, public executions, accident and crime scenes, mausoleums and graves, this video graphically depicts the many faces of death, be that death by disease, accident, murder, or execution, this film shows it all.

It's not something I ever need to see again, but I do think it is worthwhile watching once. At least catch the first 20 minutes of it. The tour of the cemetery in Mexico with the mummified corpses is one of my favorite parts. Well that and the autopsy showing the removal of the human brain. It's not that I like it, but it's shockingly mind blowing and unbelievably surreal stuff.

It's uncanny to see how much the face is like a mask. When a person is dead and the skin of their face is peeled away from the skull, what's left is a lifeless mask, no different than any mask you could buy in the store. Because there is no life in it. The mask only comes alive when someone is wearing it. You see this truth illustrated most vividly during an autopsy. How a dead body is like a lifeless doll, like an inanimate object. Because it is not the flesh and bone that lives, but it is the energy of the spirit of the person that animates the flesh, and when that energy leaves, what's left is nothing but a pile of rotting meat and bone.

Yes, death is an unpleasant reality, a reality that most people do not want to face, that most people do not want to think about, but you should, because like it or not you too will die, and so will your loved ones. This is not to say that you should become obsessed with it, but just that you should never forget this painful truth, that you will not live forever, that death is stalking you every moment of your life, and will eventually catch you in the end when you least expect it.

I'd like to think that I will live a long time. Seriously. I'm all about longevity. Very health conscious. Doing everything in my power to maintain my strength my youth and my healthiness. But you know what? Even if I beat the odds and become the longest living person, and maintaining my youthfulness for as long as possible, you still can't live forever. Maybe there is such a thing as the immortality of the soul, but the body itself is doomed. While you may extend your life, you can't extend it forever, all things must eventually come to their end. That's just the way it is. It's a painful truth that I'm still trying to come to terms with. And there is no other way to come to terms with it without facing your own death directly and resolutely with your eyes wide open and wide awake and aware.

All things die. You could even say that life lives by eating life. Someone must die in order for another to live. Though I must tell you that after seeing this film vegetarianism seems even more appealing to me than it did before. I don't want to be complicit in the taking of anyone's life. Sure plants are living things too, but a vegetarian diet just seems a lot kinder to me. There is no viciousness in it.

Whereas killing an animal is extremely vicious. What you don't think so? Why don't you put yourself in its place for a moment, and see if you still would feel that way. Do onto others as you'd have them do unto you. Does that mean anything to you? How would you feel to be hunted for your flesh? How would you feel to see your loved one's murdered before your eyes to satisfy someone's hunger? Because that's what's been done to the animals you eat. Murdered. If you kill a person to eat their flesh? It's called murder. If you kill an animal to eat their flesh, it's called hunting, it's called survival, it's called sport.

But either way it's killing, the taking of a life. Obviously you must do whatever you must do to survive. People have even been known to turn to cannibalism in times of need. Desperate people often do desperate things. But if you have a choice in the matter, if vegetarianism is an option, it seems the far more superior choice. But what do I know? Some people love the thrill of the hunt, and are truly blood thirsty people. The African Masai for instance, drink the blood of their prey, it's like a sacred ritual to them...where their not just drinking blood, their feasting off of it like a vampire consuming its soul.

I had a dream of being hunted once, actually I've had more than one dream of that nature, but only one dream where not only was I being hunted, but I was actually caught and killed and eaten alive. It was terrifying. I remember it vividly, even though it occurred a couple years ago. In this dream I was hunted by a very large bird, either an owl or an eagle. It had me cornered and immobilized by its talons, and there was no escape, no talking my way out of it. I was going to die that day becoming somebody's dinner and there was not a single thing I could do to stop it.

You could say that hunting is natural, that it is natural for life to eat life, but I got to tell you that from the perspective of the hunted, nothing could seem further from the truth. Nothing felt more wrong than it did at that moment of being hunted, like it was the ultimate injustice, the ultimate betrayal, the ultimate violation. It felt like what was happening to me shouldn't happen to anyone ever, because it was nothing less than murder.