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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Revisioning happiness and pleasure
I was thinking about Galina's post on happiness. She raises some excellent points... But it also made me wonder about other roots of the problem. We in the West (especially in America) have a weird, schizoid relationship with pleasure and happiness. Sure, there is the endless and relentless pursuit of transitory pleasure...

Then consider the cultural imprints we live under. The Manichaen/Abrahamic ideation of the world as a bad place, fallen, the abode of (or even the creation of) evil. The similar ideation of humanity as fallen, sinful, needing to be redeemed by outside action. The Enlightenment dualism that privileges mind over body, human over animal. The Calvinist ideationof worldly success as the prime sign of salvation. And the consumerist valuation of everything by its price.

Pleasure and happiness are things of this world, often of the body, always of the moment, of the time we are living in. Pleasure eases life's struggles and suffering. Happiness comes (I believe) when we are "following our bliss"- walking the path that we are meant* to walk, doing what we are meant to do. Both of these come, truly, from ourselves and others, from this world.

No wonder we have this messed-up relationship with them. No wonder that even our "leisure time" is explained by what we do during it (the more strenuous, the better), what it is for; that time spent in peace and relaxation is dismissed by words like "slacking"; that incredibly fulfilling, creative and pleasurable activities are dismissed as "hobbies" because one one doesn't make any money at it; that pleasures are marketed and happiness is portrayed as something outside of you that you can buy; that even sex itself has to be for something...

What we need is a redemption of the concepts of pleasure and happiness. Happiness as fulfillment, balance, meaning and purpose- "being ourselves, only more so." And pleasure as a necessary part of that balance- not because it's for something else, but just because it is important and necessary in and of itself.

* You can define "meant" as "the intent of a Power***", "the intent of the eternal part of myself that instigated this incarnation", "the meaning and purpose I derive from the events of my life", or whatever suits you.

** All things in moderation, of course. But it's always important to recognize that what is moderate for you may not be what is moderate for someone else.

*** "Power" is my shorthand term for "god/spirit/lwa/orisha/ancestor/spiritual being not part of yourself".

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I heard of a movement among a group of Christian Dominiansts that kind of resembles the "Divine Right of Kings" sort of logic fused with hard core capitalism.

They believe that a persons eternal abode in the afterlife is fixed at birth and they get what is coming to them because they deserve it regardless of what "it" is. The logic is, those with the most wealth and power are meant by their god to have the wealth, power and luxury. According to this logic anyone who is poor and disenfranchised is a sinner and is being punished by god for their insufficient faith or inherently sinful nature prior to their arrival in hell when they die. Unless of course they can get rich before they die which would be evidence that god had intended them for heaven all along.

Another facet of this is they believe that those with the most material wealth are closest to god and thus are meant to rule. Thus if you ask someone in this movement why those in power are in power they will point to the fact that they are rich and powerful as evidence of their divinely mandated place of authority.

Have you heard of this before? Any idea what it's called?

Sounds like Calvinistic predestination coupled with prosperity theology.

Tangentially, or not...
I heard yet another news broadcast telling me Americans are sleep-depped, and we should all be getting 8 or more hours per night... I counter that with... WHO HAS TIME?
In America we work 8 or really 9 hour days on average... many work even more than that... and then we have 2 hours of commute to work time, and then we are supposed to cram our "leisure time acticities" into a couple hours between dinner and bedtime, and then sleep 8 hours, and get up and do it again. We have shifted the focus from being happy and doing what we like, to being productive and putting in hours and the American Work Ethic. We have become a nation of clock watchers... and told that we are not valued for who we are but for how much we can do. Working longer and more is considered a virtue.
Is it any wonder we are not happy?

If I were a paranoid person I'd wonder if there is "happiness" theory conspiracy going on today as a good friend just posted on livejournal about the same subject. Unfortunately you're not over there and he's not over here.

His post was slightly different though. Different angle.

I see happiness and sadness on the same line. The middle ground, the balance, is wholeness. Of not being manic and not being depressive but balanced and whole. For me, this is peace... and I'll admit, peace is happy.

Erm, I am on livejournal... did you mean FB or something?

Thank you for these thoughts, and I particularly agree with happiness coming from "being in the moment" - an term I associate with Buddhist practice/teaching, but not exclusively so. Sometimes something as simple as a good film can distract us from the pain of worrying about the next deadline long enough that we can see hope and inspiration either in the film, or upon reflecting on it. Sometimes a random pleasant deed is all it takes to jar one out of slavish dedication to what must be done and just smile at the pleasant deed (the compliment of a stranger, the laughter of a child).

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