In other news, today I thought about happiness.
I thought about this because of a VCL thread where someone or other went on at length about how they would be happy in a virtual world, where presumably they could be a pony or a fox or whatever charismatic mammal, rather than the lameness of real life as an anthropoid ape.
This sort of attitude makes me roll my eyes a bit, of course, but it got me thinking, because it differs only in degree, not in type, from the various people I have known who were mildly miserable and kept seeking methods of escape from this, often by pretending to be a fox, werewolf, ninja, barbarian, or whatever, depending on which MMPORG they liked, or by playing at various religions, scenes, etc, etc, in an ongoing effort to escape the misery of their life. (Don't get me wrong, I'm all for RPGs. I've spent many happy hours pretending to be a ninja, or a samurai, or a master thief. But I like being a commando artspawn, too.)
The problem is, no matter where you go, there you are.
Once upon a time, I knew this guy who would occasionally utter statements like "What is wrong with me?" and one day, roughly the fiftieth time I'd heard this, it struck me like a bolt from the blue that what was wrong was that he didn't like himself. Which isn't real surprising, because I didn't much like him either. (I was tactful enough not to say this.) This led me to several other realizations, much later, the most fundamental of which is that most people who are miserable for internal reasons are miserable because they're stuck permanently with a person they don't much like, namely themselves. (Being miserable for external reasons, such as starvation, malaria, recent deaths in the family or the fact that someone's currently beating you around the head and shoulders with a live rattlesnake is something else again, naturally.) The price of sentience is that you are aware of your own existence, as if from the outside, and so, like a Siamese twin, joined at the brainstem, these people couldn't get away from this person they detested, and so they were miserable.
Therapists would then tell us that we learn to like ourselves, and could probably suggest many happy and self-affirming mantras of the "I'm good enough, smart enough, etc," method. Which is fine if you're a great person with low self-esteem, and there's plenty of 'em. I feel obligated, however, to point out that some people don't like themselves because they're not likeable. It's not just themselves--nobody likes them. Awww! How awful! Everybody should be liked, right?
Wrong. The universe owes you nothing, least of all people who love and admire you and will take crap from you. You gotta earn that by providing something in return. You might not know what it is--hell, half the time I don't know why anyone likes me, although I assume it's because I'm funny, or possibly people just enjoy staring into the aquarium of my existence at the particularly funky-lookin' frog within. A few people, I can guess it's because I'll pick 'em up at the airport or would donate blood. But anyway, the point is that you have to add something to someone's existence. I know people who are excellent listeners and can make people FEEL likeable and interesting, which is a rare and impressive skill in and of itself. Anyway, I forget where I was really goin' with that, but the point is, there are some people who may have many sterling qualities, but hide them so wonderfully that the majority of us would rather drink seawater and go barmy than be stuck in a lifeboat with 'em.
These people are often miserable. They will often try to get pity based on their misery--I'm so miserable, feel sorry for me. However, this leads us to one of Ursula's Other Laws of Existence, which is that being happy is your problem. Nobody else makes you happy or unhappy, although exceptions can be made for the aforementioned beating about head and shoulders with a rattlesnake. Also, don't believe any pity-me story you hear on the internet.
Being happy is a skill. Some people are good at it, some aren't, but one of the key points is that you have to like who you are. You're stuck with you forever and anon, after all. If you aren't proud to be who you are, then you can either A) change it, or B) try to escape it or C) learn to enjoy misery, which some people do. If you're not happy with yourself, then it doesn't matter if you manage to eliminate the other sources of misery--bad job, family or lack thereof, SO or lack thereof--you'll still be miserable. After all, how many people do you know who hate themselves who are happy?
And...now we get to my key point...even if you were magically transported to a virtual world where you were a giant talking fox, you will still be the same person, you still won't like yourself if you didn't to begin with, and the other giant talking foxes will probably avoid you if you're a whiny bastard. Y'ever notice that people in games who are unhappy in real life don't tend to be ecstatic that they're now a wombat barbarian and don't have to worry about it? No, they mope around as a miserable wombat barbarian. Virtual reality won't help if you just don't want to be yourself anymore--not until they create Virtual Personalities, and we won't even go there. These people don't want to be a wombat barbarian, they just don't want to be themselves anymore.
Fortunately and as many of us have learned, just because someone's currently a less-than-stellar individual doesn't mean they can't fix themselves. We talk about "reinventing" ourselves all the time, and I think it's usually, consciously or unconsciously, in an effort to become someone we like. And thankfully, one of the fundamental laws of the universe seems to be that people CAN change. It's hard, and there's often backsliding, but it IS possible. And it's absolutely not my place to judge what makes someone a good person--if somebody likes themself, even if nobody else does, and they're happy that way, then hey, no skin off my wombat.
Me, I'm pretty happy, since we're on the topic. I like being me, despite my many and glaring flaws, and I've been very, very lucky, in that I've got a great job, friends and family and a couple of cats who associate me with food, the money always comes from somewhere, and I wouldn't trade my life for anybody else's--not permanently anyway. (Hey, everybody's gotta play being a ninja occasionally! S'good for the soul!) And trite as such a sentiment has become, I quite sincerely hope y'all are happy too.
Okay, enough of that deep self-help crap. Frogs!
Frog with Water Wings